Three things to know before Maryland softball plays in the Sun Devil Classic
Designated player Regan Kerr swings at a pitch during Maryland's 6-4 win over Rhode Island at Maryland Softball Stadium on March 14, 2019. (Alex Chen/The Diamondback)
During a strong showing at the Eagle Round Robin tournament, Maryland softball won three of its four games while surrendering only six runs throughout the weekend.
That well-rounded performance — which included wins over Furman, Evansville and the host, Georgia Southern — showed promising signs of improvement. Now, 13 games into the season, the Terps have responded from consecutive one-win weekends to begin the campaign, leaving hints that coach Mark Montgomery’s team is finally heating up.
This weekend, the Terps have the chance to prove themselves once more, preparing for two games against Southern Utah and Arizona State each as well as one matchup with a Big Ten competitor, Wisconsin. Here are three things to watch for during the upcoming weekend.
Pitcher Courtney Wyche
Courtney Wyche has come a long way from her rocky start at the beginning of the season. Only three weekends into the 2020 slate, the freshman pitcher showed that she’s a formidable foe in the circle.
Wyche went 3-0 last weekend, and she stood out with an impressive 15 strikeouts in the Terps’ win over Evansville — the most single-game strikeouts for a Maryland pitcher since 2011 — including one to seal her complete-game shutout.
With a stellar weekend in the circle, any nerves she might have had to start the year have seemed to fade away.
“Since the beginning of the season, I have gained more confidence in my pitches and I have created a routine,” Wyche said. “My routine has allowed me to feel very comfortable every time I pitch.”
Offense on the mend
The Terps’ bats seem to be heating up, posting 15 runs during its four-game weekend tournament and 18 runs the weekend before.
And with that, shortstop Regan Kerr has been key in producing those runs. She’s 10-for-10 so far stealing bases. Anna Kufta has been a key component as well, driving in six baserunners so far this season. Then there’s Taylor Okada, who, despite coming off of last year’s season-ending injury, seems to only be improving. The second baseman’s .438 batting average is the highest on the team.
“We have a lot more players swinging their bats to their potential,” assistant coach Mike Larabee said. “We are making a lot more contact, striking out less … We are definitely trending upwards.”
Saturday’s Big Ten Matchup
For its first Big Ten face off of the season, Maryland will play Wisconsin. The Badgers will likely pose a challenge to the Terps as they are coming out of their last weekend with an upset over then-No. 3 Oklahoma bolstering their 8-6 overall record.
The last time the two teams played each other was in 2017. That series ended with a sweep in Wisconsin’s favor. Despite the conference game being so early in the season, Larabee feels prepared going up against the Badgers.
”I think if we go out and play to our potential … we’ll have a great opportunity to play well and get a victory against them,” Larabee said.
After another week of practice and more time together as a team, Larabee is confident in the teams’ upwards trend.
“I think we’re swinging the bats well, our pitchers are coming off of a great weekend, and we didn’t have any errors in four games,” Larabee said. “That puts us in a good position to win.”