Maryland hangs on to beat Maine, 5-3, sweeping doubleheader

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The third inning was the fall-apart point in right-hander Zach Thompson’s first-career  start for Maryland last week against No. 21 Coastal Carolina. But in Friday’s 5-3 win over Maine in the second half of a doubleheader, it was what propelled him to a complete turnaround performance.

Last weekend, Thompson hit a batter and allowed a single to begin the third frame. He induced a double play but then allowed three consecutive two-out hits in what became a three-run inning as the Chanticleers pulled away for a 7-2 win.

In his second outing against a struggling Black Bears offense, Thompson once again allowed a leadoff baserunner in the third, And again, Thompson induced a ground-ball double play. This time, though, Thompson got the pivotal third out by striking out third baseman Danny Casals, who proceeded to get ejected.

The junior starter wouldn’t allow another hit until the seventh inning, when he gave up two runs, but his strong start allowed Maryland to hang on to sweep Friday’s doubleheader and earn a winning record for the first time this season.

After Thompson stranded a runner in scoring position in the top of the first, his offense provided immediate run support in the bottom half of the frame with a successful two-out rally.

Third baseman Taylor Wright walked and catcher Justin Vought placed a perfect bunt single down the third-base line to extend Maryland’s first trip to the plate. Designated hitter Maxwell Costes fell behind in the count, 1-2, but then fouled off four straight pitches before driving a two-run double into the right-center gap.

But unlike the first game of the doubleheader, when starter Hunter Parsons needed zero run support to win his first game of the season, Thompson would eventually need more than those two runs to claim his.

With right fielder Randy Bednar on second base in the third inning and Vought at the plate, the base runner broke for third. As he slid into third safely, the throw from catcher Cody Pasic sailed into the outfield and allowed Bednar to scamper home for another Terps run.

Maryland’s lead grew to 4-0 — the final score from Game 1 — as center fielder Chris Alleyne’s first hit of the season went up the middle for an RBI single. But the Black Bears wouldn’t go down with the same little fight from earlier in the day.

After 15 scoreless innings to start the series, Maine finally chased Thompson out of the game with two runs in the seventh. Designated hitter Colin Ridley drove in a run on a ground out, and left fielder Jake Roper singled in the next at-bat to cut the deficit to 4-2.

Right-hander Elliot Zoellner relieved Thompson with two outs in the seventh, stranding the inherited runner in scoring position. While Maine cut its deficit in half, Terps first baseman Michael Pineiro got one back after the seventh-inning stretch with his own RBI single.

The Black Bears kept the contest competitive, scoring again the eighth and getting the game-tying run on first base with one out in the inning. But left-hander Sean Fisher got catcher Ryan Turenne to line out, and Pineiro stepped on first to complete an inning-ending double play to preserve the 5-3 lead.

Junior right-hander Nick Turnbull came on in the ninth and worked around a leadoff walk to clinch the doubleheader sweep and the series victory with the finale scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Maryland shuts out Maine, 4-0, in home opener

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When Maryland starting pitcher Hunter Parsons entered the dugout after escaping a jam against Maine, he exchanged handshakes with his Terps teammates, who had just witnessed the right-hander toss eight scoreless innings in only 99 pitches.

Maryland’s first two hits of the game each drove in a run, while the Black Bears — one week after getting no-hit to open the season — didn’t record their first hit off Parsons until there were two outs in the fifth.

Right fielder Randy Bednar launched his first homer of the season over the batter’s eye in center field to put Maryland up 1-0 in the first —  the only offense Parsons needed to secure his first win of the season.

Maryland only finished the front end of Friday’s doubleheader with six hits, but opportunistic offense and a strong start from Parsons powered the team to a 4-0 shutout win in its home opener with ease. The Terps have now won eight of their last nine home openers.

Parsons had a solid start last weekend in his first appearance of the season, but allowing four hits, walking three and hitting two batters wasn’t the standard start for the right-hander’s breakout season in 2018.

The senior’s outing against Maine mirrored starts closer to last year’s than the one from a week ago. Parsons went eight innings, only allowed three hits striking out five without conceding a run.

Parsons began his performance with three weak ground balls, two of which went to himself. That fast start carried over into the bottom of the first, when Bednar caused the dugout to erupt with a solo blast to earn a quick lead.

