Not much went right for the Maryland softball team last weekend against Michigan. The Terps couldn’t hit the Wolverines’ dominant pitching, nor contain their potent offense, and were outscored 26-1 in the three-game sweep.
While some of the gap was explained by the Wolverines’ talent level, the Terps also hurt themselves on defense, making 11 errors over the three-game sweep and allowing seven unearned runs.
Maryland ranks ninth in the Big Ten with 77 errors and a .948 fielding percentage. Its fielding miscues have accounted for 31 unearned runs. After putting together a couple of weeks of clean fielding to get off to a 5-2 Big Ten start, Maryland’s gloves have regressed, and so has its record.
“There are moments to be aggressive and go after the lead runner and there are moments where you need to be a bit more conservative and take the out they give you,” coach Julie Wright said. “We just didn’t do a good job of taking the out they gave us and working with less runners on base.”
Maryland’s defensive nadir against Michigan came in the second inning of Saturday’s game, when it made throwing errors on three consecutive balls in play. Michigan scored two unearned runs in that inning, which gave the Wolverines breathing room in a game that was 2-1 entering the frame. The Wolverines added six more in the next inning en route to a 12-1 victory.
In 17 Big Ten games, Maryland has 29 errors and a .944 fielding percentage.
In their home series against Indiana, the Terps made nine errors while getting swept. In a 10-1 run-rule loss in the first game against the Hoosiers, Maryland made five errors in five innings.
The Terps are 4-17 in games where they make multiple errors, 6-9 when they make one error and 8-4 when they play clean defense.
“I don’t believe defense wins championships,” Wright said after the loss to Indiana. “You have to score to win [and] you’ve got to pitch to win. But defense flat-out loses ballgames.”
Indiana stole 12 bases in the series, but Wright was still happy with the performance of catcher Anna Kufta, who has proven effective at keeping runners at bay.
Nabbing attempted base-stealers has been one of Maryland’s saving graces on defense. Opposing would-be base-stealers have a pedestrian .813 success rate, a mark that could be even lower with some improvements in the middle-infield, second baseman Skylynne Ellazar said.
“Some of that is us… not shoring up the ball for our catcher,” Ellazar said.
Maryland’s second strength has been the double play. The Terps have turned 17 double plays this season, tied for fourth-most in the Big Ten.
The Terps’ pitchers are improved from last season but do not strike out many batters, relying heavily on the defenders behind them to keep runs off the board. With two weekends left in the regular season, shoring up their defense will be key to the Terps securing one of the 12 spots in the Big Ten tournament.
“I know our team is going to come back with it next weekend and make the plays our pitchers need us to make,” third baseman Brigette Nordberg said. “Hopefully have no errors in the field, because that’s what they need from us.”