Jennifer Brann stared down Tristen Edwards in the fifth inning in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday.
Earlier in the same frame, Billie Andrews crushed a two-run homer to bring Nebraska within one run of Maryland softball.
Edwards could have tied the game. She’s been on the USA Softball Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List for two straight years and she ranks in the top 10 of the Big Ten in slugging percentage, base percentage and runs scored.
So Brann walked Edwards to keep the score uneven.
“She’s one of the best hitters — she’s on the junior Olympic team. She’s been their most consistent hitter throughout the entire season,” coach Mark Montgomery said.
What Montgomery didn’t expect was a home run from Cam Ybarra immediately following Edwards’ walk. The Cornhuskers took the game despite the Terps’ best efforts. Without that one play, Maryland could have taken the game and avoided a weekend sweep.
“You roll with what you think’s the right move to make at the time and that one didn’t work, did it?” Montgomery said.
That intentional walk potentially cost the Terps the game and a winning record. With only eight games left in the season, Maryland is eight games under .500 — but the Terps are hoping to reverse their momentum in Piscataway, New Jersey, this weekend.
Though Rutgers ranks second-to-last in the Big Ten at 7-29, it’s conquered Nebraska and Ohio State, two teams that gave Maryland struggles. Montgomery believes the Scarlet Knights’ record is deceptive.
“I think their pitchers are sometimes better than what they’ve shown. They’ve had several games where they’ve been riding… with some really good teams,” Montgomery said. “They’ve played really hard.”
And though Montgomery said he’s disappointed in his squad’s record this season, it is not indicative of their play.
“[We had] nine games that we lost by one run or an extra inning,” Montgomery said. “If you flipped [those outcomes] then, all of the sudden, this team’s 23-13. How different of a record, right?”
The Terps are known for their ferocity in the batter’s box and on the basepath. Maryland leads the conference with 19 triples due to its audacious baserunning.
Rutgers has the highest ERA in the Big Ten by far at 7.00. The Scarlet Knights have a firm hold on last place in runs scored against them with a staggering 256, which is just under 100 more than Penn State, the second-worst team in the conference in that regard.
But Montgomery did not underestimate Rutgers.
“Just because they’re not throwing it well to others doesn’t mean they’re not going to throw it well to us,” Montgomery said. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to be selectively aggressive at the plate and get some good pitches to hit.”
The Scarlet Knights’ weaknesses in the circle offer the Terps an opportunity to push toward their best possible outcome of ending the season at 22-22.
And Montgomery believes his team can finish strong if it shows the same fight it did in its first three games against Nebraska.
“We just have to keep fighting,” Montgomery said. “No matter what happens, against us or for us, we just have to keep doing the best that we can.”