In the bottom of the third, a routine fly ball to right field proved to be an important play when left fielder Caleb Walls tagged up from first to put himself in scoring position with two outs. Wright — the next hitter — perfectly placed a single up the middle to create a multi-run lead still early in the contest.

Shortstop AJ Lee’s sacrifice fly in the fourth and a Black Bears error in the fifth gave the Terps a 4-0 lead, as the Terps plated one run in four of the first five innings. That advantage felt mighty comfortable in the midst of Parsons’ dominant start.

Maine started a rally with two straight singles to begin the eighth inning, but Maryland’s ace finished his home debut strong. Parsons got out of the frame with a sacrifice bunt, a strikeout and a ground out — as he ended his afternoon one inning shy of a complete game shutout.

Closer John Murphy relieved Parson and completed that shutout, working around a two-out single to seal the first home win of the season, and start Maryland’s first winning streak of the 2019 campaign.

Series Preview: Maine Black Bears

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Maryland will hold its home opener before March rolls around for the third time in the last four years, setting up another year of unpredictable early-season baseball oftentimes affected by the weather.

In 2016, Maryland took two of three from Rhode Island in a highly competitive first home weekend at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium. Last season, Army came into College Park and shocked the Terps with a series win.

The Terps are coming off a 1-2 weekend in the Brittain Resorts Invitational, where they had a real opportunity to begin the season with a winning record. While head coach Rob Vaughn said he would’ve liked to see a second win, he learned a lot about his team and what it needs to work on moving forward.

Maryland has already used different 16 pitchers through the first three games, more than the 14 that took the mound last year. That depth allowed the coaching staff to have short leases on struggling arms, and to see which pitchers to rely on moving forward.

Nine different relievers didn’t concede an earned run in the opening weekend. Freshmen Sean Heine, Will Glock and Daniel O’Connor shined in their respective one-plus inning outings. Junior transfer Nick Turnbull was arguably the best arm out of the bullpen.

Sophomore Randy Bednar was the story of the weekend on offense. He was one of two Terps to record a hit in all three games. His two-run hit against Coastal Carolina accounted for the team’s only scoring production. He had two RBI singles against VCU, including the game-winner.

Third baseman Taylor Wright and junior transfer Caleb Walls also stood out, both matching Bednar’s four-hit weekend. Walls hit the first home run of the season last Friday against Campbell. Designated hitter Maxwell Costes was the only freshman with a multi-hit weekend.

The series is now a doubleheader on Friday starting at 1 p.m. because of inclement weather on Saturday, while the series finale is still scheduled for Sunday.

Maine Black Bears (0-4, 0-0 America East)

Last season

The Black Bears went 12-12 in conference before winning a pair of games in their conference tournament. But Maine lost twice to Stony Brook to miss out on an NCAA tournament berth. In the offseason, the team’s best two players in shortstop Jeremy Pena and catcher Christopher Bec were selected in the first five rounds of the MLB Draft.

This season

Maine is projected to finish fourth in its conference and struggled against a national powerhouse in No. 13 Florida State during the opening weekend. The Black Bears lost by at least eight runs in three of the four contests, while losing 6-5 in seven innings on a walk-off in the fourth game.

Hitters to watch

Senior infielder Danny Casals went just 2-for-12 to start the year, but he’s one of the best returning players to the Black Bears. He hit .304 with a team-leading 14 home runs and 49 RBIs. He played for the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod Baseball League last summer, hitting .217 with three homers.

Junior infielder Hernen Sardinas also hit over .300 for Maine last season, earning conference second team honors. He was the only player to appear in all 54 games. He picked up a team-leading three hits last weekend against Florida State.

Relievers to watch

Junior southpaw Trevor DeLaite has already shown vast improvement from his 8.61 ERA last season. In 3 2/3 innings last weekend, he only allowed one hit while striking out seven Seminoles in two appearances. He was one of two Black Bears with multiple outings during the opening weekend.

Freshman Nicholas Sinacola had the best weekend on the mound for Maine. He shined in a five-inning bullpen appearance, not allowing a hit while striking out five. The only two base runners he allowed were via two walks he mixed into his performance. None of the team’s four starters even lasted more than 3 1/3 innings.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Sr. RHP Hunter Parsons (0-0, 3.60 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Cody Laweryson (0-1, 12.00 ERA)

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Parsons wasn’t as dominant last weekend as he had been most of last season. He gave up two home runs, half as many as he allowed in 2018. But overall, Parsons did enough to win the game. He only allowed two earned over five innings. He did walk two three batters and hit two. Still, it was a much better outing than his first one as a junior — a one-inning, eight-run appearance.

