When Maryland softball lost a heartbreaker on Saturday to Indiana, it was because the offense had faltered yet again. The Terps managed only one run, an Amelia Lech solo shot, before Keira Bucher failed to close the door in the final inning, letting up two runs in the final inning.
The pitching had been outstanding though, as Courtney Wyche had shut the solid Hoosiers offense out through 5.2 innings.
So, when Indiana scored a combined 26 runs over the next two games, it left coach Mark Montgomery confused at the Terps dismal pitching effort.
“If I understood [the pitching struggles], I’d probably make a lot more money doing something else,” Montgomery said.
Seniors Trinity Schlotterbeck and Wyche started every game for the Terps in Bloomington and struggled mightily in the last two games of the series, allowing a combined 15 earned runs in six innings. As a whole, the seniors gave up a combined 20 runs over the weekend.
Schlotterbeck has especially struggled in two of her past three starts. After beginning the year extremely well, the senior has allowed a combined 12 earned runs in just 4.1 innings to Texas Tech and Indiana.
[Courtney Wyche’s perfect game falls just short in Maryland softball’s 10-0 win over UMES]
Sandwiched between the two games was Schlotterbeck’s start against Bucknell. The Bison were only able to secure four hits, as Schlotterbeck blanked Bucknell in 6.1 innings.
Therein lies the paradox with the Terps pitching.
Maryland has dominated lower level teams by overwhelming them with its veteran-led pitching staff. Against non-Power Five conference opponents, the Terps are allowing a minuscule 1.12 runs per game, including eight shutouts.
On the other hand, that number jumps up exponentially when Maryland faces Power Five opponents. When the Terps face those teams, they allow about five runs per game, a near four-run difference.
“We’ve got to become mentally tougher, we’ve got to be able to have bad moments and not bad games,” Montgomery said.
Specifically, there is a drastic difference between Schlotterbeck when facing power-conference opponents and non-Power Five teams. Before the Texas Tech game, the senior’s season ERA sat at 1.63. After this past weekend’s game against Indiana, her ERA nearly jumped a whole run to 2.62.
Of the 29 runs Schlotterbeck has allowed this season, only five have come against non-Power Five teams. The senior has struggled to face higher quality offenses, as shown against the Red Raiders and Hoosiers.
[No. 24 Maryland softball walked off by Indiana in 2-1 loss]
“Indiana is bigger, faster and stronger than Bucknell … [now] you’re just trying to be perfect, and that’s the ball that gets hit,” Montgomery said.
Meanwhile, Wyche has given up 32 runs to power-conference opponents this year in 43.2 innings pitched, an average of .73 runs per inning. The senior gave up six runs to Oklahoma State, eight to Indiana and four to Baylor.
Indiana and Texas Tech’s dynamic offenses have also propelled them, with each team notching a combined batting average above .325. Both have dynamic offenses, as each team has above a .325 combined batting average on the year.
Specifically, the Hoosiers have the Big Ten’s best offense, as they lead the conference in RBIs and batting average. Indiana was able to take advantage of the seniors’ mistakes on the mound and string together big innings — something Maryland’s offense has struggled to do this season.
If the Terps want to compete for a Big Ten title, it will be paramount that the pitching improves against good offenses. Maryland’s pitching will go as far as their two senior starters take them, and it will be up to Wyche and Schlotterbeck to improve against high caliber lineups.