Courtney Wyche’s senior day in College Park was an encapsulation of the excellent season Maryland softball’s ace is having.
She used her high velocity fastball and her newfound changeup to stifle Wisconsin’s hitters, leading the way to keep the Terps in the NCAA tournament picture with a 3-2 win over the Badgers in the second half of Saturday’s home doubleheader.
The senior limited the Badgers to just four hits in seven innings of work and struck out seven.
Between Wyche and fellow senior Trinity Schlotterbeck, Maryland’s pitching allowed just three runs and was good enough to win both games. But the offense was shutout in game one, falling 1-0 and leaving the Terps with a split on the day.
“It was a shame losing that first game but at the same time, the kids fought the whole way,” Maryland coach Mark Montgomery said.
Entering the weekend’s games, Montgomery had a sneaking suspicion his team was in for a defensive battle.
Both offenses had struggled in recent games entering Saturday’s matchup. The Badgers had just scored one run over their past three games while the Terps had just five.
Additionally, pitchers Maddie Schwartz and Trinity Schlotterbeck ranked top 10 Big Ten in ERA, respectively.
“Yeah, [the weekend] games are gonna be one run games. They could go either way,” Montgomery said.
That prediction was accurate. Through six innings in Saturday’s first game, neither offense managed a run. Both Schwartz and Schlotterbeck were dynamic in the circles, working their way out of jams and keeping their team’s lineup in the game.
Schlotterbeck struck out four Badger hitters and only allowed five hits, going the full seven innings in a valiant senior day effort.
Schwartz matched her every step of the way. The graduate student surrendered just five hits as well, largely allowing the Terps weak fly balls and groundouts that her defense caught.
Each pitcher, aided by some incredible defensive plays, worked out of a bases-loaded jam.
Maryland (32-16, 8-11 Big Ten) looked like it would score two in the fourth inning with a sharp groundball to the left side of the Wisconsin (24-19, 9-10 Big Ten) infield. Instead, a great play and throw nabbed Schlotterbeck at first base.
The Badgers had the bases juiced with just one out in the fifth, but a lineout to third and an incredible diving grab by right fielder Kamryn Davis kept the score knotted at one.
However, Wisconsin loaded the bases again in the top of the seventh inning off two walks and a failed fielder’s choice. A sacrifice fly brought home a run and was all the Badgers needed to take the day’s opening game.
But Maryland’s offense found itself in the second game to complement Wyche’s stellar outing.
A trio of seniors gave the Terps their only three runs of the game. Campbell Kline hit an RBI single in the second inning, Mackense Greico launched a home run in the fourth and Taylor Liguori executed a perfect safety squeeze to score the pivotal third tally.
Those three runs were all Wyche needed to preserve the Terps victory. She shut down the Badgers, not allowing a hit across the final four innings. She was helped by another strong defensive game.
In the sixth inning, Kiley Goff mowed down a potential base stealer and shortstop Sammi Woods also nabbed a ball deep in the hole to prevent a Badger single.
“The defense has been there. Really, it’s been there all season,” Montgomery said.
Then in the final frame, Wyche helped herself with a strong defensive play.
A sharp groundball looked like it was headed right back up the middle for a base hit. But the pitcher reached down and grabbed it, completing the easy throw to first for the second out of the inning.
One batter later, Maryland broke its two game losing streak and Wyche finished the complete game. Splitting the double-header brought the Terps to 8-11 in conference play and kept them within striking distance of a potential NCAA tournament bid.
“This team deserves to keep playing for a while,” Montgomery said. “… We’re gonna keep doing everything in our power to make that happen.”