Everybody makes mistakes.
Over the course of the weekend series, however, that statement held true for only one of the teams — Maryland.
The No. 14 Michigan softball team (13-1 Big Ten, 38-7 overall) swept the Terrapins (7-10, 18-30) over the three-game series due in part to the errors committed by Maryland’s fielders and the aggression from the Wolverines that allowed them convert the miscues to runs.
“They’re free bases, one way or another,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins on errors committed by Maryland. “I think Natalia would have been safe on her one play early in the game, but then they overthrew it, and so we got an extra base there, and any time you give a team any bases, you give them extra bases, that’s why our defense is so critical.”
On Saturday, the Terrapins had four miscues that ultimately prevented them from clawing back in a then-close game. Even beyond errors, the Maryland's outfielders looked sloppy and unable to stop the dominant Michigan offense in other defensive aspects.
To start off the bottom of the first inning, junior second baseman Faith Canfield was walked, followed by a hit from junior outfielder Natalie Peters. The fielders were in the perfect position to get Canfield out at second base, but due to an overthrown ball to the bag, both Wolverines advanced with no outs.
The error proved to be costly, as two at-bats later, sophomore third baseman Madison Uden hit a single that allowed Peters and Canfield to score. As the Terrapins closed the inning out without giving any additional runs, it could have been possible that without the early miscue, the two runs could have very well been prevented.
But the symptoms of sloppy play spread throughout Maryland’s players like a contagious disease. What was one small error turned into three.
In the second inning, freshman shortstop Natalia Rodriguez advanced to second base on a bunt due to another throwing error by the Terrapins. Moments later, Canfield’s single down centerfield became a double, as she advanced to second off another overthrown ball to second. That same disastrous play would also send Rodriguez home, giving the Wolverines a three-run lead.
Then, after Peters was walked and senior first baseman Tera Blanco reached on a fielder’s choice, the Maryland shortstop was unable to fully collect yet another overthrown ball which resulted in one more unearned run — this time for Canfield.
However, the poor showing by the Terrapin defense didn’t stop at overthrown or underthrown balls. In the third inning, with loaded bases, Peters hit a line drive down centerfield that could have been a double had the outfielders gathered the ball correctly.
Instead, the ball rolled past the initial pursuer before bouncing off the wall and into the glove of the neighboring left fielder. The delayed reaction cost Maryland three runs and threatened to relent more, as Peters safely reached third.
“We really took advantage of the free bases that we got, being walked, hit by pitches, and the errors,” Blanco said. “We really capitalized on those and I think that played a big part in our success today. We didn’t really do anything different for them to make errors. Our slappers did a really good job putting the ball in play and making things happen, though.”
The loose defense wasn’t just limited to Saturday’s matchup. On Friday and Sunday, Michigan exploited seven collective errors across the two days and ended up outscoring the Terrapins 26-1 over the course of the three days.
While many of the errors were unforced, the Wolverines didn’t take any of them for granted, instead making the best of the opportunities at hand.