Maryland softball has struggled to convert on scoring opportunities early in games lately, placing runners on base but not bringing them home. It seemed as if it would be more of the same on Friday, after Michaela Jones fell behind 0-2 in the count with the bases loaded in the first inning.
Jones changed the narrative.
She smashed a ball that caught too much of the plate to right field, sneaking it just over the head of the Michigan State right fielder for a bases clearing triple that gave the Terps a three-run lead. Jones cruised into third and screamed into the Maryland dugout, ecstatic at the squad’s strong start.
That was all the scoring Maryland (24-8, 1-3 Big Ten) needed to defeat Michigan State (10-15, 1-3 Big Ten) and claim its first conference victory of the season, 3-0.
“I felt like we were always in control and that by going out and making a statement in the first inning, it certainly helps,” coach Mark Montgomery said.
While Jones’ triple scored the winning runs, strong pitching was what carried the Terps to their first Big Ten win of the year.
Ace Courtney Wyche continued her strong week, as the senior started the game by not allowing a hit through two innings. She carried a perfect game into the fifth inning on Wednesday in a comprehensive win over Maryland Eastern Shore.
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Wyche used her changeup to devastating effects against Michigan State. She tallied up five strikeouts, using her offspeed pitches often in favorable counts.
While the strikeout numbers weren’t as high as normal, Wyche induced a number of weak ground balls with her offspeed offerings. Spartan hitters consistently lunged at pitches out of the strike zone, just to weakly tap the ball to a Terps defender.
“[Our pitchers] both pitched to contact really well tonight,” Montgomery said.
The only real scoring threat for Michigan State was in the third inning, when two straight singles gave them two runners on with two outs. A weak fly out to right ended the inning. The Spartans were only able to record singles throughout the game.
Wyche finished with a stellar line of 7.0 innings pitched, no runs allowed and only three hits surrendered. It was Wyche’s second shutout of the year — her first came against Saint Joseph’s in March.
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Coach Mark Montgomery said he was concerned about the Spartans’ ability to take extra bases before the game, despite them ranking second-to-last in the Big Ten in stolen bases. However, Maryland was the better base-running team in the first game of Friday’s double header, stealing two bases against Michigan State catcher Macy Lee.
The Terps offense was shut down after Jones’ triple in the first inning, as they only managed four hits throughout the game. However, the first inning explosion was all they needed, as Wyche’s brilliance carried Maryland to its first conference victory.
Maryland carried over its dominance from the first game into the second. The Terps crushed Michigan State, 11-0, in just five innings.
Senior pitcher Trinity Schlotterbeck held the Spartans to just two hits, despite only striking out one batter.
“I thought we had two stellar pitching performances,” Montgomery said.
Maryland rode another three run first inning to an excellent offensive performance, winning its second Big Ten Game of the year.