The Big Ten’s best hitter, Nia Carter, stepped up to the plate with runners on first and third base in the bottom of the seventh inning after Iowa had just tied the game at one.
Carter proved why she has a .470 average, lofting a single into left field to give Iowa the walk-off win. After Courtney Wyche had gone 6.1 innings of shutout ball, coach Mark Montgomery decided to make the change and go to his closer in freshman Keira Bucher.
It proved to be a mistake, as the Hawkeyes scored two runs with Bucher on the mound, giving Iowa (27-17, 8-6 Big Ten) the comeback 2-1 victory over Maryland softball (29-13, 6-8 Big Ten).
Maryland had runners on first and second base in the first two innings, premier chances to push some runs across the board. However, they were denied twice by great Iowa defense.
Sydney Lewis cranked a ball to deep left-center field, but Iowa center fielder Tatianna Roman showed off her range, tracking the ball down in the gap. Megan Mikami advanced to third, but Jaeda McFarland was caught trying to take second base, ending the Terps’ scoring threat.
Then in the second inning, freshman Sammi Woods slapped a ball into center field before Roman made another fabulous play, laying out to rob Woods of an RBI.
Iowa’s defense consistently took away near-base hits from the Terps, holding Maryland to no runs through the opening five innings.
The defense was needed, as Courtney Wyche completely shut down the Iowa offense. Wyche, who has been on a stretch of great outings, baffled Hawkeye hitters.
Before Saturday’s game, the Hawkeyes’ batting average ranked sixth in the Big Ten, but their offense was second in the conference in total hits. Additionally, they had the conference’s best hitter in Carter, who entered the game with a stunning .470 average.
Carter went 3-for-4 on the day, as the matchup of best-on-best went Iowa’s way. She finished the day with three singles, none bigger than the final hit that gave Iowa the win.
It was another experienced pitcher on the opposing team who almost blanked the Maryland offense. Breanna Vasquez, who entered the game with a 1.98 ERA, dotted the corners of the zone all throughout Saturday’s matchup.
The transfer from UCF matched Wyche step for step, as the two finished with very similar final lines. Both allowed four hits and notched three strikeouts on the day.
The teams had combined for five combined hits through five innings in a true pitcher’s duel in Iowa City. Despite notching only five combined strikeouts in the opening five frames, the two pitchers were able to consistently force weak contact and put their respective defenses in a good spot.
But in the sixth inning, the Terps managed to squeak a run across. A Kiley Goff leadoff walk, followed by a passed ball gave Maryland a runner in scoring position with no outs.
After McFarland grounded out and Lewis popped out, it looked like Maryland was going to squander another scoring chance.
But Trinity Schlotterbeck did her job. The senior hit a dribbler between the shortstop and third base hole before shortstop Tory Bennett attempted a tough throw to get Schlotterbeck out at first.
Bennett’s throw skipped in the dirt, giving Schlotterbeck what appeared to be the game-winning RBI. Wyche shut the door in the sixth inning before Bucher came in and attempted to seal the win.
The Big Ten’s leader in saves could not pick up where the senior left off, as a couple defensive mistakes gave Iowa the chance they needed to complete a late comeback.
The Terps weren’t able to complete the series sweep over the Hawkeyes due to the walk-off loss, but will return to College Park and take on UMBC on Wednesday.