The trouble started early for Maryland softball. Already down 1-0 in the first inning, Michigan slugger Lou Allan stepped to the plate to face Courtney Wyche.
Allan took a 2-2 offering to deep right field. She saw the ball bounce back into play and hustled, sliding into second base. But when she popped up, she saw the umpire motioning for a home run.
Allan trotted home to greet her giddy teammates at what was the beginning of an offensive outburst for the Wolverines that the Terps could not stop. Maryland lost 8-0 to No. 22 Michigan on Sunday and was swept for the first time all season. Each of the Wolverines’ eight runs came in the first four innings, forcing the Terps to burn through their entire pitching staff.
“We’ve got to find a way to be a little better offensively,” coach Mark Montgomery said. “If we can do that, I think that it would make our pitching and our defense a little sharper. If you can’t match them in hits, eventually they break away and they score.”
All the while, Michigan’s Big Ten-best rotation kept dominating. For the second straight day, Alex Storako showed why she owns the conference’s pitching leaderboards. She did not allow a baserunner until the fourth inning and struck out nine, securing a shutout for the Wolverines.
Michigan got ahead of Wyche in the first inning. Wyche walked her first batter, Lexie Blair, who advanced to second on a wild pitch.
A ground out by Natalia Rodriguez moved Blair to third, and she would come home soon after. Wyche fired another pitch that deflected off catcher Katie Dustin’s glove, heading to the backstop. Blair took off and scored before Dustin and Wyche could make the play.
Then, Allan stepped into the box looking to add another hit to her series.
She crushed a pitch to right field that bounced off the top of the fence and back into play. Allan slid into second thinking she hit a double. But the umpire signaled home run, and she ran the rest of the way home for the Wolverines’ second run of the day.
In the second frame, Taylor Bump stepped into the box with Haley Ellefson in the pitching circle. She swung and smoked the ball over the head of Jaeda McFarland and out of the park for her second homer of the series.
In the fourth inning, Allan stared down Ellefson. She had already homered off Wyche, but she was ready to swing again.
And she did. Allan laced her second homer of the day over the left-field fence to further Michigan’s lead.
Trinity Schlotterbeck took the circle after Ellefson. She clocked two outs until Lauren Esman singled to the left side. Haley Hoogenraad followed, and advanced Esman into scoring position.
Bump stepped up to the plate and bounced a single to McFarland in center field. McFarland slid to field the ball and sent it back to the infield, but not in time to stop Esman and Hoogenraad from scoring the fifth and sixth runs of the contest.
“When you’re playing in a one-run game, you can stay competitive, you can stay composed. You stay in a two-run game, but when a game starts to become three or four or five, it’s just hard for a team to maintain composure,” Montgomery said.
Maryland made yet another pitching change in the fourth. Jennifer Brann took the circle to close the game.
After a single by Blair, Rodriguez stepped into the box looking to end the game early.
She took a high pitch by Brann, but she swung on the next. The ball soared over the head of McFarland and bounced off the fence. She fielded the ball and fired it back to the infield to hold Rodriguez at third, but not before Blair scored from first.
Rodriguez then ended the game for Michigan. Brann launched a pitch to Dustin, and the catcher stood to control it, but she couldn’t reach.
The ball deflected off Dustin’s glove and rolled to the backstop, and Brann ran to cover as Rodriguez sprinted from third.
Rodriguez dropped and slid into home before Brann could make the tag. Michigan took the win in five innings, sweeping the Terps on the weekend.
“I think that I see improvement in them, even in some of the little things we do on the field,” Montgomery said. “Maybe the result isn’t there, but the process is strong.”