DiLuia’s midweek woes continue as Terps drop fifth straight

A change in scenery didn’t change the struggles for the Maryland Terrapins, who dropped their fifth consecutive game on Tuesday, falling to North Carolina 13-1.

The skid, which started with a heartbreaking loss to Delaware in which the Terps led 6-0, has since seen a handful of blowouts. Tuesday’s game was the latest example.

Since that loss to Delaware, the Terps have been outscored 39-5.

After scoring one in the bottom of the first, North Carolina scored at least two runs in each of the next three innings. It wasn’t until the sixth inning where the Tar Heels were retired without scoring. That was the only inning they failed to score.

Maryland’s starter, Mark DiLuia, saw improvements to his command, but most of the damage done against him was a result of solid hitting by a dynamic North Carolina lineup.

After he issued six walks in his last two starts, DiLuia didn’t walk a Tar Heel batter until the fourth inning, but it cost him. After Ashton McGee walked, he advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches, and was driven in by an RBI single.

He allowed 14 hits, 12 of which were singles, and allowed nine earned runs.

DiLuia did provide some relief for head coach Rob Vaughn by throwing six innings in the start, keeping the bullpen a bit more rested for Wednesday’s scheduled game against Elon.

Maryland’s offense put together a pair of rallies in the middle of the game, but only came out with one run. In the fifth, back-to-back hits by Marty Costes and AJ Lee, followed by a two-out walk, loaded the bases for Justin Vought. However, the freshman catcher softly lined out to end the frame.

The following inning, Lee came through again, this time with a two-out RBI single to put Maryland on the board. Lee and Costes, who both finished 2-for-4, were the only Terps to record multiple hits. The rest of the team combined for just three hits in 25 at bats.

North Carolina put the exclamation mark on the game with a grand slam in the seventh inning by Michael Busch.

Weather pending, the Terps will look to get back in the win column when they face Elon on Wednesday. The first pitch is scheduled 4:00 p.m. EST.

Game Preview: North Carolina

The Maryland Terrapins are in a funk. They have lost their last four games and have dropped under .500 for the first time since their second series of the season against Army.

Still, the Terps (9-10) have a chance to regain momentum before returning back from a Spring Break road trip in North Carolina.

On Tuesday, Maryland will battle the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, the first of a back-to-back midweek slate that includes a Wednesday meeting with Elon. North Carolina instantly becomes one of the best foes Maryland has faced all season, and provides yet another chance at a statement win for a young team that desperately needs one. The Tar Heels (12-8) are not currently ranked by D1Baseball.com, like East Carolina was, but are a formidable opponent nonetheless.

On their current four-game losing streak, the Terps have seen their bats disappear. Maryland has just seven hits in 62 at bats with runners on base during that span, a .113 average. Maryland’s lone hot bat belongs to Nick Dunn, the second basemen that leads the team in most offensive categories. The junior raised his batting average to a team-high .357 after a two hit game in the finale against East Carolina. He also has hit five home runs and driven in 18 runs.

Its most consistent bat from last season, Marty Costes, was dropped in the lineup over the weekend, and saw a slight boost in production, but not much. After hitting .322 a year ago, Costes’ average jumped up to .179 after he got three hits in his last seven at bats of the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Tar Heels have a dynamic and well-rounded offensive attack with weapons scattered up and down the lineup. North Carolina has five players above a .290 average, including three over .300. Maryland has just one.

Junior third baseman Kyle Datres leads the Heels with a .333 average while Ike Freeman is just behind him with a .328 clip after a 6-for-10 weekend against Pittsburgh. The bulk of the power and spark in the order comes from Michael Busch, the No. 2 hitter in Carolina’s order has belted four home runs and a team-best 27 RBIs; he has recorded three or more RBIs in seven games this year, most recently in Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh.

