Megan Mikami worked to a full count and for a moment, looked like she could help Maryland softball pull off its comeback. But when the centerfielder swung next, she hit nothing but air.
Mikami’s strikeout in the seventh inning ended Maryland softball’s promising season Saturday in the NISC semifinals with a 4-3 loss to Iowa.
The Terps had languished through the first six innings, totally just three hits. But in its last opportunity, Maryland found brief life.
Mackense Greico got on base after an Iowa error, giving Amelia Lech a chance to shine. The sophomore smacked a double to put runners on second and third.
A sacrifice fly scored one run, eliminating the chance for a shutout. After a popout, Sydney Lewis doubled off a Hawkeye player’s glove to tally another run.
With her team down two and a runner at second base, Sammi Woods stepped to the plate as the tying run. The freshman shortstop had gone hitless in two at-bats but had a chance to continue her team’s improbable seventh-inning comeback.
[Maryland softball advances to NISC semifinals with 7-4 win over San Jose State]
Woods worked the count full with a pair of close takes and bounced a chopper to third base. The throw from Iowa’s Avery Jackson sailed high, allowing another run to score and giving Maryland a one-run deficit it couldn’t overcome.
Keira Bucher made her first career start in the loss.
Bucher, who’s largely been a reliever this year, last appeared Friday against BYU after Trinity Schlotterbeck allowed five runs in the first inning. Bucher stepped in to pitch six innings of one-run ball in the Maryland loss.
She started against the Hawkeyes and early on, it looked like her success would continue. She got out of an early jam with runners at the corners with one out, inducing popouts and flyouts to escape the inning unscathed. No Iowa player scored through the first three innings.
The freshman’s first mistake came on the third pitch of the fourth inning. She fell behind 2-0 to Iowa’s Denali Loecker, who entered the game with nine home runs. Bucher helped her get to double-digits with a solo shot that broke the scoreless tie.
[Top-seeded Maryland softball mercy rules Cal State Northridge in NISC first round, 8-0]
It got worse from there.
The Terps looked like they’d caught an Iowa player in a rundown during the fifth inning, but confusion from catcher Kiley Goff allowed the Hawkeyes to keep everyone safe and load the bases.
A two-run single and a sacrifice fly from the next two batters gave Iowa a four-run lead that felt impenetrable with the Terps’ offensive struggles.
In the bottom of the frame, Montgomery went to his bench. He substituted Taylor Ligouri in for Madison Runyan. The move worked as Ligouri smacked a double to get in scoring position, but was stranded when Sammi Woods grounded out to end the inning.
Bucher got two outs in the sixth inning before giving up a single and being replaced for Courtney Wyche.
Wyche appeared Friday in the Terps’ win over San Jose State, pitching six innings and allowing four runs. Tasked with maintaining the Maryland deficit at four, she got Iowa to ground out and end the frame.
She added a scoreless seventh — closing her Terps tenure by forcing a flyout to right field.
Her performance nearly gave way to an offensive explosion that would’ve sent Maryland to the NISC finals. But instead, the Terps were relegated to the offseason.