Laweryson only started in four games last season, but now he’s the Friday arm for the Black Bears. The right-hander allowed four earned runs in only three innings. Three of the five hits he allowed were extra-base hits. The junior did work a 3.42 ERA in 52 2/3 innings a season ago.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 4:00 p.m. ET

Jr. RHP Zach Thompson (0-1, 12.27) vs. So. RHP Peter Kemble (0-0, 8.10 ERA)

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Thompson got roughed up in his Maryland debut, allowing five runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings of work. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though. The junior was making his first Division I appearance in a true road game against the No. 21-ranked team in the country on opening weekend. He got hurt when he fell behind in the count against Coastal Carolina’s potent offense, something that he’ll look to improve in start No. 2.

Kemble lasted the longest of Maine’s four starters last weekend against Florida State. It was only 3 1/3 innings, though. He allowed three runs on four hits and walked five hitters. The righty had an 8.78 ERA in only 13.1 innings as a freshman. Only two of his nine appearances were starts.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

TBA vs. TBA

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Maryland beats VCU, 5-3, for 1st win of the season

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When outfielder Randy Bednar shot a single through the left side of the infield to give Maryland baseball a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth against VCU, he looked far removed from the freshman that only hit .208 last season.

In the first two games in the Brittain Resorts Invitational, Bednar doubled and walked three times against Campbell and then delivered a two-run single against Coastal Carolina that accounted for all of the team’s scoring.

The RBI single off Rams reliever Sam Ryan gave Bednar a hit in all three games of the opening weekend — one that eventually became the game-winning moment against VCU to give Maryland its first win of the 2019 season.

Before Maryland held on for a 5-3 win — avoiding the program’s first 0-3 start since 2013 — Bednar had driven in another run to add to his promising first weekend as a sophomore.

“Randy’s just flipped the script,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “… He was on base all weekend. He took his walks when they were willing to not get in the zone to him and then had two really massive RBIs for us today with two outs.”

Left fielder Caleb Walls and Bednar began the game with a single and walk, respectively, setting the Terps up for a fast start. After third baseman Taylor Wright successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt, designated hitter Maxwell Costes put Maryland up 1-0 with a sacrifice fly.

The small ball continued two innings later with the score tied. Wright laid down a safety squeeze that scored a run to gain another one-run advantage — a bunt that ended with him standing on first base safely.

When the Rams eventually took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth, it was the result of three Maryland mistakes. To that point, VCU’s runs came on a bases-loaded hit by pitch, a wild pitch and a failed pickoff attempt.

But the Terps wouldn’t continue those miscues for the remainder of the weekend finale, something Bednar feels is imperative moving forward.

“If we can eliminate the little things and take care of what we can take care of,” Bednar said, “… I think that’s when we’re going to be really successful. It kind of showed today.”

Starting pitcher Tyler Blohm, still working his way back from an injury suffered last season, threw exactly 40 pitches in 2 1/3 innings before the bullpen worked together to finish off the game.

Maryland used six relievers, three of which threw multiple times this weekend, to follow Blohm’s planned abbreviated start. The final five relievers didn’t concede a single run, shutting the Rams out over the last five innings. The Terps have already used more pitchers this season than all of the 2018 campaign.

“Our strength with this staff is not necessarily in straight up stuff,” Vaughn said. “It’s in the army of guys we have down there.”

That infantry stepped up in huge situations on Sunday, starting when junior Nick Turnbull entered in the fifth inning with two runners on base and one out in his Maryland debut. He allowed a single but stranded the bases loaded before working a perfect inning in the sixth.

In the seventh, VCU put two more runners on base still trailing by only one run. Freshman Will Glock, who had pitched the day earlier, came in during the high-pressure situation and struck out the only batter he faced.

After Bednar added insurance in the eighth inning, VCU put the tying runs on base in its last two trips to the plate. But in closer John Murphy’s season debut, the senior survived a six-out save to secure the victory and salvage the weekend with a win.

“We would’ve loved to leave here more than 1-2 and flip that a little bit, Vaughn said. “But at the end of the day we’re learning, getting better and got a lot to work on this week.”