In that series against the Panthers, everything was clicking for North Carolina. The Tar Heels outscored Pittsburgh 32-5 in the sweep, bolstering their home record to 8-4 and staking a claim for re-entering the top 25.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. EST

Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia (1-1, 5.25 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Rodney Hutchison Jr. (1-1, 6.75 ERA)

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Mark DiLuia’s last two starts, both against Delaware, were signs that the freshman has a lot of room to grow. His ability to strikeout hitters still prevailed, as he has recorded 18 strikeouts in 16 innings this year, but his accuracy with his pitches faltered. He walked six batters in those two starts, after walking just two batters in his first 3 appearances. In the Blue Hens’ five-run third inning last week, which nearly erased a 6-0 Terps lead, DiLuia issued three walks and hit a batter.

After a rough start to Hutchison Jr.’s season, the junior right-hander bounced back with a stellar four-hit, shutout gem in the Tar Heels’ midweek game against North Carolina A&T last week. It was just the sixth start of his career, and his second of the 2018 campaign. A key to his success in his last start with his improved command, as he completed the game without issuing a walk. Prior to the game against A&T, he had walked six batters and hit three in seven innings of work.

Parsons pitches well, but miscues hurt Maryland in loss to East Carolina

Junior right-hander Hunter Parsons churned out a fourth straight great start—allowing one earned run in seven innings—but three defensive miscues and many more squandered offensive opportunities plagued the Terps for their fourth loss in six days.

Although Maryland’s opportunities outnumbered No. 18 East Carolina’s for the majority of the game, the Pirates found ways to manufacture runs. The Terps failed to avoid a sweep, losing 4-0.

Maryland lost all four games this week to fall back below .500, going 7-for-62 with runners on base during the losing streak.

“With a pitching staff like [East Carolina’s], they’re talented,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “They’re very good. If you don’t do the little things right, they make you pay. And that’s what they really did to us all weekend.”

After Parsons conceded a leadoff single in the bottom of the first, catcher Justin Morris threw a strike down to second base trying to catch Bryant Packard stealing. Packard slid into AJ Lee’s glove, dislodging the ball from the shortstop. Packard moved to third on a errant pickoff attempt that skipped into center field, and he scored on a weak groundout to give the Pirates a lead.

For a while, the unearned run allowed by Parsons was the only blemish in his outing. He tossed four scoreless innings after the first frame, setting down 11 straight hitters at one point.

“Hunter [Parsons] did a great job grinding things out,” Vaughn said. “He didn’t have his best stuff and you saw that in the first inning and that guy just continued to compete for us and gave us a chance to win.”

Parsons allowed eight runs in a one-inning start against Tennessee to start the season—giving him a 72.00 ERA—but exactly one month later, that number has dwindled to 4.20 after a seven-inning performance with just one earned run.

“Rewind six weeks ago to Tennessee and we were sitting there wondering what the heck he was going to do,” Vaughn said. “You look where he is now, he’s handling adversity, he’s attacking people, he’s got great mound presence and he’s really done a great job responding they way we want.”

With Maryland still trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth, first baseman Kevin Biondic corralled a grounder, stepped on first base and proceed to plunk a Pirate on the back on the runner’s way to second. This was the second time it happened Sunday.

Unlike the first time—when the runner stayed put on second,—the ball ricocheted into center field, allowing Packard to advance to third. He scored on a sacrifice fly, giving East Carolina a second unearned run without exerting much effort.

Biondic received another chance to complete a 3-6 double play in the bottom of the seventh. The same throw—in its third attempt of the game—completed its course to Lee, who successfully caught the ball and placed down a tag. Second base umpire Jeff Ellis ruled the runner safe, a questionable call that extended the inning long enough for East Carolina to add a third run on a single.

“They just put the ball in play and when they get runners in scoring position, they execute,” Parsons said. “That’s what they did better than us this weekend.”

In between the defensive miscues, Maryland’s offense continued to come up short with runners on base. The Terps left seven on the base paths in the loss.

In the fourth, Nick Dunn and Biondic started the inning with back-to-back singles. When AJ Lee didn’t make contact on a bunt attempt, Dunn was caught off second and thrown out. East Carolina starter, right-hander Tyler Smith, struck out two in a row to escape the jam.

Maryland mounted a rally in the sixth, receiving two-out hits from Morris and center fielder Zach Jancarski. With the pair of Terps in scoring position and the chance to take the lead with a single, designated Tommy Gardiner went down on strikes.

“We’re scuffling a little bit,” Parsons said. “But I full-heartedly believe we’ll come back this next week and play better baseball, get some more hits.”

