Featured photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
By Katrina Schmidt and Kevin Brown
Heading into the second day of the Aquafina Invitational, the Maryland Terrapins are 0-7 overall with two games left.
The Terps fell to Florida International University (FIU) and Northwestern State on Friday. The FIU Panthers took down the Terrapins 6-1, while the Lady Demons beat Maryland 13-2 in a game that was called due to the run rule.
The first game of the day, against the FIU Panthers, showed early promise for the Terrapins.
With two Panthers on base in the bottom of the first, pitcher Hannah Dewey held FIU scoreless with a fly out and ground out. She managed more of the same heroics in the bottom of the second with a line out to keep the innings moving.
In the third, FIU managed to bring two home to gain an edge over the Terrapins.
However, 2-0 is a small deficit to overcome. Maryland successfully struck out three Panthers in a row, making it seem as if they were ready for a comeback. The defense kept the Panthers at bay until the bottom of the fifth when they added another run to the scoreboard.
In the top of the sixth, offensive standouts freshman Anna Kufta, senior Kristina Dillard and senior Madison Martin hit consecutive singles to load the bases.
A fielder’s choice from Dewey sent Kufta home to reduce the run difference by one.
Despite the solid pushback, the Terrapins struggled to keep up the production on both offense and defense.
The last three runs of the game were scored in the bottom of the sixth and gave the Panthers a 6-1 advantage, which they maintained for the rest of the game.
The afternoon brought a matchup against the 3-2 Northwestern State Lady Demons.
During Maryland’s first at bat, Amanda Brashear hit her second triple of the season. Shortly after, fellow freshman Kassidy Cross hit a single to send Brashear across home plate, putting the Terrapins on the scoreboard first.
After a fly out ended the Terrapins’ successful turn at the plate, the Lady Demons kicked it into gear, coming back with a stunning seven runs in the top of the second.
Back up to the plate, Brashear recorded her 11th hit of the season, the most of anyone on the team, but her single wasn’t enough to add any more runs to the board for the Terps. Instead, Kufta came through with a home run, her third of the season, to trim the deficit.
However, the Lady Demons didn’t slow down, reciprocating with a home run of their own to stretch the advantage to 9-2.
On par with the troubles that have plagued the Terrapins in their past games, they loaded the bases in the fourth and put two on in the fifth, but failed to convert these opportunities into runs.
The missed opportunities snowballed into the top of the sixth, when Northwestern State brought four more home to take an 11-run lead, taking down the Terrapins in their fourth run rule loss through the season’s first seven games.
What’s next for the Terrapins:
Going into Saturday, the Terrapins will face the two teams that are complete opposites: 0-7 Florida A&M University (FAMU) and No. 1 ranked Florida.
It is no secret that Maryland’s softball team has had difficulties thus far, but a win can change everything against Florida A&M University. This will be its third game of the Aquafina Invitational, and the first on Saturday.
Like the Terps, FAMU has yet to win a game, and it lost by run rule to FIU on Friday. The Rattlers margin of defeat has been remarkably similar to the Terrapins as well.
However, Maryland has failed to finish four of its first seven games so far due to NCAA’s run rule — a mercy rule that ends the game if the score is not within seven runs going into the final inning.
Up against the FAMU Rattlers, the Terrapins may stand their best chance yet. That doesn’t mean it will be an easy game.
Senior pitcher Kenya Pereira will present a challenge to Maryland. Pereira was the Preseason Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and she threw five shutout innings against No. 20 Kentucky last weekend.
Kentucky, a member of the difficult SEC conference, had a tough time beating the Rattlers, barely pulling off a 4-2 win that came late in the game.
This experience last weekend likely has left the Rattlers thirsty for a win.
Maryland’s final game of the weekend will be against No. 1 Florida, the hosts of the invitational. This weekend is the home opener for the Florida Gators, who went 6-0 last weekend.
The Gators were recently named the No. 1 team in the nation this past week after an opening weekend in which pitchers Katie Chronister and Kelly Barnhill each threw one-hitters.
Florida and Maryland have met once before, in 2014, a game that Florida won 16-0 in a game that lasted just 5 innings due to the run rule.
It goes without saying that this will be a challenging game for the Terrapins, but they put up tremendous fight in the season opener against the only other ranked opponent they’ve played so far, No. 16 Minnesota. Last weekend’s meeting with the Golden Gophers, only ended in a 3-2 defeat and showed that the Terps will certainly not just lie down for the softball powerhouse.
As the fourth game of the weekend, it is also likely that the demanding schedule of back-to-back doubleheaders may catch up to the Terrapins. Despite these setbacks, the matchup against Florida will be a valuable experience early in the season for Maryland.
If head coach Julie Wright and the Terps can win this one, it would be an early contender for upset of the year in college softball.
Edited by Max Marcilla
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