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Softball: Pitt suffers season-ending sweep at Maryland

By Jasper Wilson / Sports Editor

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By the start of Pitt softball’s series against Maryland over the weekend, the players knew they wouldn’t likely make the eight-team conference tournament even if they won each game.

Junior outfielder Carly Thea described not making the postseason as “heart-wrenching.” Everyone knew the chances of extending their season (15-29, 6-118 ACC) were minimal. 

“It was definitely a 99 percent chance [that it wouldn’t happen],” Thea said.  

With low expectations, Thea and her teammates, including pitcher Savannah King, felt no pressure about their final contests of the year. 

“Everyone just tried to play loose because there was nothing to lose,” King said. “We were just trying to play for pride.”

Whatever value the Panthers hoped to take from the series was lost as the team suffered a three-game sweep to end their season.

Game one: Maryland 8, Pitt 0

Despite getting as many hits as the opposition, Pitt softball couldn’t score any runs in the opening game of its series at Maryland.

“We were hitting the ball very well. It just ended up that we didn’t hit the ball together,” Thea said. 

The Terrapins took their lead early off Candice Beards’ three-run home run to left field.

King left the game after three innings. Her replacement, Alexa Larkin, didn’t fare much better. She gave up four runs to the home team in the bottom of the fourth.

By adding its final run in the sixth inning, Maryland mercied the Panthers.

Game two: Maryland 7, Pitt 6

The second game of the day was more competitive.

This time, Pitt took the early advantage, thanks to Tori Nirschl hitting a two-run home run in the top of the first.

Shannon Bustillos drew Maryland level with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning.

The Terrapins built off that momentum in the second, when they broke the tie with one run.

The lead further proved its temporary status when the visitors capitalized on a bases-loaded opportunity a half inning later. Freshman Kaitlin Manuel plated all three runners with a single into right field.

Maryland erased that progress with Jessica Warner’s single to send a couple runners home.  

The scoring seized on both sides for an inning before resuming in the fifth.

It would be Pitt’s final time scoring. Jordan Fannin sent Kaila Balatgek home with her base hit.

Thea said games with so many lead changes keep everyone alert and involved. 

“Everytime, you have to expect that the other team wants to come back and is going to get the next run,” she said. “We needed to come up big at some different points, and we didn’t and they did.”

Indeed, one rally remained for the home team. King loaded the bases, and the Terps made her pay with a run-scoring single. A fly ball then dropped onto the outfield grass to score the go-ahead, and eventual game-winning, tally.

Game three: Maryland 7, Pitt 5

In the last game of the season, Pitt fell, getting swept for the series.

The Panthers seized the initiative during their first time up when Thea doubled in Ashlee Sills from second base.

But, as it had done all weekend, Maryland’s offense overpowered the Panthers. In the bottom of the first, back-to-back players reached base on singles before Kylie Datil knocked them in with a double to right-center.

A sacrifice fly by Kathryn Duran brought things even for the visitors in the top of the second. The play scored Balatgek.

That score held until the next inning when Pitt’s Nirschl hit a solo home run, her second of the weekend.When its turn came in the bottom half of the inning, Maryland tied the game.

So, of course, the Panthers pushed ahead the next chance they got. Carissa Throckmorton scored on a Manuel single.

An inning passed without any further action.

Maryland took the lead for the last time off two hits and an error, scoring one run. The cushion grew to 7-4 an inning later after a bases-loaded triple.

Pitt scored a run in the top of the seventh, and could have had more, but stranded two runners when Throckmorton hit a foul ball to left field that was caught for the third out.

“It was just one of those weekends where things didn’t go our way,” Thea said. 

 

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Softball: Pitt suffers season-ending sweep at Maryland