While Maryland softball went 3-2 in last weekend's Louisville Invitational, the team struggled at the plate, scoring just 12 runs combined across the five games.
The Terps' offensive troubles continued on Thursday against Utah as they registered just five hits in its home opener.
Utes starter Katie Donovan struck out eight and walked two, mixing her fastball and off-speed pitches to keep the Terps out of sync. Without any offensive punch, Maryland fell, 7-1.
"Her changeup sometimes makes it look like she's throwing 68 when she's really just throwing 62," coach Julie Wright said. "She used that as an offset pitch and then comes with that screwball, and it's really hard to keep that fair after seeing that changeup."
Utah jumped in front in the top of the second. With a runner on first, second baseman BreOnna Castaneda took starter Ryan Denhart deep to left-center field, giving the Utes a 2-0 lead.
Maryland pulled a run back in the fourth on catcher Anna Kufta's first home run of the season.
Kufta also engineered a key defensive play in the third inning. On a third strike, with left fielder Julia Noskin trying to steal second, Kufta's throw struck Utah batter Heather Bowen as she walked across the front of the plate. Noskin was called out, killing a potential rally for the Utes. After catcher Kelly Martinez followed up with a single, Kufta gunned her down trying to steal second to end the inning.
That was the result of a first-inning adjustment, when Kufta held onto the ball in a similar situation. In that frame, Noskin was on first and took off for second as Bowen went down swinging, and Kufta didn't throw down because Bowen was walking across the plate.
"We made that adjustment together," Kufta said. "Someone talked to the umpire and made sure what would happen if I threw it off her."
The game remained a pitcher's duel until the seventh, when Utah racked up five runs, extending its lead to six.
Until the seventh-inning collapse, Denhart continued her hot streak in the circle.
"Ryan did a really good job of hitting her spots when she needed to," Wright said, "and with her changeup, she's selling that pitch so well."
This is the fourth game in a row where Denhart has appeared, and the 10th of the last eleven. She has now thrown 66.1 of Maryland's 128.1 innings.
"She's just starting to get her legs under her," Wright said. "She's getting stronger, and her getting stronger as the season goes along is a really good sign for us."
Maryland drops to 6-14 on the season with the loss, and will play its first home double-header Friday against Miami (Ohio) and Jacksonville.