Maryland softball opened the 2016 season (and the Julie Wright era) with a 2-3 showing at the Kajikawa Classic, which was hosted by Arizona State. The Terps split doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday before losing their last contest on Sunday. Here’s what you need to know from the first weekend of the year:
Friday morning: Maryland 1, Boston College 9. The season didn’t start too well. Junior Brenna Nation gave up a run on an illegal pitch in the bottom of the first inning. After the Terps evened the score at 1-1 in the top of the third, Boston College scored 4 in the bottom of the inning. Junior Madison Martin came in to pitch in the bottom of the fourth, but she gave up a run in the fourth, another in the fifth, and a two-run homer in the sixth. That put the mercy rule into effect, ending the game with the Terps down 8.
Friday afternoon: Boise State 4, Maryland 9. Junior Hannah Dewey hurled 6 innings for the Terps, but her first outing of the year didn’t start well. The junior allowed a double, single, walk, and RBI hit-by-pitch to start things off, and another run would score on an error by Martin. Dewey would escape with just two Bronco runs on the board. The Terps scored a run on an error in the second, pulled ahead on a Kristina Dillard two-run single in the third, and added three runs in the fourth to extend the lead to 7-2. Skylynne Ellazar smacked her first career homer in the bottom of the fifth. Despite 2 Bronco runs in the sixth, Maryland cruised to the victory.
Saturday morning: Maryland 2, No. 6 Oregon 7. This was almost the upset of the tournament. Skylynne Ellazar and Madison Martin had back-to-back RBI hits in the top of the second, and Brenna Nation held the Ducks scoreless through five innings. In the bottom of the sixth, however, it all came crashing down. Five of Oregon’s first six hitters hit got hits off of Nation, and the Ducks held a 3-2 lead when Madison Martin replaced Nation in the circle. The junior allowed both inherited runners to score, as well as two unearned runs of her own. The Terps went down in order in the seventh, and that was that.
Saturday afternoon: San Diego 9, Maryland 13. Maryland erupted for 8 runs in the first inning, 6 of which came with two outs. The frame was highlighted by a Lindsey Schmeiser three-run bomb in her second at-bat. San Diego charged back in the top of the third with 7 runs against Hannah Dewey. After giving up a three-run homer, the lefty was relieved by Nation, who immediately yielded an inning-ending groundout to short. The Terps responded with 5 two-out runs in the bottom of the third. Schmeiser hit a two-run shot, her second of the game, and Hannah Dewey drilled a two-run homer of her own just three batters later. Maryland led 13-7 after three innings, and Nation sealed the deal by holding the Torreros two just 2 runs over the last four.
Sunday morning: Utah State 5, Maryland 0. The Terps were shut down by Aggies senior Noelle Johnson, who pitched a complete-game shutout with 9 strikeouts. Maryland only recorded 5 hits and failed to advance any runners past second base. Brenna Nation allowed one run in the first, but the game slipped away in sixth as the Aggies tacked on four. Freshman catcher Andi Jarvis made her college debut as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh (she struck out looking).
1. The new faces in the lineup all shined. Sophomore third baseman Skylynne Ellazar hit her first career home run on Saturday and went 7 for 15 (.467) in the tournament. On Sunday, she was moved up to second in the order, which she said meant a lot to her. Sophomore right fielder Destiney Henderson hit last all weekend, but she led the team with a .500 average (6 for 12). Junior catcher Kristina Dillard, a transfer from Louisville, was 6 for 16 (.375) and knocked in three runs. She also caught every inning of every game, and head coach Julie Wright said she did a great job of comforting the pitching staff. The three first-year starters had the Terps’ three highest batting averages in the tournament.
2. Lindsey Schmeiser brought the firepower. The senior shortstop is coming off a First Team All-Big Ten season in 2015, and she already has 2 homers and 6 RBIs this year. The Terps’ leadoff hitter now sits at 29 career homers, one behind Shannon Bustillos’ program record of 30. Junior Hannah Dewey added a homer and 5 RBIs from the left side of the plate.
3. The Terps almost pulled off a major upset. Oregon is a perennial powerhouse that began the season ranked No. 6 in the country. And through five and a half innings, Maryland held a 2-0 lead. Despite the eventual loss, this game was a shot of confidence for the Terps, who proved to the nation and to themselves that they can hang with anyone.
1. The Terps fell victim to the big inning. In five games, Maryland pitchers gave up at least 4 runs in an inning four times. By far the most notable was the Oregon sixth inning on Saturday, in which the Ducks turned a 2-0 defecit to a 7-2 lead. But Boston College’s 4-run third gave them the lead, Utah State’s 4-run sixth extended theirs, and San Diego’s 7-run third brought them back into the game in a flash. This could be a common theme throughout the season, as all of Maryland’s hurlers pitch to contact. That style can work in softball, but it makes it easier for the offense to get its timing down and find a groove. None of the three juniors can overpower opponents in the manner that Kaitlyn Schmeiser did last year. Head coach Julie Wright says that all of them have made huge improvements since the fall, but it was an inconsistent opening weekend.
2. Sarah Calta and Madison Martin couldn’t get it going. Calta, who hit .647 with 5 triples in the fall, was 0 for 13 with 5 strikeouts and failed to hit a ball out of the infield. Martin was 1 for 12 at the plate in her first action since 2014, but her only hit was an RBI single against Oregon. She also got off to a shaky start in the circle, allowing 6 runs (4 earned) in 4.1 innings.
3. The warm weather will be short-lived. Temperatures were in the high 80s all weekend, but College Park is not Tempe. Windchills on campus fell into single digits Saturday. At least the Terps will have a day off from class to get reacclimated.
The Terps will travel to Atlanta this coming weekend for the Georgia State Tournament. They will play No. 5 Alabama twice, on Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Other scheduled opponents include host Georgia State, Miami (OH) and Mercer.
Head Coach Julie Wright: "There’s a style of play I’m looking for from this team. We displayed it against Oregon, but I want us to display it against every team. I keep telling them it doesn’t matter who’s in the other dugout. All we care about is us."