Maryland softball coach Julie Wright cheered on Sarah Calta before practice Wednesday after the senior sent a line drive into the right center field gap. She continued to praise the outfielder launched two balls to left.
Wright and Calta often complete hitting drills before other players arrive. On Wednesday, the Reisterstown native trained with a hitting tee, poking outside pitches into left field before completing a round of batting practice.
Calta grunted as she squibbed a ball into foul territory during the session. She's still searching for the rhythm that helped her hit .408 in conference play last season. It's taken time for the 2016 second team All-Big Ten outfielder to recover from ACL injury that ended that campaign.
But following a strong series against Michigan, Maryland hopes Calta can regain her form Friday against Indiana.
"She's the hardest working kid on our team," Wright said. "Now you're starting to see … that strength come back from where she left it off when she got hurt in Michigan [last year], because she was hitting pretty well."
Calta tore her ACL against Michigan on April 22, 2016, as she sprinted back to pursue a fly ball to right field. As trainers ran out to check on her, she waited on the warning track clutching her knee.
This past weekend, almost a year after the setback, she excelled in Maryland's series finale against the Wolverines. She hit a two-RBI triple and a single in Sunday's 4-3 loss. The showing made her recovery worthwhile.
"It meant a lot to come out there and finally get to finish a series against them," Calta said.
Calta's two-out triple in the fifth inning found the right center field gap to put the Terps up, 3-2. After Maryland fell behind in the seventh, she lined a single into left field, but the Terps failed to drive her in.
While she led the Terps last season with four triples, Sunday's three-bagger marked her first in 2017. She hopes to add to that tally with 11 games left.
"I'm hoping to just kind of take what I did [against] Michigan and just keep going with it," Calta said. "We're coming down to the end of the season, and I've just been trying to enjoy it because I'm a senior. And just knowing that I still have that in me, and taking that to the following weekends to come."
Freshman outfielder Amanda Brashear wasn't around to watch Calta a year ago, but the senior has made an impression on her over the past few weeks.
Earlier in the season, Calta needed encouragement from her teammates to test her knee. Though she still wears a brace, she's become more comfortable on the field, allowing her to flash the in-game speed that made her so dangerous before her injury.
"She's taken so many strides," Brashear said. "There's so much ground she covers now in the outfield that, like, in the beginning of the season she could barely even run."