After nearly a year between games, Maryland softball took advantage of its chance to start on the right foot in 2021, facing Big Ten opponent for the first time in head coach Mark Montgomery’s tenure.
The Terps, who lost the first four games to open season, outscored 37-10 during that span, split three weekend doubleheaders, including an upset over No. 24 Minnesota.
Coach Montgomery was very upbeat following his team’s 3-3 weekend in the Leesburg, Florida bubble.
“Our kids played really hard,” said Montgomery. “We could have gone 6-0, or we could have gone 0-6, but overall, I thought we played really well this weekend.”
Maryland was in all six of their games, and each one could have swung either way. Here is how each contes played out.
Maryland falls to Minnesota in extra innings, 2-1, Friday
The Terps began the weekend with a doubleheader against No. 24 Minnesota, and both were very low scoring affairs.
The first real scoring chance for either team in game one came in the top of the fifth, but it wasn’t from Maryland, as the Gophers took a 1-0 lead thanks to an RBI single from left fielder Ali Lindner.
Maryland had a great chance to tie the game, or perhaps take the lead, in the bottom of the fifth. The Terps had the bases loaded with two outs for freshman Jaeda McFarland, but McFarland grounded out to shortstop, leaving three runners stranded and ending a prime scoring opportunity.
The Terps were finally able to scratch across a run behind some nifty base running from senior Jojo McRae. As Maryland was down to its final out of the game, McRae got herself into a rundown and was somehow able to score to tie things up at 1-1.
Minnesota was able to get the run back in the top of the eighth inning with an RBI single from junior Natalie Denhartlong.
But Maryland was in place to respond in the bottom of the eighth inning with runners on second and third and only one out. However, Haley Ellefson popped out and freshman Michaela Jones struck out to end the game, handing the Terps a 2-1 loss to start the season.
Despite the defeat, Penn transfer Jennifer Brann had an impressive pitching debut. She went four and two-thirds innings, allowing just three hits on one run, while striking out nine Golden Gophers.
But the story of the game was the pitching performance turned in by Minnesota’s senior hurler, Amber Fiser. Fiser pitched all eight innings while allowing just four hits, an unearned run, and she also struck out nine Terrapins.
Maryland holds on late, earns split with Gophers in second game of doubleheader
In the second game of the doubleheader, Minnesota, once again, had the first scoring chance, this time off of Terps sophomore Trinity Schlotterbeck.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Golden Gophers got their first two hitters on base off of a walk and a single. Following a fly out, they attempted a double-steal, which Maryland managed to deny. Still, Minnesota was able to push across the first run of the game on an RBI single from third baseman Katelyn Kemmetmueller.
Maryland found its response in the top of the fourth inning. With one out and runners at second and third, sophomore Taylor Liguori grounded out to second, allowing Jaeda McFarland to score and tying the game at one apiece.
In the top of the sixth inning with a two outs and no one on base, Maryland was able to muster a hit batter, a single, and a stolen base. Following a wild pitch, Jaeda McFarland was able to come home from third to give Maryland a 2-1 lead.
Despite a scare from a Minnesota triple, relief pitcher Jennifer Brann managed to strike out Kemmetmueller to secure the 2-1 victory for the Terps in the seventh inning.
Looking to follow up a strong freshman season, Schlotterbeck was excellent for Maryland on Friday night in her season debut. She threw six and a third innings, allowing four hits, one run and four walks while earning five strikeouts.
Terps drop first game to Illinois, 7-5
In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Maryland was quick out of the gate, jumping out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning behind two-out double by Taylor Liguori that scored Reagan Kerr.
Maryland had a chance to extend the lead in the bottom of the fifth with runners at first and second and only one out, but the team was unable to cash in.
Illinois was able to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the sixth off of Terps’ pitcher Jennifer Brann. Illinois recorded two singles to start the inning, followed by a bunt and a sacrifice fly from third basemen Delaney Rummell.
The game remained tied to force an extra frame, where Illinois’ bats woke up. The Fighting Illini were able to muster across six runs on five hits off of the Terps pitching combination of Wyche, Brann, and Haley Ellefson, as Illinois took a 7-1 lead.
Maryland, however, would not go away without a fight.
The Terps started the inning with three consecutive hits from Jaeda McFarland, Taylor Okada, and Taylor Liguori, leaving the score at 7-3 with runners on first and third and no one out. Haley Ellefson followed with an RBI groundout, and after a walk and a fielders choice play, Gracie Voulgaris singled up the middle to cut the score to 7-5, however Megan Mikami was cut down trying to go from first to third to end the game.
Illinois’ Addy Jarvis earned the win by going three and two-thirds innings, allowing five hits, four runs, three earned runs, walking two and striking out two.
Maryland wins game two vs Illinois in extra innings, 3-2
For the second consecutive day, the Terps suffered a tough loss in game one and had to win game two to avoid being swept.
