The Maryland softball team (18-27, 7-7 Big Ten) swept Rutgers (17-23, 2-9) in its doubleheader Tuesday, earning a close win in Game One before mounting a thrilling come-from-behind victory in Game Two.
Maryland didn’t let any of Rutgers’ two leads stick in Game One, responding with a tying run in the bottom of boh frames.
Rutgers scored an early run on a double and a single in the first. In the home half of the inning, sophomore outfielder Amanda Brashear led off with a walk, advanced to second on Destiney Henderson’s sacrifice bunt and scored on sophomore Anna Kufta’s single to center field.
The Terps weren’t able to capitalize on a scoring opportunity in the second, stranding two runners in scoring position after Jacqui Pascual and Bailey Boyd led off the frame with a single and a double, respectively.
The Knights retook the lead with a solo homer to lead off the fourth, but it didn’t stick. The Terps tied it up for a second time in the home half on just two pitches. Sophomore Brigette Nordberg smoked a double to left field on the first pitch of her at-bat, and Pascual followed up with a first-pitch single up the middle.
The Terps took their first lead of the game in the fifth, and it was the only one they’d need. Kufta drove in her second run of the game after Henderson opened the frame with a single and advanced to second on an Ellazar groundout.
A wacky play scored Maryland’s final two runs. Nordberg and Pascual followed Kufta with a single and a walk to load the bases. Bailey Boyd then hit into a fielder’s choice, forcing Pascual out at second while Kufta came in to score the go-ahead run.
Boyd then got caught in a rundown between first and second base, allowing Nordberg to score as well. Boyd ended up at second safely after the Indiana infielder dropped the ball on the tag, which was in plenty of time.
Freshman pitcher Ryan Denhart pitched 6 ⅔ strong innings, allowing two runs on six hits to go along with five strikeouts. She was unable to finish her ninth complete game after loading the bases with two outs in the seventh. Junior Sydney Golden entered in relief and walked in a run before notching a strikeout to seal the win.
“We knew [Sydney] might walk [the Rutgers batter],” head coach Julie Wright said. “It was fine with us. She gets a couple of pitches under her belt and then she goes attack that next [batter]. It worked out just exactly the way we thought it would.”
The Terps once again erased two Rutgers leads in Game Two.
The contest started similarly to Game One, with Rutgers taking an early lead. Their second first-inning run of the day came on a leadoff single to right, a two-base fielding error that allowed the runner to advance to third, and an RBI fielder’s choice.
The Terps knotted things up in the bottom of the second. Junior Mikayla Werahiko notched her fourth RBI of the season on a single that scored Kufta, who walked to lead off the frame.
A run in the top of the fifth put the Knights back in front, and they added five insurance runs in the sixth, sending ten hitters to the plate.
Faced with a daunting six-run deficit with only six offensive outs to go, Maryland quickly got to work in the bottom of the sixth. Kufta and senior Sky Ellazar hit back-to-back solo shots to breathe life back into the frigid stadium. After Pascual singled and freshman Hannah Eslick reached on an error, Werahiko drove in Pascual with a booming double.
With two runners on and two outs, Brashear stepped up to the plate and demolished a ball to right center, tying the game at seven. It was her first career home run.
“I was just looking for anything on the plate and [swinging] as hard as I can,” Brashear said.
Ellazar once again got things going in the seventh, connecting for a leadoff double to put the winning run in scoring position. Nordberg hit a double of her own to advance Ellazar, and Pascual capped off the fairytale comeback with a single.
“I just wanted to barrel up the ball and get a popup to the outfield to score that run for the walkoff,” Pascual said.
After Maryland was handed a tough sweep at the hands of Indiana over the weekend, Wright said she was impressed at the team’s ability to bounce back and keep fighting even in the face of a large deficit.
“They felt like they weren’t out of it, truly,” Wright said. “They felt very confident. I just really liked their approach today. They started that in the locker room. They were determined to get these two games today, and I think that’s the result you saw on the softball field.”
Next up for the Terps is a weekend series against No. 16 Michigan (35-7, 10-1) in Ann Arbor. Game one begins on Friday at 6 p.m.