Maryland (9-10) is scheduled to continue its spring break road trip Tuesday at 6 p.m. against North Carolina.

Maryland struggles again in 18-4 loss to East Carolina

Maryland baseball got five leadoff hitters on base in its nine trips to the plate, but similar to struggles from the series opener, the Terps couldn’t string together enough hits before No. 18 East Carolina garnered a sizable lead.

The Pirates registered just five hits Friday night against right-hander Taylor Bloom, but exploded for 16 hits Saturday—including 10 with runners in scoring position—to pull away from Maryland in an 18-4 series-clinching win.

The Terps (9-9) have lost three in a row and drop back down to .500 this season. During the losing streak, Maryland is 5-for-52 with runners on base.

Left-handed starting pitcher Tyler Blohm got through the first frame without allowing a hit, but for the rest of his four-inning outing, he struggled to generate swing and misses against a good East Carolina offense. He didn’t strike out a single hitter.

The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year allowed a single and two walks in the second inning to load the bases with just one out. The southpaw, though, worked through control issues to induce what appeared to be an inning-ending double play. Second baseman Nick Dunn bobbled the exchange and was forced to settle for a single out. A run scored, and Blohm got the following hitter to line out.

The sophomore settled down in the third, but East Carolina exploded for 16 runs in the next five innings to pull away from the Terps. Blohm allowed three runs to score in the fourth on an RBI single, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. He finished his outing with six hits, five walks and six earned runs.

Blohm, after allowing two more runners to start the bottom of the fifth, was relieved by right-hander Alec Tuohy. The Pirates collected four hits off the redshirt senior, extending their lead to 10-1 through five frames. East Carolina scored at least one run in six of eight trips to the plate en route to an 18-run explosion.

For the second time in as many days, the Terps suffered a loss with double-digit hits. Maryland’s offense, despite another low run total, continued to succeed in getting runners on base, registering 11 hits in the loss. The Terps even got seven hits off Pirates right-hander Chris Holba (5-0, 1.17 ERA), who entered the game holding opposing hitters to a .157 batting average.

But in the early stages in the game when the Terps had the chance to get ahead or keep the game close, hits were too spread out to generate sufficient runs. Maryland showed life immediately after falling behind 4-0 when back-to-back hits from left fielder Marty Costes and catcher Ty Friedrich puts runners in scoring position with no outs. The Terps, though, only managed to plate one run on a groundout.

AJ Lee and Tommy Gardiner, who both collected multiple hits, ripped RBI doubles in consecutive innings. First baseman Kevin Biondic added an RBI sacrifice fly. The Terps scored in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but it was too little too late as the Pirates kept scoring at a faster rate.

The Terps will have one last chance this weekend to pick up a ranked win tomorrow at 1 p.m. when Maryland and East Carolina face off for the final game of the series.

Maryland’s offense can’t capitalize against No. 18 East Carolina, drop series opener

Maryland baseball continued to compete in close games against quality teams on the road—receiving a good start from right-hander Taylor Bloom and recording double-digit hits—but the Terps weren’t able to capitalize on their numerous offensive opportunities against No. 18 East Carolina.

Although they doubled the Pirates in hits, The Terps hit 2-for-18 with runners on base to get shutout, 4-0, in the first of three games this weekend at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

“We couldn’t quite string [hits] together, whether that was us not running great plans off or whether that was just [East Carolina starter Trey Benton] being good,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “Really good pitchers have a tendency to go give up a hit, get two guys, then give up another hit, but kind of spread them out.”

The Terps picked up hits in each of the first four innings off Benton, who entered the contest having allowed just six earned runs in over 25 innings pitched on the season. But coming off an one-run, eight-inning performance last weekend against Charlotte, he allowed nine hits in under seven innings to Maryland hitters. The sophomore, though, was able to hinder Maryland’s scoring production thanks to great defensive plays behind him and a lack of execution from the Terps.

“He pitches on Friday nights for a really good team. He’s got good stuff,” third baseman Taylor Wright said. “He did a good job of working all three pitches for strikes. It’s tough to hit when a guy can throw three good pitches for strikes.”

