With six seniors on the team, the Maryland Terrapins are looking to make their last home games count.
This weekend, the Wisconsin Badgers (29-14 overall, 8-11 Big Ten) travel to College Park to face off in the final series of the regular season. For the Terps, which will honor their seniors over the weekend, being home at the Maryland Softball Stadium will make it more special.
With seniors Kristina Dillard, Hannah Dewey, Jordan Aughinbaugh and Sarah Calta, along with redshirt seniors Madison Martin and Juli Strange, the Terps preparing to part ways with several key pieces to their lineup and defense.
Martin and Dewey led the team in the circle this season, proving themselves against talented batters.
In the Sunday game of the Indiana series in April, Martin stranded 13 runners on base to keep the score to a close 2-1 in a Terps loss.. Last Wednesday against Rutgers, she entered in the seventh inning of the first game to record three consecutive outs and get the win for the Terps.
“Madison changes speed so well,” head coach Julie Wright said ahead of the Penn State series. “She threw three different speeds to [Indiana ]… She does a really nice job with runners in scoring position.”
In Maryland’s underdog defeat of then-No. 18 Michigan, Dewey threw two key strikeouts that helped secure the game. Then, last Saturday, she allowed just three hits in eleven innings against Penn State, preventing them from scoring more than one run.
“It’s in her database,” Dillard said about Dewey’s abilities following the final Penn State game. “She knows that she can get these batters with what she has.”
But, the senior class isn’t just fundamental to the bullpen. Strange and Aughinbaugh both play on the infield, Calta can be found in right field and Dillard almost always plays catcher for the entirety of the ballgame.
Aughinbaugh splits time at first base with freshman Brigette Nordberg and, with Strange at third, the fluidity of infield play has become a strength since the error-strewn early season.
Dillard, who transferred from Louisville ahead of her junior year, is a standby at catcher and a crucial power hitter in the lineup. She is tied for the second-most home runs on the team.
Dillard is the overall team captain this season, and her leadership is a driving force on the team.
“Kristina Dillard is our anchor,” Wright told Maryland Athletics ahead of the season.
After Sunday’s late-game loss to Penn State, Dillard spoke about the advice she’s given the team.
“I’ve been talking to the team a lot about just staying in it … it’s about the end of the year” Dillard said. “Energy’s a big thing and that’s what I’ve been preaching a lot.”
These fourth and fifth year players are all regular starters, and the Terps’ late-season push has, at least partially, depended on their improved play.
Seven of Maryland’s last 10 games have been within one run although four of those seven games were losses. Although a spot in the tournament looks unlikely at this point, finishing strong will be essential to the Terps.
The mental and emotional significance of the final home series for both the seniors and the team will likely not be lost on the Terps as they battle it out against the Badgers.
“The game is 90 percent the six inches between your ears,” Wright said.
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