Maryland softball was used to the extra innings at this point. Another back-and-forth game — the second one of the day against Illinois — led to the third extended game in 24 hours.
Jaeda McFarland stood on second, crouched and ready to run on the slightest contact. Taylor Okada strolled to the plate, looking to make quick work of the extra frame. And she delivered.
Okada smacked a single up the middle, and the speedy McFarland sprinted to the plate. She dropped into her slide, crossing home just before the ball. That play helped seal a 3-2 win for the Terps, who split a doubleheader with the Fighting Illini after a hard-fought 7-5 loss hours earlier.
Maryland jumped on Illinois’ Tori McQueen early in the opening contest, hoping to put to rest its offensive struggles from the prior night. Regan Kerr walked on five pitches, stole second and trotted home on a two-out double to left from Taylor Liguori to send the Terps to a lead.
But that would be the end of the offense for a while. Fortunately for Maryland, it was enough for Courtney Wyche. The sophomore hurler kept the Illini off-balance, inducing mostly weak contact while only allowing five hits across the first four innings.
She was lifted in the fifth for Jennifer Brann, who continued to sit down Illinois’ threats. But in the sixth, the Illini broke through.
Three straight one-out singles loaded the bases, and Delaney Rummell brought Jaelyn Vickery home with a sacrifice fly to knot the score at one. Maryland’s offense, meanwhile, continued to sputter, and Illinois’ Addy Jarvis dominated in relief of McQueen.
So, for the second time in under 24 hours, the Terps found themselves in extra innings. But this time, the Illini’s offense awoke.
Maryland could not record an out on two bunt singles and a stolen base, Illinois frustrating Brann as it took a 3-1 lead. Haley Ellefson relieved Brann and tried her hand, only to not record an out as the Illini pushed their advantage further. So it was back to Wyche, who allowed Maddison Demers to bring in the inherited runners with a single. Wyche then settled down, allowing just one more run while recording the final three outs of the frame.
But the damage was done, the lead too big to surmount. The Terps tried to rally — Liguori, Ellefson, McFarland and Gracie Voulgaris each brought in runs — but they ultimately fell short as Megan Mikami was thrown out trying to take third.
Illinois could not celebrate its 7-5 win long, as the teams got underway 20 minutes later for game two. And Maryland started the contest with revenge on its mind.
Kerr led off with a double to right, and McFarland followed that with a smashed triple to deep left-center. That brought Kerr in for an early run and a Terps’ lead. But Kelsie Packard settled in and stranded McFarland, limiting the damage as the Illini went to bat down just one.
And two innings later, Illinois struck. Kailee Powell was plunked by Maryland pitcher Trinity Schlotterbeck and promptly stole second. Then, Rummel ripped a double to right-center, bringing Powell home and tying the game.
But Schlotterbeck found consistency after that, attacking Illini hitters and daring them to test the Terps’ clean defense. Bella Loya squared up a two-out pitch with Rummel on second, the ball destined for the gap. But McFarland flashed across, diving to snag the sinking drive in right-center and saving the tie.
The game then returned to a low-scoring affair, both Powell and Schlotterbeck not giving an inch to either offense. Maryland and Illinois were looking at extra innings again. But then, some action.
Campbell Kline sent a two-strike, no-out offering to center field. Vickery raced in and dove, but it dropped just over her head. Kline raced to third, 60 feet standing between her and a lead. And Voulgaris delivered, singling her home to give the Terps a 2-1 advantage.
That lead didn’t hold. With a runner on second, Katie Wingerter pushed a 2-2 pitch back up the middle, tying the contest with the RBI single. So, once more, there were extra innings in Leesburg, Florida. This time, Maryland came out on top.
Okada’s grounder back up the middle brought McFarland home, and in the bottom of the frame, Schlotterbeck stranded the tying run at third. She punched out Loya, leaping into the air as the Terps salvaged another doubleheader split.