After Michigan’s offense broke a scoreless tie with Maryland softball in the top of the third inning to go up 1-0 Saturday, its defense and pitching returned the favor in the bottom half.
Center fielder JoJo McRae’s led off with a single and eventually advanced to third, but right-hander Alex Storako kept the Terps off the board with her second strikeout of the frame.
The Wolverines took advantage of the stop to both put the game out of reach and end Maryland’s postseason hopes. On the first pitch of the fourth inning, third baseman Madison Uden sent a bomb to right-center field and out of the park, signaling the beginning of the end for a reeling Terps squad.
Stranding a total of seven runners on base, Maryland was unable to match Michigan’s three-run fourth inning, falling 8-0 and eliminating its chances of going to the Big Ten tournament.
“We weren’t disciplined,” Wright said. “With young players that can happen, when they get a little bit undisciplined … trying to do too much, and really in those moments, less is more.”
After Iowa defeated Ohio State 1-0 on Friday, the Hawkeyes took sole possession of the No. 12 spot in the conference, the last team to make the tournament. Maryland would have needed to win Saturday and Sunday to jump the Hawkeyes in the standings.
Even if the two teams were tied in conference wins at the end of the weekend, the Terps would have lost the tiebreaker to the Hawkeyes, because they would have one more win over a team going to the tournament.
“Everybody’s aware of it,” Wright said. “There’s no reason to talk about … now really what you need is just to go out on and perform and execute.”
Though the Wolverines lead off the game with a single off pitcher Sami Main, it was a slow start full of stranded runners for both teams.
Center fielder JoJo McRae continued to build on her team-leading batting average, leading off the bottom of the first with a single to first base and advancing to second on right fielder Amanda Brashear’s sacrifice bunt. She was stranded, though, to end the frame.
Main and the Terps’ defense retired the Wolverines in order in the second but failed to execute on offense — a common theme during the team’s seven-game losing skid. First baseman Taylor Wilson hit a leadoff single and catcher Gracie Voulgaris was walked in a promising start.
And shortstop Bailey Boyd advanced both runners on a sacrifice bunt — a rare chance for Maryland to go ahead early against Michigan’s dominant pitching staff. But the Terps were unable to plate a run after a fly out and a strikeout.
Though the game started quietly, the Wolverine’s potent offense began to find its footing against Main. With runners on the corners and two outs in the third frame, catcher Gracie Voulgaris fired to second base to try and end the inning on a steal attempt. But the throw sailed wide, and the Wolverines broke the scoreless tie on the error.
And though the Terps threatened to even the score in the bottom of the third, the Wolverines defense came up big to maintain the lead.
A diving grab from shortstop Natalia Rodriguez kept McRae on third and Stefan on first with two outs, and Storako struck out Wilson as the Terps left two runners on.
“We need to attack pitches we can handle,” Wright said. “The pitches we’re swinging at are balls that are like above our shoulders.”
Uden’s solo shot in the fourth ignited the three-run inning, with a sacrifice fly and RBI single pushing the lead to 4-0.
Victoria Galvan relieved Main after 4 ⅓ innings in the circle, and the redshirt freshman held Michigan to one run in the fifth. After Galvan walked her first batter in the top of the sixth, Kiana Carr entered in relief.
But Michigan added to its lead, and the Terps offense couldn’t string together a rally, dooming Maryland to a series loss and pushing the squad out of postseason play.
The Terps and Wolverines will close out the series Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We have to be more disciplined in that zone,” Wright said. “If we do that tomorrow, and we can fully commit to that gameplan, then we’ll get better pitches to hit and drive.”