Senior infielder and captain Sky Ellazar (Eugene Jesse Nash IV/The Left Bench).

Terps split doubleheader with St. Francis, offense comes alive in Game 2

The Maryland softball team (16-24, 5-4 Big Ten) split their midweek doubleheader against Saint Francis University (20-17, 2-0 NEC), their final non-conference opponent of the season. After dropping game one by a tight 3-1 score, the Terps exploded for seven runs in game two, snapping their four-game losing streak.

The Terps couldn’t get anything going offensively in game one, notching just six hits. The leadoff runner reached base in four separate innings but was left stranded each time.

Maryland’s recent woes with runners in scoring position also continued, with none of the runners who reached second or third coming around to score.

Sami Main made her third start of the season and turned in a solid outing. Although she struggled a bit with her command, hitting two batters in the first inning and issuing two walks, she allowed only allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits in five innings.

“Sami Main has been getting some good innings for us,” head coach Julie Wright said. “We wanted to get her a start and let her go against some really good hitters and see how she did.”

Game two started on a much higher note. Leading off for only the fifth time this season, senior captain Sky Ellazar connected for a solo home run that quickly put the Terps on top. This was Ellazar’s fifth homer of the year, and she went on to go 3-for-4 in game two. Ellazar is hitting at an outstanding .360 average with 41 hits and a .444 on-base percentage, all team-best clips.

Saint Francis would jump into the lead in the next frame, scoring two runs on three hits.

Freshman Ryan Denhart settled in after that, not allowing another hit and only three baserunners for the next four frames.

Halfway through, it seemed like game two was heading to a similarly close and disappointing finish for the Terps. But Maryland’s offense came alive in the fifth, exploding for six runs to put the Terps ahead for good.

The Terps sent 11 hitters to the plate in the frame, and seven different batters collected hits.

Wright said the hitting gets going when the players feed off each other, so turning over the lineup helped them connect in that big inning.

“I was pleased with their effort and their change from game one,” she said.

Freshman Hannah Eslick and junior Anna Kufta delivered the inning’s big blows. Eslick smoked a pinch-hit single up the middle to plate two. Two batters later, the catcher skied one to left-center field for a three-run shot.

Before game two, Maryland had scored just three runs in their last five games, four of which were losses. The players said that chemistry played as crucial a role as any in helping the team break out of its offensive slump.

“We knew that it was kind of a now or never thing,” Eslick said, “and we also do a very good job of passing the bat. So once one person does it, everyone starts to feed off of that and I think that’s what happened in that big inning.”

Denhart allowed two more runs in the seventh but limited the damage to seal the win for Maryland. Denhart threw her seventh complete game of the season, with a final line of two runs, three hits and four strikeouts.

Denhart earned the win after taking a tough loss in her previous outing against the Red Flash. She allowed one run in six innings on February 18 at the Auburn Invitational in Alabama, but the Terps dropped the game, 1-0.

“What made [Denhart’s performance] really good was that [St. Francis] had already seen her,” Wright said. “They’re legit, they can hit. She had to get a little more crafty this game, and I thought she did a really good job with that.”

Maryland will have a quick turnaround from their Wednesday doubleheader, hosting Indiana (15-24, 7-2) over the weekend in an exciting matchup between conference opponents. The first game of the three-game series begins on Friday at 6 p.m.