Unfamiliar foes face off as the Maryland Terrapins (7-26-1) take on the Northwestern Wildcats (13-19) at 5 p.m. on Friday in the first game of a three-game series.
The two teams have not played each other since 2009 in a game that ended in a Northwestern 7-2 win.
Maryland is coming off its second straight winless weekend after getting swept at Michigan State. The Terps left an awful 28 runners on base in East Lansing, unable to score at crucial points of the game.
“The Michigan State pitchers threw a really great weekend,” redshirt senior and lead-off hitter Juli Strange said. “We got some hits, but at the end of the day it’s about making runs, and we need to make adjustments a little better.”
Maryland, now in the thick of the grueling Big Ten conference schedule, has an opportunity to pick up some wins against an unranked Northwestern team before playing the No. 18 ranked Michigan Wolverines in College Park.
Winning against this Northwestern team will be no easy feat, as their losing overall record and conference record (1-5) are very deceiving. The Wildcats have played 21 out of their first 32 games against opponents ranked in the top-50 in the nation, giving the team the fifth-toughest schedule in the country.
Their strength of schedule has perhaps translated to Northwestern’s struggles at bat, as their .245 season batting average is second-worst in the conference, above only Iowa. Maryland’s .275 average ranked No. 9 in the Big Ten, four spots above the Wildcats.
“Every series is a fresh start,” Strange said. “With our scout, we know how we are going to defend them whether their average is zero or a thousand, our job is to defend and (their struggles) have no bearing on what they do that day.”
The Terps have also cut down on errors this past weekend, only giving up a single error in the Michigan State series despite losing all three games. Strange cited a change in the outfield during Big Ten conference play, as players have become more comfortable in their new positions.
Among the players switching positions was freshman Anna Kufta, who was placed into the daunting shortstop position.
“You’re recruited as a particular position and switched into a middle infield position, let alone shortstop (is) tough, and she has responded really well,” Strange said. “I can’t speak highly enough of her. She’s very mature especially for a freshman.”
Another key player, freshman centerfielder Kassidy Cross, has made some highlight reel plays the last couple of weekends. Her four diving weekends in the span of two series gives relief to the rest of the defense and prevents base hits, Strange said.
With her own personal saying that she goes by, “Nothing Drops, Nothing By,” meaning that the ball does not drop in front or behind the outfield players, Cross has been carrying out this saying in the outfield.
“I don’t like for balls to drop,” Cross said, speaking about her two amazing diving catches last weekend. “I want my team to be able to trust me, and I want to have a better opportunity (to win) going into the next inning.”
The Terps may need that spirit and outfield performance from Cross and the rest of the defense despite the Wildcat’s struggles at bat this season. The two sides also play at 1 p.m. on Saturday on Sunday and can be watched live on BTN Plus.
Edited by Abigail Bentz
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