Freshman Hannah Eslick (Eugene Nash/The Left Bench)

Terps host Indiana in Big Ten showdown

The Maryland softball team (16-24, 5-4 Big Ten) hosts Indiana (15-24, 7-2) in their fourth conference series of the season.

The Terps are 5-4 in conference play and sit in sixth place in the Big Ten standings. They started out strong, taking two out of three from Penn State and sweeping Iowa in two three-game series before dropping all three games against Illinois last weekend.

The Hoosiers enter this weekend with the second-best record against Big Ten opponents at 7-2. They swept Ohio State and Michigan State in two three-game sets in late March. Indiana then dropped two out of three to Nebraska last weekend before splitting a midweek doubleheader with Butler, their second-to-last non-conference opponent of the season.

“Indiana’s playing great,” said head coach Julie Wright. “They have a great staff, they’re well-coached. So it’s going to be fun, I think.”

The Terps will be out for revenge, as Indiana swept their three-game series in Bloomington last season. The Terps also dropped two out of three to the Hoosiers in 2016.

Leading the offensive charge for the Terps is senior captain Sky Ellazar, who is having a monster season at the plate. She leads the team with a .360 batting average, 41 hits, five home runs and a .444 on-base percentage. Sophomore Brigette Nordberg is following up her fine freshman season with a .294 average, 35 hits and a team-best nine doubles.

The Hoosiers have three players hitting above .300 —  sophomore Gabbi Jenkins, senior Rebecca Blitz and sophomore Maddie Westmoreland. In conference play, Blitz sports the Big Ten’s highest average at .500, while Westmoreland’s 15 RBI are tied for first.

On the pitching side, the Hoosiers figure to see plenty of Ryan Denhart and Sydney Golden on the mound. The freshman and the junior have thrown 241 ⅔ of the team’s 262.1 innings. Denhart sports a 3.14 ERA while Golden has worked to a 4.11 ERA.

Junior Tara Trainer has handled the bulk of the workload in the circle for Indiana, pitching to a 2.89 ERA in 21 games started. Her 1.27 ERA against conference opponents is second in the Big Ten.

With near identical records and similar offensive and pitching profiles, Wright said she expects three hard-fought, close contests.

“They’re kind of a lot like us on paper, she said. “I think we’re going to go pitch to pitch, game to game.I think it’s going to be an exciting series.”

When it comes to strategy, the players will have a simple goal in mind.

“[We’re] keeping the hitting going and just building off of what he had on Wednesday,” said sophomore catcher Anna Kufta.

The teams kick off the series with a Friday contest at 6 p.m., followed by a pair of weekend games at 1 p.m. You can follow the action on BTN Plus or on the Maryland softball Twitter account.