Unluckiness emerged for Maryland in the first inning when first baseman Kevin Biondic hit a ball that would’ve cleared the wall if it wasn’t for Pirates left fielder Drew Henrickson, who made a leaping grab to rob the almost two-run homer. In the fifth inning, designated Tommy Gardiner nearly started his evening 2-for-2, but third baseman Connor Litton made a diving grab and throw to first to keep the freshman off the bases.

The Terps hit the ball hard throughout the game, unlike in other losses, but were on the wrong end of the pair of quality defensive plays. Other times, though, hits just didn’t come in the right situations. Maryland went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Gardiner and shortstop AJ Lee each singled and stole a base early in the game, but both were left standing on second base. Junior second baseman Nick Dunn led off with a double in the sixth inning, but was thrown out trying to steal third. Just pitches later, Biondic doubled, a hit that would’ve scored a run.

The following inning, Maryland loaded the bases with just one out on singles from Wright, Justin Morris and Gardiner. Benton struck out Zach Jancarski before reliever Ryan Ross entered to face Dunn, who grounded out to second to leave the bases full of Terps.

Offensive opportunities were in Maryland’s favor, but East Carolina was able to take advantage of its limited chances. Second baseman Brady Lloyd reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the third inning, giving the Pirates life after Terps right-hander Taylor Bloom retired the first six hitters he faced on just 14 pitches. Designated hitter Bryant Packard later singled up the middle to score the game’s first two runs.

“We hung up 10 hits. I think they hung up five,” Wright said. “And really they won the game because theirs just came at better times.”

The only other runs Bloom conceded was on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning and a solo homer in the eighth. The senior allowed just five hits in eight innings to a Pirates offense the entered the game with a .280 team batting average. It was arguably his best start of the month, but he didn’t receive the run support he needed.

Maryland was retired in order in the top of the ninth, a trip to the plate that included the team’s 12th strikeout.

“We’ll come back tomorrow and try to string some of these at-bats together a little more,” Vaughn said. “If you look back through some of the charts we keep, we had two good at-bats in a row but not much more than that … I tell these guys, three in a row. Three in a row is usually a run.”

The second game of the series between Maryland (9-8) and East Carolina will start tomorrow at 4 p.m.








Series Preview: East Carolina Pirates

After losing last Friday night at home against Bryant—recording just four hits—Maryland salvaged the weekend by winning the next two games behind a pair of strong starts from sophomore left-hander Tyler Blohm and junior right-hander Hunter Parsons. But after jumping out to a six-run lead Tuesday against Delaware, the Terps surrendered seven unanswered runs as they fell to the Blue Hens for the second straight week.

Coming off that tough midweek loss, the Terps’ (9-7) road doesn’t get any easier, as they travel to Greenville, North Carolina, to take on No. 18 East Carolina (13-4). Ranked since Feb. 26, The Pirates moved up even higher after going 4-0 last week.

Parsons continued his successful emergence as the Sunday starter last weekend for the Terps, throwing his first career complete game against the Bulldogs. He allowed 10 hits, but battled through jams and minimized damage to only allow two earned runs. He also only issued one walk. Since allowing eight earned runs in his first inning of the season, Parsons has allowed just five in his last 22 innings (2.05 ERA).

Out of the bullpen, two-way player Kevin Biondic’s 1.12 ERA continues to lead the relievers. The right-hander is holding hitters to a slim .107 average in eight innings pitched the season. The only earned run he’s conceded this season was on a home run against Coastal Carolina. His eight innings pitched trails just closer John Murphy, who owns a 3.24 ERA in 8.1 innings of relief. Murphy received the loss Tuesday as the Blue Hens walked off to win, but the right-hander is still holding opposing hitters to an abysmal .080 average.

Right-handed reliever Mike Vasturia is quietly putting up solid numbers out of the bullpen as well. He allowed just one hit in two scoreless innings Tuesday against Delaware, lowering his ERA to 1.35. Murphy received the loss Tuesday, as the Blue Hens walked off to win, but he’s still holding opposing hitters to an abysmal .080 average.

