By Cam Hasbrouck
The Maryland Terrapins knocked off no. 18 Michigan in front of a record-setting crowd at Maryland Softball Stadium on Saturday afternoon to even up the series at one game a piece.
Maryland’s Hannah Dewey allowed just one run in six innings pitched while recording a pair of strikeouts, while Juli Strange led the way offensively with a double, home run, and both of Maryland’s runs.
The Terrapins jumped out to an early lead in the first following a leadoff double by Strange. After Brashear advanced the runner with a ground-out, Anna Kufta drove in the opening run to break the ice.
From there, a pitcher’s matchup would ensue, with just five hits through the first four and a half innings. Dewey settled in nicely for the Terrapins, and retired nine out of ten hitters from the third to the sixth innings.
“I felt really good.” Dewey said following the game. “Everything was working. Everything was moving. I just felt really fluent.”
Dewey finished the day hitless at the plate, but nearly helped herself out twice by hitting two loud fly balls to the warning track, both of which missed leaving the park by a matter of feet.
Maryland doubled its lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Strange unleashed a two-out solo home run to put the Terps up by two.
“I was just trying to hit the ball hard,” she said of her offensive performance after the game.
The Terrapins bent in the seventh inning, but didn’t break, as Michigan pressured hard in the final inning in an attempt to tie the game.
After notching a single to kick off the final inning, Michigan’s Courtney Richardson, who came in as a pinch-hitter, cracked a double down the left-field line to bring the Wolverines within one.
Dewey walked the next batter, prompting Maryland head coach Julie Wright to pull her starter, bringing in Madison Martin to close out the game.
Michigan’s Katie Alexander advanced the runners with a sacrifice, putting the tying run on third for the Wolverines. Michigan’s Lindsay Montemarano then hit a hard single to right field, which was fielded well by Maryland’s Destiney Henderson, who threw out Richardson at the plate to preserve the lead.
With two outs in the ninth and the tying run on third, Michigan brought in Madison Uden to pinch hit. Martin forced Uden to ground out to third, securing the win for the Terrapins.
After the game, head coach Wright had words of praise for her pitching staff.
“I was just really pleased with our pitching staff,” said Wright. “Dewey gave us a great start and Madison (Martin) gave us a great finish.”
She was particularly impressed with Martin’s ability to close it out under pressure.
“She (Martin) did some really good work on mechanics this week, and I felt that she felt very confident coming into this game,” said Wright. “I think she felt great and I think she knew it was a big moment and she enjoyed it.”
Maryland’s pitching was fantastic throughout the game, but it had the help of its defense behind them as well. The Terps committed just one error in an otherwise brilliant defensive performance, which was highlighted by a diving play by Anna Kufta in the sixth, as well as Henderson’s throw-out at home to save the game.
“The defense was awesome today,” Dewey said. “I think that alone for a pitcher kind of helps. You don’t feel afraid to pitch into your defense. I’m not necessarily a strikeout kind of pitcher. I use my defense, I get ground balls, and it’s really really nice to see them execute plays and it just all kind of came into fruition.”
The crowd of 1,015 on Saturday set a record for Maryland Softball Stadium.
After the game, head coach Wright commented on the crowd’s energy throughout the afternoon.
“They (the crowd) fed the energy of our team,” Wright said. “Without them today I don’t know that we would’ve won that game.”
The win, which was just Maryland’s second Big Ten victory, marked its third victory against ranked opponents this season. Despite their losing record, the Terps have proven that they’re capable of competing with the best of the best, and they proved that again on Saturday.
“(The win) means a lot.” said Wright. “Everybody knows we’ve been struggling. We’ve tried to explain to people that we’re not very far away. A lot of the things haven’t bounced our way and it’s been unfortunate – the game is cruel – but I thought we came in, we played hard, we put our pieces in – it was our puzzle – and we did our thing – and that’s good enough to beat the best in the country.”
Both teams return to action on Sunday for the rubber match of the series.