After a slow start to the season, Maryland softball has found its stride during conference play.
The Terps had an up-and-down start to the season, sitting at 10-12 by mid-March. Fast forward to today: Maryland softball is 26-19 and off to its best conference start (12-5) since joining the Big Ten in 2015.
One of the more troubling setbacks was the team’s struggles at the plate.
“Hitting, I think, is one of the hardest things to do in all of sports,” head coach Mark Montgomery said. “It’s really tough when you go out there with any type of pressure. The moment you think I’ve got to get a hit, or I’ve got to put the ball in play, or I can’t strike out, you’re gonna fail.”
As a result, the Terps’ hitting woes put pressure on the pitching staff.
“They were trying to throw shutouts every game and you can’t play that way,” Montgomery said.
Despite flashes of potential, which included wins against then-No. 17 Missouri and last year’s national semifinalist James Madison, the Terps struggled to find consistency in all three phases of the game.
But once the hitting began to improve, the team found itself playing more relaxed, which led to success in the batter’s box, the pitching circle and the field.
“Overall, we’re playing all of those three elements better and then that allows the game to be played at a more relaxed level,” Montgomery said.
One of the biggest factors to the team’s recent success is the addition of first baseman Mackense Greico. The Furman transfer leads the team in RBIs, doubles, walks, slugging, on-base percentage and OPS. Greico said plate discipline is a large part of not only her success, but the team’s as well.
“As long as we go up there with a plan, we stay disciplined and we stick to it through the at-bat,” said the senior transfer.
The hitting became more consistent once Montgomery settled on a lineup. Through 17 conference games played, Maryland is top six in both hits and runs scored.
“We feel like we know who our better performers are game-in and game-out,” Montgomery said. “We know who our better performers off the bench are in certain situations based on matchups, or based on personnel of the other team.”
Junior Courtney Wyche is one of the leaders of the Terps’ pitching staff. The reigning Co-Big Ten Pitcher of the Week is sixth in the conference with a 2.14 ERA. She cited improvements to both her mind and body as reasons for her performance this season.
“I take care of my body so I can be ready to pitch whenever my number is called upon,” Wyche said. “I have worked really hard on training my mind to battle and be resilient in any situation.”
The Terps look to continue their winning ways this weekend as they travel to East Lansing, Michigan to take on Michigan State (23-25, 3-14) for a three-game set.