Iowa ends Maryland softball’s remarkable season in NISC Semifinals

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

The game was deadlocked at zero when Denali Loecker stepped up to the plate to lead off the top of the fourth. She crushed a solo shot down the left-field line for her tenth home run of the season. 

Loecker delivered an assertive performance for the Hawkeyes going 3-for-4 from the plate with three RBIs and a run scored. She also came on in relief of starter Jalen Adams to pitch the final two innings of the game, allowing two hits and three runs, but recording three strikeouts to close out the contest. 

Iowa defeated Maryland 4-3 in the semifinals of the Postseason National Invitational Softball Championship to end the Terps’ season. 

Adams pitched a solid game from the circle, allowing only two hits, one walk, and no runs while striking out two batters. 

Maryland Coach Mark Montgomery elected to start typical closer Keira Bucher. She allowed some early base runners but was able to get out of some jams. 

However, after the homer in the fourth inning, the Hawkeyes hitters began to figure out Bucher and she suffered a rough outing. 

Bucher pitched 5.2 innings, allowing six hits, two walks, four runs, and only recording one strikeout. 

Courtney Wyche pitched the final 1.1 innings in relief, only allowing one run. However, the damage had already been done for the Terps. 

Maryland didn’t get its first hit until after the Loecker homer. Mackense Greico singled to left field in the bottom of the fourth but Iowa doubled up the Terps on the next batter to end the inning. 

The Hawkeyes added to their lead in the fifth when Loecker collected another big hit with a two RBI single right up the middle to extend the lead to 3-0.

A sacrifice fly later in the inning from Grace Banes allowed Tory Bennett to score a fourth run for Iowa. 

Maryland attempted to rally in the bottom of the seventh down 4-0. 

Trinity Schlotterbeck got the comeback bid started with a sacrifice fly to score Kamryn Davis. 

Then, pinch-hitter Sydney Lewis smacked a double that went off the glove of the left-fielder to score Campbell Kline and narrow the Iowa lead to two.

A wild throw from Avery Jackson allowed Sammi Woods to reach base and scored Gracelyn Solarz to cut the lead to just one run.

However, the Terps’ resurgence fell just short as Loecker capped off her fantastic day by striking out Megan Mikami to end the game. 

Maryland finished the 2023 season with 38 wins, its most since 2011. The Terps also appeared in their first postseason tournament since 2012.