Anna Kufta during the Terps' first double-header of 2018 Big Ten play. (Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics).

Terps host Iowa in second Big Ten series

Fresh off winning its first Big Ten series since 2016, the Maryland softball team (12-20, 2-1 Big Ten) gets right back to work this weekend against Iowa (15-14, 1-1).

The Terps took two out of three games from Penn State (5-21, 1-2) to open conference play this season. Head coach Julie Wright said she was pleased to see some of the improvements the team has been working on over the past few weeks come through last weekend.

“We hit well with runners in scoring position. We played great defense — other than the very first inning of the first game, we played great defense,” she said. “I feel as if we had ourselves positioned perfectly to be able to turn some double plays that were really needed or to make some big catches.”

Maryland will again put those skills to the test against a tougher opponent in Iowa. They split their opening Big Ten conference against No. 17 Michigan after the third game was cancelled due to weather.

Junior first baseman Mallory Kilian and senior center fielder Allie Wood anchor the Hawkeyes’ offense. Killian leads the team with a .333 batting average and a .455 on-base percentage. Wood sports a .302 average and has a team-leading 15 RBI.

In the circle, Iowa has a dangerous pitcher in sophomore Allison Doocy. She has started 14 games and has a 1.49 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 98.2 innings. Her ERA is good for fourth in the Big Ten and her strikeout total is good for third in the conference.

Wright said the Maryland hitters are well-positioned to figure the Iowa ace out.

“I feel like we match up against Doocy pretty well, just with our hitters’ strengths right now,” she said. “She does throw up in the zone. We just saw that at Penn State and we’re learning quickly on that.”

Senior captain Skylynne Ellazar said the team does extensive scouting into the opposing pitchers it is going to face each week.

“[Starting] the week before we’ll get video. [I look at] what pitches they throw, what are their tendencies, how many balls and strikes do they throw [for] the first pitch, that kind of stuff,” Ellazar said.

Ellazar had a monster weekend against Penn State, collecting six hits and three RBI, including a game-winning home run on Sunday. She said she is happy to be contributing to the team’s success in her final season.

“I think it’s awesome. Setting the tone going into this season winning is great,” she said. “It’ll be interesting to see how this [Big Ten] season is going to go and I think we’re going to take that into this weekend and keep the momentum going.”

The series begins with a 6 p.m. matchup on Friday, continues on Saturday at 1 p.m. and concludes on Sunday at noon.

I feel good about what we’re doing,” Wright said. “[Iowa is] also playing well, so I think it’s going to be a really fun series.”

Catch the games on BTN Plus or through the Maryland Softball Twitter account.