Trinity Schlotterbeck took the circle in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals against Michigan last season, hoping to help Maryland softball win a crucial outing and squeeze into the NCAA tournament.

Instead, the then junior gave up seven runs to the Wolverines, and Maryland’s season ended.

A season where the Terps defied expectations came to a whimpering end, but the team had reasons for optimism. Returning players filled their roster, giving coach Mark Montgomery hope that the 2023 season would be the best season under his tenure.

No two returnees were more crucial to that projection than Schlotterbeck and fellow senior pitcher Courtney Wyche. The two combined to throw for 283.1 innings last season. The next closest pitcher was Haley Ellefson at just 51.1 innings.

Wyche, in particular, took a large leap from her sophomore year. The Silver Spring native recorded a team and career low ERA of 1.95 while recording a career high 139 strikeouts last season.

Schlotterbeck was effective as well, displaying endurance despite being a two-way player. She recorded seven complete games and threw a team high 147 innings with a 3.71 ERA.

[No. 25 Maryland softball beats Virginia, North Carolina in Saturday doubleheader]

The pitching staff relies on the two seniors entering this season, a duo that has shared countless bullpens, film sessions and game days together. Internal competition is a part of their relationship, Wyche said.

Wyche recalled a bullpen in the fall in which a friendly pitching game turned into a fierce competition. The two seniors repeatedly responded and went at each other — neither wanted to quit.

“It’s not that they want the other one to ever do poorly, but they want to succeed and they know, they keep up with each other,” Montgomery said.

Both have taken on impressive workloads to start the season, a stretch that included premier opponents.

Wyche threw 5.2 innings against then-No. 22 Oregon, allowing three earned runs. She kept the Terps in their game against Cal Baptist before struggling against then-No. 3 Oklahoma State.

Meanwhile, Schlotterbeck has a 2.43 ERA thus far, including a two-hit complete game against Virginia.

“That’s just maturity, that’s a kid understanding she’s just going to throw her stuff,” Montgomery said after Schlotterbeck’s performance against the Cavaliers. “She’s not just trying to do too much … when they’re up there and they’re seniors … it’s fun to watch.”

[Amelia Lech’s late home run pushes Maryland softball to 2-1 win over Virginia]

Schlotterbeck and Wyche ranked 15th and 16th in the Big Tenin innings pitched last season, respectively. The pitching depth behind the two seniors is unproven; the two seniors are the only pitchers to start this season.

Montgomery wants to ensure neither of his star seniors are overworked but greatly values the experience and knowledge they present in the pitching circle. That balancing act could define Maryland’s season as it continues its nonconference slate and enters Big Ten play.

Having Wyche or Schlotterbeck pitching gives the Terps confidence — they know having either out there gives them a strong chance at victory.

“They are so comfortable in their own skin that it really allows us to play a little freer and looser because you don’t have that position tightening up,” Montgomery said. “They’re both willing to empty the tanks for us. We need them to throw all seven, they will throw all seven.”