After infielder Skylynne Ellazar — often the heartbeat of Maryland softball’s lineup — graduated, it remained to be seen where the Terps would find their offensive firepower in 2019.
During the Houston Classic, freshman infielder Taylor Okada stepped into that role. Against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, she launched a long double during the 8-0 win. And on Sunday, in Maryland’s tournament finale, Okada came up clutch once more.
She crushed a leadoff double, helping to ignite the Terps’ offense en route to a 6-3 win over Nevada. Maryland finished 4-1 on the weekend, spurred on by offensive contributions from inexperienced outlets.
“She’s just a very steady, consistent player,” coach Julie Wright said. “And when you have that at the top of your lineup, you know you’re going to have someone on base.”
Against UL-Monroe, Okada set a personal best, going 3-for-3 and scoring twice — but it didn’t take her long to improve on that line. She finished the tournament off against Nevada by scoring a team-best three runs and going 4-for-4 at the plate. Okada went 10-for-18 on the weekend, failing to get on base only in Maryland’s 12-4 loss to Houston on Saturday.
“We were chanting from the dugout, ‘You can’t get her out’,” pitcher Sami Main said. “Hitting is contagious, so having her continue to get the team going on offense was great.”
Outfielder Amanda Brashear, next in the batting order, also notched two hits and scored one run. Her sacrifice bunt at the top of the seventh put Okada and JoJo McRae in scoring position to take a 6-2 lead.
The combination of Okada, Brashear and infielder Anna Kufta proved successful for the Terps against Nevada. Kufta powered three RBIs, bringing her total to 13 through two weekend slates.
“It feels good to be the driving force behind our offense,” Okada said. “I definitely couldn’t do it without [Anna] Kufta or Sammie Stefan. They’re the ones that hit me in to create our offense.”
Main was a bright spot for the Terps throughout the tournament, surrendering just one hit Saturday against UL-Monroe. Main entered in the fifth against Nevada and held the Wolf Pack to one run — a tally scored in the seventh with the game already well in hand.
“We were really disciplined in the box,” Main said. “We run-ruled ULM, which made it easy for me. I mean, pitching a complete game isn’t as hard when it’s only five innings.”
In what Wright described last Thursday as a tough tournament, the Terps showed improvement from their opening weekend in the Trojan Classic, where they went 2-3 and suffered big losses to Troy and then-No. 9 Alabama.
That improvement, according to Okada, comes from better communication on the field and the players working together better as one unit.
The Terps improve to 6-4 after two weekends, their best start since 2015.
“They’re enjoying the way that they’re playing,” Wright said. “I think when you’re seeing success from what you’re doing, it’s natural to continue to want to do it.”