The Terps offense has been inconsistent ever since sweeping the Johnny Gardner Law Group Tournament two weekends ago. Maryland had 29 combined hits in the last two games of the Bryant series, but also left 12 runners on base in the first game against Delaware, had just one hit Friday night against Bryant and just four hits in its most recent loss to the Blue Hens.

Second baseman Nick Dunn continues to be the most consistent hitter for the Terps, leading the team in nearly every category, including batting average (.345), slugging percentage (.690), on base percentage (.473), runs scored (16), hits (20), doubles (5), home runs (5) and RBIs (18). Center fielder Zach Jancarski, whose .295 average is second on the team, earned the No. 5 spot on SportsCenter’s top plays with this diving grab on Tuesday.

The rest of the team is still looking to break out, as Will Watson, Justin Morris and Marty Costes are among the regulars hovering below the .200 mark for the year. Costes has struggled mightily early on this season, but has showed signs of life recently, collecting hits and RBIs in the last two contests.

East Carolina didn’t earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament for just the fourth time in the last 17 years last season, but is off to a great start in 2018. The Pirates have been ranked for the last three weeks, in large part due to earning a pair of quality wins over then-No. 6 North Carolina. East Carolina’s pitching staff held the Tar Heels to just six runs in three games during that series.

The Pirates, though, struggled in each of their two midweek games this week. Tuesday against VCU—a team Maryland beat earlier this season—East Carolina was shut out, 3-0, and recorded just three hits. On Wednesday against Elon, it took a walk-off sacrifice fly to come away with a victory. The Pirates had just four hits.

East Carolina’s 2.29 team ERA is the 11th-best in the country, led by returning starters sophomore Trey Benton and junior Chris Holba. The pair of consistent weekend starts have combined for a 1.43 ERA, allowing just eight earned runs in over 50 innings this season. They’ve also struck out 58 hitters while walking just five.

Three other Pirates pitchers—Alec Burleson, Tyler Smith, and Ryan Ross—have each thrown more than 10 innings, but have allowed no more than one earned run this season. Those pitchers combined have an 0.43 ERA in just under 40 innings this season. Although they have smaller roles, East Carolina has another set of of three pitchers with five or less innings without allowing an earned run.

Offensively, the Pirates have had three hitters stand out in the lineup through 17 games this season. Redshirt sophomore catcher Jake Washer hit .133 last season, but is leading the team this spring with a .432 average, including six multi-hit games. Junior infielder Brady Lloyd—batting .395—has 17 hits this season, three more than he had in his first two seasons combined. Sophomore Spencer Brickhouse leads East Carolina with four homers and 15 RBIs.

East Carolina is hitting .280 as a team, averaging 6.1 runs per game. The Pirates offense has been very good at stealing bases, as 22 of 29 attempts have been successful. Six different players have at least two steals this season. Also showing an aggressive nature, East Carolina draws just over four walks per game; the Terps draw nearly six per contest.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:30 p.m. EST

Sr. RHP Taylor Bloom (2-2, 3.58 ERA) vs. So. RHP Trey Benton (3-1, 2.13 ERA)

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After beginning the season with a stretch of strong starts, Taylor Bloom’s last outing last week against Bryant was a little below the senior’s standards. He had his shortest start of the season last weekend against Bryant, allowing four runs on six hits with three walks in 5.2 innings. The right-hander has given the Terps length otherwise, however, going at least seven innings in his other three starts, and he leads the team with 27.2 innings pitched. Bloom will look to get back to his earlier-season form against a good Pirates offense.

Trey Benton has been strong so far this season in the Pirates rotation, taking a big step forward from his freshman campaign a year ago. He started in all 14 of his appearances last season with a 4.18 ERA. This year, though, he’s allowed just six earned runs in his first 25 innings. Benton is coming off his best career start last weekend against Charlotte, allowing one earned run on five hits in 8.1 innings. He struck out six and walked just two. He’s pitched at least five innings in all four of his starts.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 4 p.m. EST

So. LHP Tyler Blohm (2-1, 3.47 ERA) vs.Jr. RHP Chris Holba (4-0, 0.71 ERA)

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Tyler Blohm is coming off a start in which he allowed four earned runs in six innings while allowing nine hits. He struck out five and walked just one against Bryant in that start. It surely wasn’t his strongest outing of the season, but he’s pitched well away from home this season. He earned a win against then-ranked Coastal Carolina two weekends ago when he conceded just two runs in six innings while striking out seven hitters. The left-hander leads Maryland starters in ERA and opponents’ average (.227).

