After 11 wins, 39 losses and a last place finish in the Big Ten conference, Maryland softball’s season is over after getting swept in the final series last weekend.
The team played seven Top 25 opponents during the course of the season, winning three of those contests in spectacular fashion.
“They played big in big moments,” head coach Julie Wright said. “Next year, the big thing we are going to work on is playing consistent… you’ll win a lot more that way.”
One of the major reasons for the Terps’ inconsistency was switching around key positions on defense. The most notable change was placing Anna Kufta, who was recruited as a catcher and third baseman, at shortstop – a position she had never played before.
“A lot of that [consistency] comes from people playing in comfortable positions from the get go,” Wright said. Kufta had a big learning curve playing shortstop, as she would often times learn what kind of play to make on the ball for the first time during games and practices this season, Wright said.
The Terps lose six graduating seniors for next season. Madison Martin and Hannah Dewey’s 78 combined appearances will leave a gaping hole on the pitching staff. Freshman Lauren Graves, a pitcher who was rushed into the rotation this season, will have an expanded role next season to help lead the pitching staff, Wright said.
“[Graves showed] tremendous improvement over the year in the bullpen and all the work she did,” Wright said. “She’s really going to shine next year.”
Graves really picked it up at the end of the season. In her seven appearances in conference games, her ERA was 4.45 compared to her 15.56 ERA in 12 non-conference appearances.
The successor to senior starting catcher Kristina Dillard will likely be Kufta, who will play a position in which she is much more comfortable.
“[Kristina Dillard has] mentored Kufta a lot,” Wright said. “Kufta will be stepping in her shoes next year.”
Wright also announced the addition of junior college transfer Mikayla Werahiko from Florida Southwestern State College on Thursday. Werahiko “will add speed, offensive consistency, and strong defensive skills at shortstop to our line-up,” Wright said in a press release.
Also departing are infielders Juli Strange and Jordan Aughinbaugh and outfielder Sara Calta.
Freshmen Amanda Brashear and Kufta will be able to bring their experience as starters this past season into next season. Brigette Nordberg and Kassidy Cross have also grown as players after they saw their playing time increase toward the end of the season, Wright said.
As the returning players come back next season, they will be able to take the lessons learned from the seniors with them.
“They’ve really helped this younger group acclimate,” Wright said about having the senior class mentor the underclassmen. “Because now my freshman know what to say to the big freshman class that is coming in. We have six coming in, and six leaving. Now they know what they have to say and how to say it.”
Wright spoke of how it will take a lot of work in the offseason for this young group to come together and help make progress for next season right away in the fall.
“They’re going to have to do some work [in the offseason],” Wright said. “And when we come back in the fall, we are setting a tone immediately for this young group.”