Feb. 7, 2008
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland softball team looks to start off the season on the right foot as they travel to Boca Raton, Fla. for the FAU Kick-Off Classic this weekend. The Terrapins open against Michigan, who is ranked 12th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25. Scheduled first pitch is Friday at 11 a.m.
The Terps opened the 2007 season against the Wolverines but fell 6-1 and then again 2-1 in the championship game of the FAU Dunkin' Donuts Classic. Michigan, who was one win away from the Women's College World Series last year, has won all five games between the schools all-time.
Maryland returns 10 players from last year's team that finished 33-26. The Terps' top pitcher from a year ago returns in Meredith Nelles, who won 19 games as a junior last season. Nelles will be joined in the rotation by newcomers Lindsey Wright, Sarah Dooley and Kerry Hickey. Senior Jenny Belak also returns to give Maryland a reliable bat and speed around the bases.
Friday at 1 p.m., the Terrapins face reigning Atlantic 10 champions Massachusetts. The Minutewomen, led by Easton All-American pitcher Brandice Balschmiter, went undefeated in Atlantic 10 play last season before losing to Oklahoma in the regional final. UMass won the only meeting between the two schools, 6-0, back in 2001.
On Saturday, the Terrapins square off against North Florida and host Florida Atlantic at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. respectively. The Ospreys of North Florida, picked to finish third in the Atlantic Sun Conference, will be led by Atlantic Sun Preseason Player of the Year Gwen Johnson. The two schools have never faced each other.
FAU won 18 of its last 21 games last season to win both the Sun Belt Conference's regular season and tournament championships, but were left out of the NCAA Tournament by the selection committee. The Owls have been picked to finish second in the Sun Belt Conference. FAU leads the all-time series 5-2, with the Terrapins' last win coming in 2003.
The Terps will conclude the weekend with a bracket playoff on Sunday.
Games in this weekend's FAU tournament can be followed on Gametracker on fausports.com, or by following this link.