NCAA softball wild card Maryland heads to Highlander Classic

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland is the team no one can figure out.

Headed into their fifth week of the season, the Terrapins have a 3-15-1 record. Two of those wins were against top 25 ranked teams — then-No. 1 Florida and then-No. 24 Missouri.

Maryland has lost by significant margins to unranked teams like Northwestern State, but has also came back in the seventh inning to erase a six-run deficit against ranked Missouri.

This rollercoaster of a season leaves a lot of unanswered questions as the Terrapins head to Riverside, California, this weekend for the Highlander Classic where they will face UT Martin, Iona, UC Riverside and Weber State.

Like Maryland, none of these teams are currently ranked nor have they received votes for the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll.

Unlike Maryland, these teams are having mostly predictable seasons so far, leaving the Terrapins the wildcard this weekend.

They face a doubleheader of UT Martin and Iona on Friday, two relatively even matchups. The Terrapins will be tested as they try to keep the momentum from Sunday’s Missouri win.

UT Martin starts the weekend with a 15-3 record and ranked second nationally in stolen bases per game, a statistical category that could make a difference in a close contest.

The Terrapins will have to watch out for Carly Gonzales and Savannah Dodson, the top two base-stealers on the Skyhawks. Plays like Kristina Dillard’s deft throw to third to stop an attempted base steal Sunday could be necessary to secure the win if the Skyhawks employ their base-stealing tactics.

The Skyhawks are in the Ohio Valley Conference, and while their season is off to a successful start against non-conference teams, Maryland is a Power Five team used to facing teams like Minnesota, a Big Ten team ranked No. 7.

Iona has played far fewer games so far this season than the Skyhawks or Maryland. The Gaels are 5-4, a relatively even record, but are 0-4 when trailing in the sixth.

The Gaels haven’t had success making a comeback in the final innings, a downfall that could fare well for the Terrapins who lost to both Butler and Stephen F. Austin late in the game last weekend.

A possible remedy to Maryland’s eleventh hour struggles is taking advantage of the other team’s missteps, said head coach Julie Wright.

“When you make those mistakes sometimes late and another team gets momentum… that can hurt you in the end,” she said.

On Saturday, the Terrapins play the host team, UC Riverside.

The Highlanders (7-8) are having a balanced season so far, similarly to Iona. However, they are on a four-game win streak and are carrying momentum that will be tested this weekend.

Home turf could fare well for UC Riverside — at last season’s Highlander Classic it went 5-0.

Although Maryland will be traveling several hours by plane to Riverside, eight of the team’s players hail from California and this weekend is almost like homecoming for them.

The mental advantage of having family and friends cheering you on may be uplifting to the Terps, many of whom have not gone home yet since winter break.

“We’ll be able to take them home and put them in from of their family and friends and let them show off,” Wright said.

Last, but not least, is Weber State on Sunday. The Wildcats are on an even longer win streak than UC Riverside, and have won their last eight games. Their record is 8-10-1.

However, Weber State has never played any of the teams they play this weekend, including the Terrapins. This lack of familiarity could play to Maryland’s advantage.

The Terrapins’ first game against UT Martin is slated for 1 p.m. Friday.

Katrina Schmidt

Katrina Schmidt

Recruiting Writer at The Left Bench
Katrina Schmidt is a freshman multiplatform journalism major from Baltimore, Maryland.
Katrina Schmidt
About Katrina Schmidt 41 Articles
Katrina Schmidt is a freshman multiplatform journalism major from Baltimore, Maryland.