By Alex Rychwalski
Coming into its final series of the year against the Michigan State Spartans, the Maryland softball team hadn’t won a weekend series since its meeting with Iowa in late March. That fact still holds true, as the Terps dropped their first two games of the series 7-4 and 6-5.
The Terps played well for much of the first leg of Friday’s doubleheader, but were unable to recover after giving up seven runs in the first two innings, losing 7-4.
Despite outhitting the Spartans seven to six, the Terps shot themselves in the foot, giving up far too many free baserunners.
Maryland starter Ryan Denhart surrendered six free passes on the afternoon, and the struggling Terps defense suffered four errors of its own.
Denhart settled down in the later stages of the game, but she still threw just 58 of her 118 pitches in the strike zone. The defense entered Friday last in the Big Ten in fielding percentage.
Facing a potential run-rule loss in the fifth inning, the Terps got three runs back courtesy of a three-run homer by second baseman Skylynne Ellazar. They also got another run back in the sixth, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the poor start.
Michigan State loaded up the bases to start the game, and after it looked as if Denhart was going to get out of the jam with back to back outs, Spartans left fielder Ebonee Echols launched a grand slam over the right field fence.
After a three-run homer in the second inning, the Spartans had 7-0 advantage that seemed insurmountable for a Terps side that’s only scored seven runs twice since March 25.
Unlike game one of the doubleheader, the second game was a thriller. A dramatic, game-tying home run in the final inning of regulation sent the game to extras, but the Spartans got the better of the Terps when it mattered most, winning 6-5 in nine innings.
After a scoreless frame to start extra innings, the Spartans scored three runs in the ninth to put the Terps away for good. A two-run double by Melanie Baccay put the Spartans in front, and McKenzie Long added an insurance run on an RBI groundout.
Maryland added a pair in the rain delayed last half of the frame, but the comeback fell short as the Terps left the bases loaded and the potential winning run on second.
Two innings prior, with just two outs remaining and the Terps trailing by three, Skylynne Ellazar launched a game-tying three-run homer well over the right field fence, sending the game to extra innings.
“Honestly I was like, ‘I can tie this game with one swing,’” said Ellazar.
Ellazar had a big day in the last home series of her college career. She went 3-8 over the two games, netting six RBIs. She was responsible for all but three of the Terps runs over both games.
“Leaving a legacy and impact here is something that people are always going to remember,” said Ellazar.
Maryland turned to starter Sydney Golden in game two, and, like Denhart, she struggled with her control at times, but was able to avoid giving out free passes to Spartan hitters. Michigan State left 15 runners on base.
During Golden’s quality outing, she gave up four earned runs and scattered 12 hits over eight innings. She finished with four walks and a strikeout, relying heavily on her defense behind her.
In the field, the Terps sured up their sloppy play from game one, committing no errors behind Golden.
The biggest adjustment, said coach Julie Wright, came after she got on her team between games about their lack of focus.
“They need to demand from themselves what we talk to them about every day,” said Wright. “Just demand excellence. Get after it, stay focused. This pitch, this moment. Our games are moments, very brief moment, and if you aren’t focused and you miss one moment, it could crush you.”
The pair of losses drop the Terps to 18-35 (7-15 Big Ten) on the season and extends their losing streak to eight games. They’ll hope to end that streak in the final game of the series against the Spartans, time TBA.