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Jaeda McFarland Gives Maryland A Player To Build Around

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(Photo by Greg Fiume)

For once in her life, Jaeda McFarland knows she’ll be staying in the same place for the next few years.

McFarland grew up in a military family, which meant a lot of moving. She lived in Bahrain during third and fourth grade, and transferred high schools twice, starting in Hawaii before moving to Kansas and then ultimately to Florida. But now, she’s found a home in College Park, Md., making an immediate impact on a Terrapins team badly in need of a player like her.

“It was definitely challenging moving high schools that often, but everywhere I went, everyone was so welcoming,” McFarland said. “My parents, they were also really helpful. They got me on different travel teams when we would move. The softball world is just really connected, so even if I was in a different state, I could have a coach refer me to somebody else.”

Mark Montgomery noticed McFarland early on, while she was transitioning from Hawaii to Kansas. He built enough of a relationship with her that McFarland committed to his program at Louisiana Tech during her sophomore year. So when Montgomery was hired to turn around Maryland's program following the 2019 season, McFarland switched her commitment, sticking with the coach who had been behind her for quite some time.

The Terrapins had not posted a winning season since joining the Big Ten prior to 2015 and were miles removed from their last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012. Montgomery sees McFarland, who has started every game in center field so far during her freshman season, as the type of player who could help change that.

“We sold her on the potential and being part of something special,” Montgomery said. “To come here and help build Maryland softball to a position of national prominence. She looks forward to that challenge. She’s going to always prepare like there’s room for growth and development, and that’s what makes her special.”

McFarland made an immediate impact during the Big Ten’s first weekend of action in Leesburg, Fla., when Maryland turned heads by splitting doubleheaders with traditionally tough teams Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin. She went 8-for-19 in the six games, including a three-hit performance against the Badgers. And she’s only continued to grow from there.

The Terrapins put McFarland second in the batting order to start the year, behind junior Regan Kerr. But Kerr’s struggles prompted Montgomery to shift McFarland to the leadoff spot in the middle of Maryland’s first home series, an early April matchup with a Northwestern team that was ranked at the time.

All McFarland did in her first game batting leadoff was hit a game-tying home run in the seventh, the first long ball of her career, as the Terrapins came back to hand the Wildcats just their second loss of the season.

“I’m just trying to be a team player and do whatever the team needs,” McFarland said. “We’ve had so much growth so far—our softball IQ is growing.”

McFarland had an even more memorable performance the following weekend, when Maryland won three of four against Michigan State. With the series finale tied at four in the seventh and Spartan runners on first and third with one out, McFarland caught a fly ball in medium-depth center and fired a one-hop strike to the plate, nailing the runner on third to end the inning. She then tripled leading off the bottom of the seventh before scoring the winning run on a sacrifice fly.

The Terrapins won’t be going to the NCAA Tournament this year—they’ve taken a step forward from 2019, but they’re still just 14-22 with two weeks remaining. But Montgomery is confident McFarland can lead Maryland back to the postseason before she graduates, even suggesting that she could be an All-American or an Olympian at some point.

“I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on anybody. But is she a key component as we go forward? The answer is absolutely,” Montgomery said. “She’s somebody who’s going to come in and hold down a key position for potentially all four years. She’s going to be a mainstay in the lineup. So few kids are true five-tool kind of players.”

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