Illinois entered its weekend clash with Maryland softball winless in Big Ten play. The Illini suffered a seven-run average margin of defeat across their first six losses to Michigan, Nebraska and Minnesota.

Those struggles continued Friday when the Terps breezed to an eight-run mercy rule win. But Maryland stumbled in the series’ final two games, losing in close fashion Saturday before falling into an early deficit and failing to recover Sunday in a 4-0 loss.

The Terps were limited to seven hits on Saturday and six on Sunday. They were unable to string together consistent offensive production despite Illinois holding a conference-worst 5.16 ERA.

Michaela Jones struck out looking to end the first inning after Maryland (17-19, 4-5 Big Ten) worked three straight batters on base with a double and two walks. Illinois (15-20, 2-6 Big Ten) pitcher Lauren Wiles was forced to throw 30 pitches in the opening frame but worked her way out of the bases-loaded jam without a blemish.

[Maryland softball cruises past Illinois with 8-0 mercy rule victory]

Wiles silenced the Maryland bats in the next two innings, allowing a leadoff single to Diamond Williams to start off the third but nothing more. Megan Mikami, who reached base on a fielder’s choice, was caught stealing to end the inning. It was only the second such occurrence this season for the program’s all-time steals leader.

Illinois third baseman Zoe Caryl and outfielder Stevie Meade smashed a pair of two-run homers off graduate pitcher Courtney Wyche in the second and third frames, respectively, to give the visitors an early four-run advantage.

Maryland stranded three runners once again in the fourth inning. Sydney Lewis and Mazie MacFarlane led off with a pair of singles and Hannah Runk walked to load the bases with two outs. After an Illinois pitching change, Delaney Reefe flew out to right field on the fifth pitch of her at-bat, keeping the Terps off the board and trailing by four runs.

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The Terps have relied on Wyche’s dominance to win games this season. They were 9-5 in games she’s started and 8-13 in games she hasn’t entering Sunday’s bout. The right-hander has thrown north of 100 innings in 19 appearances.

Despite reaching double-digit strikeouts for the fifth time in her last seven starts, Maryland’s workhorse didn’t pitch to her usual standard on Sunday. She struggled to find the strike zone at times and tied her season-high in home runs allowed.

The lack of run support for Wyche was also a factor in the Terps dropping their second consecutive weekend series. They left eight runners on base and recorded more than one hit in only two innings.

After winning three of its first four games to start Big Ten play, Maryland has dropped four of its last five contests. The Terps have won on Friday and lost on Saturday and Sunday each of the last two weekends, failing to close out each series despite leading in both.