Trailing by three runs going into the seventh inning Friday, Maryland softball was running out of time for a comeback. UC Riverside had stifled the Terps’ hitters all game, allowing just three hits entering the final frame.
But with infielder Sammie Stefan’s single to lead off the seventh, the comeback was on. When the Terps loaded the bases with one out after a walk, hit by pitch and fielder’s choice, right fielder Amanda Brashear’s RBI single into right field put Maryland on the board for the first time that game.
The barrage wouldn’t stop there. Infielder Taylor Okada followed Brashear’s base knock with an RBI single up the middle, and by the end of the half inning, Maryland had posted eight runs, securing an 8-3 win over the Highlanders.
The offensive outburst highlighted the Terps’ best tournament at the plate this season, leading to a 3-2 weekend and showing promising signs for an inexperienced lineup.
“I think the weekend prior to this, when we’d get down, we might have folded a little bit,” hitting coach Vicky Galasso said. “This weekend was a great example of ‘never stop hitting.’ … Our girls just made a decision to compete right then and there, so that was really awesome to see.”
In the Terps’ season-opening weekend in Troy, Alabama, they averaged 2.6 runs per game and dropped three of their five games. Maryland was run-ruled twice during the Trojan Classic. And at last weekend’s Houston Classic, coach Julie Wright’s squad scored only 4.8 runs per contest.
But at the Amy S. Harrison Classic in Riverside, California, the Terps averaged seven runs per game, frequently using big innings to separate from their opponents. Facing Portland State in the weekend finale, Maryland relied on three multi-run innings to avenge its earlier loss to the Vikings on Friday.
“Offense wins games,” Stefan said. “Being able to string those hits together and have a pack-the-bat mentality definitely helped our confidence.”
In Galasso’s first year at Maryland, she’s already making an impact on the players, focusing on improving fundamentals to increase offensive production, such as bunting and hitting behind runners to advance and bring them home. Those two aspects of the game, Galasso said, were key in the Terps’ wins this weekend.
“We took advantage of the momentum that we had in those scenarios,” Galasso said. Just making sure that when we did get those girls on, we made sure we just got our job done.”
Through 15 games, Maryland is hitting .307 with a .362 on-base percentage. Last year, in 55 games, the Terps finished with a .245 team average and reached base at a .313 clip.
In the field, Maryland hopes to limit the sort of big innings it produced at the dish throughout the weekend. With a 10-run lead through four innings against Portland State on Sunday, the Vikings scored eight runs between the fifth and sixth to draw the game closer against starter Sydney Golden and reliever Sami Main. But an insurance run in the sixth secured the Terps’ win.
“That normally doesn’t happen,” Golden said. “There wouldn’t be that much to work on for that, I just have to be able to jump back earlier.”
Though they snuffed out Portland State’s comeback, the Terps will continue to develop their inexperienced pitching staff, helping to make adjustments and preserving the leads Maryland’s offense produced throughout its winning weekend.
“We kind of let hitters get into hitter’s count on the other team instead of taking those at-bats into our control from the mound and from the field,” Galasso said. “We’re working on more situational things, different counts, working with different umpires — all the things you can’t control — and finding a way to beat them regardless.”