When Maryland softball traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for its first tournament of the 2023 season, the team knew it would need to put up runs to compete against the rest of the field.
The Terps were facing three teams — Oregon, Oklahoma State and BYU — that made the College World Series over the past two seasons. Each of those opponents also had an offensive ranking in the top four of their respective conferences last season.
Meanwhile, Maryland’s offense was in the middle of the pack last season in the Big Ten. The Terps finished the year with the eighth best batting average in the conference (.278) and finished last in the conference in home runs.
But the Terps proved up to the challenge, producing an average of 6.6 runs per game. Coach Mark Montgomery’s squad left Mexico with a 4-1 record and its first top 25 ranking since 2013.
“We went into this weekend thinking we could have a really good weekend,” Montgomery said. “We felt we were better. We felt like we were a program on the rise.”
While Maryland’s hitting attack mainly relied on singles and smart base running to bring runners across the diamond, they also showed some pop at the plate. The team finished the weekend with eight extra-base hits, including one massive home run.
That homer was produced by sophomore Amelia Lech, who smashed a grand slam to deep left field to push Maryland ahead of No. 3 Oklahoma State in the fourth game of the weekend. The grand slam was a part of a Maryland offense that strung together four innings of three runs or more.
Additionally, the Maryland offense scored five or more runs in an inning three times, deflating the momentum of its opponents.
“If you ever get in a situation where you can put up a good three to five spot, then you start feeling pretty good that you got a good shot to win this game,” Montgomery said.
The Terps pieced together large innings by taking extra bases, drawing base-on-balls and timely hitting. While the season is young, the team ranks third in the Big Ten in batting average and is tied for the third-fewest strikeouts.
“We’re going to look to run bases well, we are going to look to move runners, to play small ball occasionally,” Montgomery said.
Lech’s home run encapsulated the weekend as a whole. Two Terps reached on Oklahoma State errors, then junior Kiley Goff singled. Lech then worked the count full, fouling off multiple pitches in the process before clobbering a ball out of the ballpark.
“The 10-pitch at bat for the home run was awesome … The battle is what made that epic,” Montgomery said. “The grand slam was the deserving piece that she got because she battled so hard, but it wouldn’t have mattered if that ended up being a long flyball out. It was an amazing at-bat.”
While the Maryland offense struggled to produce consistent offense throughout the games, it was the large innings that helped the Terps reach their best start since 2013.