Maryland began the second contest the same way it began the first, as it was able to jump on the board quickly, in the top of the first.
Following a hustle double to right field by Reagan Kerr, Jaeda McFarland laced a triple in the left-centerfield gap to score Kerr and give the Terps a 1-0 lead.
Illinois responded in the bottom of third inning due to miscues by Maryland. Starting pitcher Trinity Schlotterbeck hit Illinois right fielder Kailee Powell, and Powell was able to advance to second thanks to a passed ball by Gracie Voulgaris. Powell scored following a two-out double by Delaney Rummell, which tied the game at 1-1.
Leading off the seventh inning, Maryland sophomore Campbell Kline roped a single to center field, which Illini Jaelyn Vickery dived forward for and missed, allowing the ball to roll all the way to the wall. With Kline at third base, Gracie Voulgaris hit a pitch back up the middle to give Maryland a 2-1 lead.
To start the bottom of the seventh, Schlotterbeck hit her second batter of the inning to give Illinois life, and the Illini would capitalize. After a sacrifice bunt, shortstop Katie Wingerter singled up the middle to tie the game at 2-2.
In extra innings, Maryland struck quickly with a leadoff single by Taylor Okada, which scored Jaeda McFarland to give the Terps a 3-2 lead off of Illini reliever Sydney Sickels.
Schlotterbeck was able to retire the Illini in the bottom of the eighth to secure the win for Maryland, pitching a complete game while allowing just two runs.
Bats go silent, Maryland shut out in 1-0 loss to Wisconsin
Maybe it was the 9:20 a.m. start, but Maryland’s bats seemed to refuse to wake up in game one of the doubleheader against Wisconsin Sunday.
Wisconsin earned the only run of the game in the bottom of the third inning from a double by Fiona Girardot off of Maryland starting pitcher Jennifer Brann.
Maryland had some chances throughout the morning to score, but none better than an opportunity in the sixth inning.Campbell Kline stepped up to the plate with two runners on base, but lined a ball up the middle that was caught and turned into a triple play to get Wisconsin out of the inning.
Maryland was unable to muster any offense from there, resulting in a 1-0 defeat. Despite giving up the one run, Brann performed well for Maryland. She went six innings, giving up only three hits, walking two, and striking out five.
Maryland earns walk-off win, 2-1, in extra innings vs Wisconsin
The theme of the weekend for Maryland seemed to be extra innings and silent bats. In the sixth and final game of the weekend, that was still the case as the Terps took on the Badgers Sunday afternoon.
Neither team had any good scoring opportunities throughout any of the first seven innings. Fatigue definitely could have been a factor at this point, as both the Terrapins and Badgers were playing in their sixth game of the weekend. Wisconsin was able to get just two runners to second base over the first seven innings, while Maryland was not able to get anyone in scoring position.
In the bottom of the eighth and in serious jeopardy of being swept by the Badgers, Maryland had a runner on first with two outs. After a stolen base, Haley Ellefson singled up the middle to tie the game at 1-1. After a walk by Regan Kerr, freshman phenom Jaeda McFarland laced a ball deep to left to score a run and win the game 2-1 for the Terps.
Schlotterbeck continued to be one of the main stories of the weekend for the Terps, as she pitched her second complete game, giving up just one unearned run, walking four, and striking out four as well. She gave up three runs all weekend and showed that she could be the legitimate ace of the staff.
Three things to know
1. Jaeda McFarland emerged. McFarland turned heads in her first weekend of collegiate softball, playing outstanding defense and also coming through with some big hits, including the walk-off against Wisconsin to end the weekend. McFarland recorded eight hits in 19 at-bats over the weekend, driving in three big runs as well.
“Not only did Jaeda drive in three or four runs, she saved three or four as well with her defense as well,” said Coach Montgomery. “I am a fan of her game and I love to watch her play.”
2. Trinity Schlotterbeck has continued to develop. After leading the pitching staff as a freshman last year, Schlotterbeck began her sophomore campaign with a bang. All three games that the Terrapins won the ones that Schlotterbeck pitched in. Schlotterbeck’s ERA currently stands under one after her exceptional weekend.
“Having a year of experience under her belt is huge,” Montgomery said. “She went against some of the top teams in the nation last year as a freshman, which normally a junior or senior does.”
3. Transfers performed well in their first action. Both Haley Ellefson and Jennifer Brann were instrumental in the Terps first six games of the season. Brann was excellent on the mound, especially in game one against Wisconsin. She was also able to slam the door against Minnesota in game two on Friday. Haley Ellefson provided some big innings in relief as well. Ellefson went three and a thirds innings of scoreless softball against Minnesota in the season opener. She also provided the game-tying RBI against Wisconsin in game two.
“They provide us with veteran pitching leadership that we did not have last year,” said Montgomery. “Both were big for us this weekend in the circle.”