Chris Holba improved a 6.23 ERA as a freshman to a 3.38 ERA as a sophomore, and that trend has continued into his junior season. The right-hander began the season as the Sunday starter but has already moved up in the rotation. He’s unbeaten in his four starts this season, and while wins aren’t always indicative of a pitcher’s performance, his are legitimate. Holba has allowed just two runs just in 25.1 innings with 30 strikeouts and three walks. He allowed both those runs in his last start against Charlotte, snapping a 24-inning scoreless streak to open the year.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Hunter Parsons (2-1, 5.09 ERA) vs. So. RHP Tyler Smith (2-0, 0.51 ERA)

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Hunter Parsons has continued to get better with each and every start this season, but it’ll be hard to top the performance he had last weekend against Bryant. The junior right-hander tossed his first-career complete game in a back-and-forth 5-3 win for the Terps. He allowed double-digit hits, but powered through jams to get outs when he needed them most. Parsons has worked quickly and with control, walking just one batter in each of his last two starts, and needing just 102 pitches to go the distance last week. He has also allowed just five earned runs in his last 22 innings (2.05 ERA), and lowered his ERA by two runs alone in his last start.

Sophomore right-hander Tyler Smith made his first four appearances of the season out of the Pirates bullpen, allowing just one run in 11.2 innings. He made his first start of the season last weekend in the second game of a doubleheader in a win against Charlotte. He didn’t allow a run in six innings of work, conceding just three hits. He struck out three and walked just one batter. On the entire season, Smith has allowed just one run in 17.2 innings. He’s not a big strikeout pitcher, setting down just six hitters on strikes.

Delaware scores seven unanswered runs to top Maryland

It took a couple of rallies and several innings for Delaware to erase a 6-0 deficit. It took just one pitch for it to break a 6-6 tie.

Despite several self-inflicted mistakes, including a disastrous third inning, the Blue Hens fought back with seven unanswered runs to top the Terps 7-6. The loss marked Maryland’s third loss in four midweek tries this season.

The final of those seven runs: a walk-off blast by Calvin Scott in the bottom of the ninth inning, sealing Maryland’s most disheartening loss of the year.

The gusting winds in Newark, Delaware were just the beginning of the oddities during Maryland’s midweek matchup with the Delaware Blue Hens.

In the third inning, with a 1-0 lead, Maryland put up a five spot, extending its lead to six. It did so without recording a single hit, drawing two walks, an RBI hit by pitch, and benefitting from two Blue Hen errors.

In that third inning, Nick Dunn, Marty Costes, Kevin Biondic and AJ Lee all drove in runs. Their at bats? A fielder’s choice, a hit by pitch, a groundout, and a sacrifice fly, respectively.

With a steady lead, freshman Mark DiLuia faltered in the bottom half of the frame, allowing Delaware to  respond with five of its own. After he struggled in his last midweek start, also against Delaware, DiLuia’s control betrayed him once again, as he walked three Blue Hens, hit a batter, and threw a wild pitch.

Head coach Rob Vaughn kept the right-hander on the hill for the fourth inning — he tossed a scoreless frame — but elected to give the ball to his bullpen to attempt to close the game.

After a pair of scoreless inning from Mike Vasturia, Elliot Zoellner entered the game and was unable to escape an eighth inning jam. A leadoff walk to Austin Niggebrugge plagued “The Fuzz,” who then allowed a sacrifice, single and groundout that brought Niggebrugge home.

From there, Scott’s homer was enough to help Delaware secure the season sweep of its I-95 rival.

Similar to their series opener against Bryant this past week, the Terps inability to drive home baserunners was their downfall. As a team, Maryland finished 0-for-10 with runners on base, including 0-for-8 with a runner in scoring position.

The Terps will look to bounce back with a weekend and will have a chance to make a statement in the process. Vaughn’s team heads to East Carolina for a three-game set against the 18th-ranked Pirates.