The Michigan State Spartans swept the Maryland Terrapins in a three-game series in the second weekend of Big Ten softball conference play.
The first game in East Lansing, Michigan was on a frigid Friday afternoon, as the 37 degree weather did not account for the wind and precipitation sprinkling down intermittently throughout the day. The Spartans came out hot however, as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
The Terps did not drop their heads as they tied the score in the top of the fourth inning to make it 3-3 after tremendous hitting to bring home Juli Strange, Amanda Brashear and Sami Main. This momentum would not last long.
Michigan State went on to score eight unanswered runs, widening the lead to 11-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning — resulting in Maryland’s 10th loss by the run rule out of its first 32 games.
The main theme of the weekend was Maryland’s inability to bring runners home, as well as its struggles to stop Michigan State’s offense from scoring.
This was very apparent in Saturday’s 2-0 loss. In a mostly dull and defensive battle, Michigan State shined with limited opportunities as it was able to bring baserunners across home plate as Maryland often struggled to escape innings with two outs.
In the series, Maryland left a mind-boggling 28 runners left on base. When batters are able to get on base but cannot advance home from scoring positions, a lack of hitting depth in the lineup is glaring. By comparison, Michigan State left just 13 runners on base throughout the weekend.
While this has been a problem all season, head coach Julie Wright has not been able to find a solution. Maryland’s struggles in this department has landed it a spot in the basement of the Big Ten standings, going 0-6 in conference play as a result from back-to-back sweeps at the hands of Ohio State and Michigan State.
The final game on Sunday played out very similarly to the first on Friday. Michigan State again jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first, and was able to keep separation throughout the entirety of the contest, winning by a final score of 6-2.
Thankfully for the Terps, their next opponent is Northwestern, a team that has just won one conference game, before an undefeated Michigan looms over the horizon.
Although the results have not been kind to the Terrapins, the heart and fight that the team has displayed all season is a mark of its pride. This was exemplified during the top of the seventh inning on Sunday when freshman Anna Kufta hit eight foul balls from a mixture of fast and off-speed pitches from Spartan pitcher Jordan Watson.
Her eventual fly ball was caught easily. Next up, senior catcher Kristina Dillard continued this fighting spirit with another fly ball that was caught by the Spartan left fielder Ebonee Echols, who had come back from a scary collision with the tarp siding on Friday.
With two outs and virtually no hope to get back into the game, both Kufta and Dillard showed the fearless Terrapin spirit by never giving up, even if they came short with great defensive efforts from the opposition.
It was not only Kufta and Dillard who showed this resilience and fight throughout the weekend. Freshman outfielder Kassidy Cross made some outstanding highlight reel plays on Saturday as her two amazing diving catches came during crucial times to hold the Spartans from scoring any more than two runs.
The whole team came together and made some spectacular efforts throughout the weekend, yet their record reflects some of the struggles that is still ever-present in the Terrapin dugout — scoring runs and escaping innings.
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