After an 0-8 start to the season, the Maryland softball team led No. 1 Florida, 4-2, in the sixth inning. In the bottom half of the frame, three walks, a base running error and a single left Florida with the bases loaded and one out. Then came a 90-minute rain delay.
Instead of getting nervous, the Terps stayed lose. The team played games in the batting cage and danced to the rain delay soundtrack, including Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Prince’s “Purple Rain,” which played over the stadium loudspeakers.
“I didn’t want to overthink the situation,” pitcher Madison Martin said, who came into the game after the delay with the bases loaded. “I knew if I was just sitting there overthinking it, thinking about it for the entire hour, … that it probably wouldn’t end up in my favor.”
The plan worked. Martin escaped the jam and struck out the first batter before forcing a ground out to end the inning. In the seventh, she again held off Florida, securing the 4-2 win, Maryland’s first of the season.
Florida jumped on top of Maryland, 2-0, in the first inning. But Maryland kept the game close. Pitcher Hannah Dewey allowed four singles in 5.1 innings against the power-hitting team, limiting the big inning capability of the Gators. Florida had hit 20 extra base hits in its first eight games of the season before meeting Maryland.
The senior pitcher said she tried to play to her strengths as a pitcher and not force anything. “Taking it pitch by pitch,” Dewey said. “Not necessarily trying to take on Florida as an entire team, but looking at them as batter by batter, pitch by pitch. Executing one moment at a time.”
Maryland struggled with runners in scoring position earlier in the series, but the Terps hit .500 with runners on second or third base against the Gators.
To lead off the fourth inning, infielder Skylynne Ellazar hit a single. That hit was a turning point in the game, coach Julie Wright said.
“That’s when my team started to say, ‘Hey, we’re playing to win here,'” Wright said.
Following Ellazar’s single, infielder Anna Kufta bunted the Hawaiian to second base. Then, catcher Kristina Dillard launched an RBI-double into right center field. With one out in the fourth, the Terps kept the pressure on.
Martin singled, one of her three hits against the Gators, moving Dillard to third. Infielder Jordan Aughinbaugh hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at two. Martin came around to score after outfielder Destiney Henderson reached on an infield single.
In the following inning, the Terps added one more to lead the Gators, 4-2. Ellazar and Kufta both singled, and Martin drove in Ellazar with an RBI-single.
“We weren’t trying to do too much. We weren’t trying to hit home runs or do something that’s not our game,” Martin said. The team tried to hit the ball on the ground and up the middle, she said. As a result, Maryland hit five infield singles.
The Terps had four errors against Florida A&M in the morning, and three errors in the first three innings against Florida, but the team found a rhythm.
“They just let it all hang out, they really did,” Wright said. “They weren’t afraid to fail. They played to win. That’s the way the game should be played at every moment, and we finally did just that.”