After Maryland softball shocked the softball world in Puerto Vallarta, going 4-1 and defeating then-No. 3 Oklahoma State, coach Mark Montgomery warned of the dangers of starting the season so hot — the dips could be just as low.
“We do not want to ride a roller coaster,” Montgomery said after the tournament. “I get it, they’re fun and they’re fast, but the ups and downs will kill you.”
Montgomery’s squad hit its first large drop of the season’s ride in the Baylor Invitational. The Terps suffered three losses in Texas. Two of the more surprising losses came to a Big Ten opponent, Minnesota, that shut down the Maryland offense.
Minnesota finished ninth in the conference last season while Maryland finished fifth. The Terps went 2-1 against the Gophers in the 2022 campaign. But the two games in Waco went differently as Maryland scored just two runs.
Last season, the Gophers’ pitching staff finished third to last in the conference with a 4.56 ERA and gave up 432 hits, the most in the conference.
A combination of junior Jacie Hambrick and freshman Sydney Schwartz shut down the Terps in the first game. The two pitchers gave up a combined five hits and one walk as Maryland lost 4-1.
In the second game, Minnesota senior Autumn Pease dominated the Maryland offense and allowed two hits in a 5-1 decision Saturday night. Pease was not an elite pitcher last season — the senior finished with a 4.17 ERA in 2022.
The Terps lineup only put on 11 baserunners across the two games and never pressured the Gophers staff.
Junior Jaeda McFarland, the star of last season’s team, struggled against Minnesota. The Florida native went 1-for-5 with a walk against the Gophers. But the struggles extended throughout the lineup. Sophomore Amelia Lech and senior Mackense Greico went a combined 2-for-23 in the tournament.
The Terps were also no-hit by Baylor pitcher Dariana Orme Friday.
“You can’t be that early when you’re facing pitching because now … [the pitch] could be in the dirt, and we were still swinging,” Montgomery said after the loss.
The Terps’ one offensive outburst came against Texas A&M Commerce and seemed more a product of their opponent — the Lions have a 2-14 record. They have been mercy-ruled in five of their eight games so far against Power Five opponents.
Excluding the Friday game against the Lions, the Terps averaged just 1.25 runs per game in Waco. Without consistent run support, they went 2-3 in the tournament.
Having two senior starting pitchers as good as Trinity Schlotterbeck and Courtney Wyche will keep Maryland in most games. Schlotterbeck threw a perfect game against Texas A&M Commerce, and Wyche has a 3.80 ERA this year.
However, for Maryland to reach the heights it wants to this season, it will need productive at-bats to generate runs.
“The margin between a win and a loss is razor thin, and I think that we have to understand that and be ok with it,” Montgomery said after the Puerto Vallarta tournament.
Montgomery wanted to give this team a tough nonconference slate in order to challenge them. The Terps met it early by starting the season strong, but now reached a dip in the roller coaster. Coming back up the hill will fall on their lineup.