It looked as if Maryland softball’s offense was going to have wasted a gem of a performance from senior Trinity Schlotterbeck — who’d allowed just one run. But the Terps had one fewer, with no runs on just two hits through five innings against Virginia.
Then, Amelia Lech stepped up with a runner on first and made sure that Schlotterbeck’s performance would not go to waste. The sophomore smashed her second home run of the season over the left field fence, giving Maryland a lead it would not relinquish.
The Terps (5-1) took down the Cavaliers (5-2), 2-1, Friday in Chapel Hill in their first game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Maryland, ranked No. 25 in the USA Softball poll, returned from a dominant weekend in Mexico to take on its cross-state opponents, Virginia.
Virginia is coming off its best season in a decade. Head coach Joanna Hardin led the Cavaliers to 13 ACC conference victories last season, tying the program’s record.
The Cavaliers entered the game after a hot start as well, winning four of its five games in the University of Houston tournament in Texas.
“Virginia is a good team, traditionally I know that they have not done as well in the conference,” coach Mark Montgomery said. “But I promise you they’re going to finish middle of the pack or better in the ACC this year.”
Virginia trotted out freshman Eden Bigham to start in the circle. Bigham, the No. 28 overall recruit according to Extra Inning Softball, Bigham had only allowed just two hits in her first 11 collegiate innings.
In the first, it seemed as if Maryland was going to jump all over the freshman. Junior catcher Kiley Goff drew a walk and took off for second on the ensuing at-bat.
However, she was thrown out by junior catcher Leah Boggs, ending the Terps threat. Junior Jaeda McFarland struck out as Bingham escaped the top of the Maryland lineup without allowing a run.
“[Bingham] is a legit kid and a great pitcher, we beat a really good pitcher today,” Montgomery said.
The Terps started Schlotterbeck. The Maryland native also ran into some trouble in the first inning. The Cavaliers put runners on second and third with just one out. Schlotterbeck forced a pop-out and a groundout to freshman shortstop Sammi Woods to get out of the inning.
Both pitchers escaped damage in the first innings. That was not the case in the second, as Schlotterbeck walked two Cavaliers and an eventual steal home pushed across Virginia’s first run of the game.
After the first, both pitchers settled in. While Bigham walked four Terps through five innings, she also recorded five strikeouts and only surrendered one hit to junior Mackense Greico.
As a team, the Terps offense struggled to string together any sort of threat against the freshman. Maryland went 3-24 in the box on the day, nearly wasting a star performance from its senior pitcher.
Schlotterbeck did her part to keep Maryland in the game. The senior only allowed eight baserunners and forced 14 groundouts, keeping Virginia hitters off balance all day with her offspeed offerings.
“Trinity went out and got us a couple of one, two, three innings when we needed them,” Montgomery said. “They got a runner to first but they didn’t do any more damage than that, and that’s just maturity.”
Through four games this year, the senior has allowed just five runs, and has struck out 13 total batters.
Lech’s blast put the Terps up one, a lead they maintained as Schlotterbeck shut the door on the Cavaliers.
“[Lech] keeps growing as a hitter, she’s just gaining more and more confidence,” Montgomery said.
After Maryland could not scratch across an insurance run, Virginia came up for its last chances in the bottom of the seventh. Schlotterbeck hit Virginia’s leadoff hitter, putting the tying run on base. The senior recovered though, striking out the next batter before inducing a ground-out and strikeout to end the game.