It was senior night on this hot and sunny Friday evening as the Maryland softball team (18-35, 7-15 Big Ten) kicked off its last series before the Big Ten tournament with a doubleheader against Michigan State (23-25, 9-12 Big Ten).
Both teams entered Friday with the same amount of series wins in conference play, but the Spartans sealed the series victory after winning both games in an exciting extra-inning battle in game two, which was interrupted by a slight rain delay.
The Terps fell victim to powerful hitting from Michigan State, losing the first game 4-7. The Spartans pulled ahead early with a grand slam to right field in the top of the first inning by Ebonee Echols.
To top it off, they tacked on three more runs in the top of the second inning with a three-run homer to left center by Lea Foerster. Michigan State was up 7-0 and didn’t look back.
The Terps struggled to get hits off of Spartan pitcher Kristina Zalewski, who consistently struck out Maryland one-by-one. Head coach Julie Wright said Zalewski tends to pitch a little inside and outside the plate to ensure misses. Throughout the week, the Terps practiced keeping their eye on these tricky pitches and focusing on the timing of their swing for the balls they wanted to hit.
But senior night lived up to the name. Senior captain Skylynne Ellazar fought on, hitting a 3-RBI home run in the bottom of the fifth to bring the Terps to 7-3. Senior Destinee Henderson added to the pressure by notching a single to left field to bring in another run to make it 7-4. After an impressive fight, it wasn’t enough to bring it to a tie.
Wright attributed the loss to missing crucial opportunities.
“Our games are moments. Really brief moments,” Wright said. “And if you’re not focused, if you miss one moment, it can crush you.”
The second game was a thrilling game of catch-up as the Spartans and Terps faced off in an extra-inning contest.
Maryland was down 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh when Ellazar came in clutch for the second time on the day with a 3-RBI home run to right field, tying the game at three. Wright was impressed with Ellazar’s fight.
“The passion, the energy [Ellazar] plays with…she’s clutch. She does a lot of things well,” Wright said. “I think she bleeds Maryland softball. She’s given a lot to the program…I’m just very proud of her.”
In the ninth inning, Michigan State notched three more runs to bring the game to 6-3. Sophomore Kassidy Cross retaliated by hitting a single up the right side to bring in two more runs. With one out and runners on second and third, fans were anxiously biting their nails when the game was interrupted with a 15-minute rain delay.
It was a back-and-forth battle, but the Spartans maintained their lead 6-5 to once again come out on top.
“Today, the pitchers kept us in the game and we kinda got ourselves down by making errors,” Ellazar said. “We’ve seen both of their pitchers, so we’ll be ready [for tomorrow].”
The teams will play their final game of the series tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Maryland Softball Stadium, which will conclude conference play before the Big Ten tournament.