Freshman pitchers Courtney Wyche and Trinity Schlotterbeck made their collegiate debuts for Maryland softball on Feb. 6 at the Texas Classic, tasked with helping replace the production of former starters Sydney Golden, Sami Main and Victoria Galvan.
But the tournament proved to be a challenge, with the pair of rookie pitchers still finding their footing at the college level.
Wyche started in the season opener against Wichita State, and with only two strikeouts and an 8-0 mercy-rule loss, she struggled to hold down good defense on the mound. Schlotterbeck faced a similar uphill battle, struggling to find a rhythm in a 17-0 loss to No. 6 Texas.
Competing for the first time at a collegiate level poses many challenges for young college athletes, from the new pressure of a game being televised to the lengthy road trips prior to a series. While both Wyche and Schlotterbeck were far from pristine in the debuts, the Terps aren’t panicking — there’s plenty of time for them to get acclimated.
Pitching coach Chelsea Butler said she believes that Wyche’s rocky performance this past weekend stemmed from internal pressures she put on herself.
“Courtney needs to own every pitch and not think two pitches ahead or two pitches behind,” Butler said.
Butler also noted that games at the collegiate level move quicker, and in past coaching experience, she has noticed that players tend to feel that they have to unnecessarily speed up their process to compensate.
Despite Wyche’s performance in her first weekend, Butler is confident in her skills to carry the team through the season.
“Courtney has an effective wildness in her pitching,” Butler said. She said Wyche’s success sparks not from throwing in the strike zone, but throwing hard. Butler sees Wyche’s temperament on the mound as a huge advantage to her play and thinks that she has a “great rhythm about her.”
Schlotterbeck also had a rocky start to the season. Against the Longhorns, Schlotterbeck allowed 10 hits and 10 runs — including six over the first two innings — although only three were earned. Maryland never recovered, with the pressure of the college game seeming to get to the freshman.
Like Wyche, Butler was not surprised by Schlotterbeck’s shaky performance. She believes that Schlotterbeck put too much pressure on herself, feeling like she had to carry the team on her own.
“She felt like she had to do too much when, in reality, she has a fantastic team behind her,” Butler said.
Butler noted that during her adjustment period from high school to college-level pitching, Schlotterbeck just needs to stay in the “one pitch at a time” mentality.
And because she knows how strong Schlotterbeck’s work ethic is, Butler isn’t worried.
“Trinity works her butt off. … She works so hard in the bullpen, her spin on the ball is tight and her body awareness is great,” said Butler.
Both freshmen will have a chance to redeem themselves against Clemson and Pittsburgh in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this weekend.
So with their first appearance over and another week of practice behind them, Butler is excited to see Schlotterbeck and Wyche be comfortable on the mound.
While it may not immediately materialize into wins, at the very least, Butler can’t wait to see the girls “smile on the mound” in their second weekend of the college softball slate.