After Maryland softball infielder Skylynne Ellazar notched a two-out single in the 11th inning Saturday, Penn State pitcher Jessica Cummings threw a wild pitch to the backstop, allowing the junior to advance to second.
Her aggression highlighted the team's emphasis on moving runners over by bunting and stealing. In the 2-1 victory over Penn State, the Terps stole two bases and advanced on two wild pitches.
With Ellazar on second, infielder Anna Kufta produced a game-winning RBI single to right field to complete the extra-inning win. The Terps hope to capitalize on their base running again at Rutgers on Wednesday in their penultimate series of the regular season.
"[Ellazar] put herself in scoring position," coach Julie Wright said Saturday, "and we didn't have to risk an out [by bunting] to do it."
In Maryland's 7-5 loss Sunday, the Terps grabbed a 4-0 lead using similar small ball tactics. The team took advantage of several Nittany Lions miscues and moved a runner over in each of the first three innings.
Given Maryland's recent offensive struggles — the squad hadn't scored more than three runs in its previous eight contests — those fundamental plays made an impact.
"Execution of [small ball tactics] is important," catcher Kristina Dillard said. "Sometimes you've just got to mix it up. If we're just having trouble getting 60 feet, just trying to put it on the defense to make a play."
Penn State committed four errors in the series finale, leading to unearned runs in the first and second innings. The Nittany Lions had nine miscues throughout the series.
In the third inning, outfielder Amanda Brashear reached first on an infield single and Ellazar bunted her to second. Then, Kufta tripled and later scored when Dillard hit a slow-rolling single off the third baseman's glove.
"You could tell they were feeling a little bit of pressure, dropping things you wouldn't normally drop," Wright said. "Just feeling it a little bit, and I thought we did a nice job of taking advantage of mistakes, running hard — those sorts of things that were really pushing them."
Maryland, the last-place team in the Big Ten, must convert its opportunities at Rutgers in order to make the conference tournament. In order to keep their hopes intact, the Terps need to sweep the Scarlet Knights.
"I've just been talking to the team a lot about staying in it," Dillard said. "It does get tough at the end of the year, so energy is a big thing, and that's what I've been preaching a lot. If you're in or not, just creating vibes that are being sent to the players in. And we have it. We're right there every time, so just keep pushing."