Maryland's softball team landed 26 runners on base in its series against Indiana last week. But the Terps scored a season-low two runs in the three-game series.
Maryland hit .118 with runners in scoring position, down from a season average of .270. Instead of looking for a big hit to drive in runs, the team's focus during practice has been on moving runners over so plating runs could become easier against Penn State this weekend.
"We did struggle with bunting," infielder Anna Kufta said. "I will call myself out on that and own up to that. That's a really big part of the game, and when you get that sign you're supposed to get it down."
Maryland left 21 runners on base between the three games against Indiana. Outfielder Sarah Calta's RBI double — to score outfielder Kassidy Cross from first base in the opening game of the April 21 double header — was the team's lone RBI hit of the series.
To facilitate more runs, coach Julie Wright added creativity to the offense with bunts and situational steals. The Terps are more likely to bunt to protect baserunners and prevent potential runs from getting thrown out on a steal when they're trailing.
"We just haven't been in a position lately to do a lot of that," Wright said of stealing. "So, I feel like that's something I would like to do a little bit more of. We match up against [Penn State's] catchers a little better … But we've got to be able to bunt people over and move people over, that's a part of the game that has to get done. You need that in good situations."
Wright still wants at least a productive out if a designed play to move a runner isn't called. With two strikes, Wright wants her batters to shift their focus on putting the ball on the ground, especially behind a runner.
In each game against Indiana, the Terps entered the seventh inning needing runs to win or extend the game. In the first contest, Calta came through with her RBI double, but the Hoosiers walked off in the bottom half of the frame. Then on Sunday, Indiana broke the tie in the eighth inning to sweep the series.
"My hope is this weekend we take care of things earlier in the game," Wright said, "and we don't just keep waiting until the seventh."
Putting the ball in play at least puts pressure on the defense, Kufta said, which could force errors or miscommunication to keep the batting order moving.
The Terps need to stay within themselves as hitters, Wright said. Kufta is one of the Terps' lone power hitting threats; she leads the team with five home runs. Wright said she should look for a sacrifice fly with a runner on third. But, contact hitters in the order need to hit behind the runners to move them up or score them.
"Approach is everything," she said. "The game is 90 percent those six inches between your ears. So, we talk about that on a consistent basis … making sure they're attacking their pitches and good pitches."