 

 

 

No. 21 Coastal Carolina spoils Zach Thompson’s Maryland pitching debut

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In the bottom of the third inning, with runners on the corners and no outs for No. 21 Coastal Carolina, Maryland pitching coach Corey Muscara took a trip to the mound to settle down his starter.

In the midst of his Maryland debut, junior Zach Thompson was one poor pitch away from letting the game slip away against one of the best teams the Terps will face all season.

But the right-hander induced a huge double play after talking with his coach, and while a run scored to make it 2-0, Thompson was now only one out from escaping a potentially fatal inning without much damage.

Instead, the Chanticleers’ high-powered offense still tacked on two more runs in the frame using two of their three two-out RBI hits to earn a 7-2 victory over Maryland.

Thompson arrived in College Park before last season after transferring from St. Mary’s College (Md.). And while he was one of the best pitchers during fall practices in 2017, head coach Rob Vaughn was unable to use him during the season due to rules regarding transferring from a DIII school.

But the Maryland native’s long-awaited debut didn’t go as planned after earning the No. 2 starting role to begin the 2019 season. The Chanticleers, who dropped a game to Maryland a season ago, tagged Thompson for five runs on nine hits in less than four innings.

With the loss, the Terps drop to 0-2 for the second time in three years.

While Thompson struggled, Maryland’s bullpen only conceded one earned run in the game as a trio of other debuts went more successfully. Freshman Daniel O’Connor didn’t allow an earned run in 1 1/3 innings of work, while freshmen Will Glock and Andrew Vail combined to throw a scoreless seventh inning.

Even though the relievers kept the game respectable, Maryland’s offense couldn’t replicate the positive signs shown on Friday in the season opener. The Terps only managed four hits and went 3-for-17 with men on base.

The only real success for the Terps with runners on came while trailing 7-0 in the seventh inning.  After loading the bases with a hit by pitch and two walks, Maryland’s only two runs came from a two-out, bases-loaded single from center fielder Randy Bednar.

The Terps lineup missed sophomore catcher Justin Vought, who smashed a home run in Friday’s game but exited the contest after getting hit with a pitch behind the plate in extras. He’s in concussion protocol and will also miss the final game of the opening weekend on Sunday against VCU.

 

 

Maryland squanders early lead, drops season-opener to Campbell in extras

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When sophomore catcher Justin Vought blasted a two-run homer to give Maryland baseball a 4-0 lead early in its season-opener against Campbell, it appeared the Terps would cruise to their first win of year.

Many question marks followed the team into the new season after the program lost several seniors and four players — including two commits — to the MLB Draft. Yet, three innings into the season, that seemed insignificant.

Fighting Camels starter Michael Horrell allowed two home runs in the first three frames with his pitch count quickly rising. Meanwhile, his counterpart Hunter Parsons only gave up one hit through his first three innings coming off a breakout junior campaign.

But the momentum completely flipped once Campbell finally got the board, scoring 10 of the game’s final 12 runs to hand Maryland an extra-innings 10-6 loss to start the 2019 campaign.

The first four hitters in Maryland’s order carried the Terps offense, picking up seven of the team’s eight hits, scoring all six runs and working five walks. The rest of the order couldn’t follow suit, finishing the day a combined 1-for-20 with eight strikeouts.

Leadoff hitter Caleb Walls started his Maryland career 2-for-2 after transferring in the offseason. He touched home plate to score the first run of the season in the first inning, and then delivered the team’s first homer of the season the following frame. He scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to force extras.

Vought, who earned the starting catcher role, homered in the third and drove in three runs from the cleanup spot. Third baseman Taylor Wright led the Terps with three hits, but other than those few standouts, Maryland couldn’t generate enough offense in what became a failed comeback effort.

Parsons allowed a solo shot in the fourth, giving the Camels their first run of the game. That started a streak of four consecutive innings that Campbell scored. The ace exited the game with two runs allowed in five innings, and with the Terps up 5-2, looked poised to earn the win.

Unfortunately for Parsons, Maryland’s bullpen fell flat and couldn’t hold the advantage. An error in the sixth forced an unearned run upon freshman right-hander Sean Heine in his debut. And although lefty Sean Fisher stranded the bases loaded in the sixth, he then conceded the go-ahead runs in the seventh.

Right-hander Elliot Zoellner didn’t concede a hit through two innings, allowing Maryland to scratch across the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth without recording a hit in the frame. But Zoellner’s success faded in extras, and Campbell scored four times to squash the comeback attempt.