Maryland played Penn State in a hotly contested conference matchup on Maryland Day, a day full of pride and fun for those with ties to the University of Maryland. The Terps softball team showed its own pride with a gritty 2-1 win in extra innings.
It took 11 innings for Maryland (10-34-1) to tie the series at one with one more game to be played on Sunday against the Nittany Lions (21-29).
The game was devoid of scoring since the fifth inning, and full of outstanding defensive play. That was changed in extra innings.
In the bottom of the 11th inning Maryland’s Skylynne Ellazar stole second base after a Penn State error. Then, Anna Kufta hit a smashing RBI single to right field to bring Ellazar home for the walk off win.
“It was exciting, definitely a good feeling, ” Kufta said about the walk-off RBI. “(It was) amazing, we definitely want to be on this side of the walk off more often.”
Senior Hannah Dewey led the Terrapin defense, as she allowed only two hits in 11 innings.
Head coach Julie Wright praised Dewey’s performance.
“I thought Hannah Dewey was brilliant,” Wright said after the game. “I thought she had the best game I’ve seen of her. I was really impressed how she took it pitch by pitch, moment by moment. She basically single-handedly, because she hit well too, won that softball game.”
Wright’s message of whoever wins the most moments will win the game really helped out the team prepare for the game to get the win, Dewey said.
One of the improvements the Terrapins needed to make headed into Saturday’s game was to get off to a good start at the pitching circle, and Dewey did just that. The senior retired the first three Nittany Lions.
The game was an early defensive battle as Dewey and junior Jessica Cummings got off to hot starts at the center circle, as both teams remained hitless for the first three innings. Both pitchers allowed just one hit through the first three innings.
However, Penn State’s offensive woke up in the top of the fourth inning.Penn State’s two catalysts from Friday were at it again as Tori DuBois’s triple out to right field was mishandled by Sarah Calta deep in right field.
Shelby Miller followed that up with a sacrifice fly out, which was caught by Kassidy Cross who threw the ball over Kristina Dillard, allowing DuBois to score the first run of the day. DuBois now leads the team in runs with 30.
Dillard answered in the bottom of the fifth inning with a thunderbolt over the left fence for her third home run of the year.
“As long as we play team softball, I think it is better to not look for the long ball,” Dewey said. “Yeah a home run is great, but I think for us it’s just about moving runners, getting them into scoring positions and scoring them like (Kufta) did.”
Dewey made quick work of the next three batters to keep the score even at one going into the bottom of the sixth. Left fielder Calta hit a groundball to third and seemed to be safe before the second base umpire corrected the call to be out in controversial fashion.
In the decisive seventh inning, Maryland’s defense was tested. Mia Monopoli got on third base to load the bases off a fielding error by Jordan Aughinbaugh, the team’s fourth error total. With two outs and three on the bases, Dewey had the all-important task of getting out this pickle unscathed.
Rebecca Ziegler stepped up to the plate and rocketed a deep ball to left center field where Kassidy Cross caught it for the third out to set up the offense for a chance to win.
In the bottom half of the inning, tensions were high. Two outs, two runners on base and the game tied at one.
Cummings answered the call with a clutch pitch down the middle to send the game into extra innings.
But after a walk-off single in the 11th, the rest was history.
Wright spoke about how Penn State was able to “pummel” Maryland the day before, but then “lost the easy one” on Saturday.
“That’s what I feel really good about,” Wright said. “My team is going to come out hard and I’m not sure if Penn State is going to expect us to play as hard as we did today.”
The two teams face off again Sunday for the decisive game in the series. Maryland has its first chance to win a conference series this season.
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