Maryland softball pitcher Ryan Denhart held Illinois’ dynamic offense to just one run in the first inning Sunday afternoon, and after an inning and a half, the Terps remained competitive with the Illini. Coach Julie Wright’s team struck back to tie the game in the top of the second and had five hits through two innings.
But the Illini opened the second inning with four consecutive hits, culminating with outfielder Kiana Sherlund’s grand slam to break the game open. The grand slam knocked Denhart, who allowed six hits and five runs in an inning, out of the game. It was the start of the Illini’s offensive outburst in their 20-2, five-inning win against Maryland, securing the series sweep.
“They’re just really talented hitters,” Wright said. “They swing it big and we didn’t pitch great. They’re one of the best offenses in the country, and we just did not match up well against them this weekend.”
Maryland’s 18-run loss is its worst loss this season. Their previous worst was a 12-0 defeat to No. 2 Florida on Feb. 24. It was the Terps’ fifth loss in five innings.
After Denhart departed, reliever Sami Main struggled in similar fashion. Illinois added four more runs against Main to stretch its lead to eight. It was the second time in the series that Illinois had an eight-run second inning.
The Illini added four runs in the third to stretch their advantage to 12. Illinois swept the Terps by a combined score of 38-3 with two run-rule victories.
The offensive explosion was not uncharacteristic. Entering Sunday, Illinois hit .327 as a team and had scored 238 runs on the season, 23 more than the next best team in the Big Ten.
Outfielder Maddi Doane led the Illini with two home runs and six RBI on Sunday.
Illinois’ pitching, meanwhile, had not been on par with its offense coming into the series but still dominated Maryland’s hitters. Illinois hurlers, led by Taylor Edwards, allowed just two runs on twelve hits over the weekend.
“It wasn’t really anything they did,” infielder Skylynne Ellazar said. “We just took a lot of pitches and we didn’t score when we had runners in scoring position.”
Maryland struggled hitting in the clutch on Sunday, going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Maryland had a series-high six hits but was only able to translate that into two runs.
“I just don’t think we played well,” Wright said. “We’re just looking forward to being at home, being in warm weather, forgetting about this weekend and moving forward.”