Maryland softball used a new lineup against Rutgers on Wednesday, placing infielder Skylynne Ellazar at leadoff. The junior hit four singles in seven at-bats during the split doubleheader, scoring two runs.
Last season, she posted a .399 batting average, the third highest in team history. This season, though, Ellazar's average has dropped 100 points to .299, which is still the third-highest on the team.
But her 4-for-7 outing against Rutgers showed flashes of the dominance the Hawaiian displayed last season. Coach Julie Wright said it was an "encouraging thing to see," before the Terps play their final regular season series this weekend against Wisconsin.
"One of the things Sky did really well last year was she hit pitches in her zone," Wright said. "Her zone at the plate is actually, as a hitter, pretty small. Whenever a pitcher threw her there last year, she didn't miss, she got some sort of a hit. So that's what I saw her do [Wednesday]. When the ball came into her zone, pitches that she can handle, she hit them hard."
Infielder Juli Strange established herself as leadoff for much of the season, and could go back into that spot against the Badgers. But Wright said the redshirt senior was "a little beat up" after exiting game one of the doubleheader in the sixth inning. She only made a pinch running appearance in the second leg.
Ellazar stepped into the leadoff role after recent improvement in the batter's box. Against Indiana in late April, Ellazar managed one hit in seven tries and dropped to the bottom half of the lineup for the series-finale. But the next weekend against Penn State, Ellazar hit 2 RBIs with a double and single in the first game, and rose to bat third Sunday.
In both games Wednesday, the Terps fell behind, 3-0, before scoring runs in the fifth and seventh innings. Strange, batting ninth, singled in the fifth of game one and Ellazar followed. Outfielder Amanda Brashear bunted the pair over to second and third before infielder Anna Kufta hit a two-RBI double. The Terps tied game one in the fifth before pushing the winning run across in the seventh.
In game two, Maryland only scored one run in the fifth and entered the seventh with a three-run deficit. Infielder Brigette Nordberg singled, Ellazar walked and Brashear singled to load the bases. Nordberg and Ellazar scored, but the Terps couldn't manage another run to tie the game, despite Ellazar's performance.
"I want to see them coming into the weekend to not give a single pitch away, not take a play off," Wright said. "I want to see them play hard from the first pitch to the last pitch."