The Maryland softball team (15-21, 5-2 Big Ten) could not solve Illinois’s prodigious offense Friday afternoon, dropping the first game of the three-game series by an 11-0 score.
Heading into the contest, Illinois (23-13, 4-4) led all of the Big Ten in team batting average, hitting .323 on the season (Maryland, by comparison, is hitting .232 as a team). The Terps, however, bring plenty of pitching strength — the starting duo of Ryan Denhart and Sydney Golden have led the team to a sparkling 2.12 ERA, good for fourth in the conference. The Fighting Illini sit in tenth with a 4.77 ERA.
In a matchup of great hitting versus great pitching, the hitting won out on Friday. Denhart struggled in the circle, allowing eight runs in four innings. After Denhart got two quick outs to open the bottom of the first, five straight Illinois batters reached base to score two runs.
A disastrous second inning put the game out of reach for Maryland. Denhart allowed three straight singles to open the frame, and Golden came in to relieve her. Illinois then tacked on three more runs through a fielding error and a fielder’s choice that did not result in an out and a double. Denhart made her second appearance of the inning by relieving Golden, ultimately giving up four more runs before the frame ended.
Illinois nearly batted around twice in the second, sending 17 hitters to the plate. Despite working all season to improve its defense, Maryland committed three errors in the second, which led to four unearned runs.
Another Illinois run in the third put the nail in the coffin for the Terps in the mercy rule-shortened four-and-a-half inning contest.
The Terps couldn’t get much of anything going offensively. They were limited to one hit — Jacqui Pascual in the second — and one walk by Sky Ellazar in the first.
Maryland will try to quickly turn the page in the second game of the series on Saturday. Sydney Golden is the projected starter. Prior to Friday’s game, she was third in the Big Ten with a pristine 0.84 ERA against conference opponents.