Infielder Skylynne Ellazar led the Maryland softball offense with her parents in the stands Friday for the first time since her freshman year. Making the trip from Hawaii, they watched Ellazar drive in two runs against Penn State.
“It was really fun to play in front of them,” Ellazar said. “My little brother got to run out with me so that was fun. Just having them around feels like home.”
But Ellazar’s contributions weren’t enough, as the Terps fell to the Nittany Lions, 10-3.
After the Terps (9-34-1, 2-14 Big Ten) fell behind by six in the first two innings, the Nittany Lions (21-28, 7-11) kept the game out of reach. Ellazar led Maryland’s offense with a single and double, and designated player Hannah Dewey scored twice in the series opener.
But walks and errors allowed Penn State to put up 10 runs on nine hits. Maryland’s three pitchers combined to allow eight walks, while the team committed two errors.
Penn State took a 3-0 lead in the first after four singles. Infielder Anna Kufta dove to snare a groundball, but couldn’t get up in time to throw outfielder Rebecca Ziegler out to lead off the game. After another single, catcher Delaney Elling and infielder Kristina Brackpool singled to score three.
The Nittany Lions added three more runs in the second. Pitcher Madison Martin walked two batters before a short chopper was hit to third baseman Juli Strange. Strange flipped it to Kufta charging from shortstop for a force out at third, but the freshman dropped the underhanded lob to load the bases. Then, infielder Shelby Miller cleared them with a three-RBI double.
“They all worked from behind,” coach Julie Wright said. “You can’t do that with a power hitting team, and we left the ball up too much, missed some spots.”
Ellazar performed extra hitting practice during the week to break out of a slump, which dropped her to ninth in the batting order. She worked on timing, and came through with two RBIs in the second and a double in the fourth.
“It was great to see her stroke the ball,” Wright said. “She had a good week in practice. She’s been coming out early; of course, she always does, she’s a hard-working kid. It was great for her, pleased to see her pound the ball a little bit.”
In the second, outfielder Kassidy Cross reached on an error to third and Dewey doubled to put runners on second and third. Infielder Brigette Nordberg’s groundout scored Cross, and Ellazar singled to cut the Nittany Lions’ lead to 6-2.
After Penn State picked up one more run in the fourth, Ellazar came through again. She bunted the first two pitches of the at-bat foul, failing to execute on a key aspect of Wright’s focus during practice. But swinging away with two strikes, she drove in Dewey from second for the Terps’ third run.
Penn State committed four errors, an aspect Ellazar said the Terps look to exploit later in the series.
“If we just hit the ball on the ground, we’ll have a chance to get on the bag,” Ellazar said. “If the righty’s get on top of the ball and hit the ball hard on the ground, we’ll just make them make plays. Anyone can catch a fly ball.”
Pitcher Lauren Graves entered as relief for Martin and threw a scoreless fifth inning. But Penn State hit a two-run home run and an RBI double in the sixth to clinch the victory.
While the bottom half of the Terps’ batting order produced, the top half lagged behind. The top five hitters combined for three hits in 19 at bats.
“They just need to make a little adjustment,” Ellazar said. “They’re just missing it, too. They can’t get jammed on her. They have a game plan to attack these next two days, so I’m excited to see how they adjust.”