by John Vittas
Nebraska’s Jake Placzek bounced the throw on a potential double play ball, allowing Kevin Smith to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, as No. 17 Maryland (22-7) walked off with a 6-5 win against No. 18 Nebraska (23-10) at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium in College Park Sunday.
The win completed a sweep of the Cornhuskers, a team that had won 15 of 16 entering the weekend. Maryland scored 22 runs on 31 hits in three games this weekend against a Nebraska team that had entered the weekend as the Big Ten’s top pitching staff and defense. The Terps scored runs off of five different Nebraska pitchers that entered the series with season ERAs below three.
The Terps completed their third comeback of five runs or more Sunday. They fell behind 5-0 when Kevin Smith dropped a popup with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning.
“It’s tough to let the team down like that,” Smith said. “It definitely hurts, but you have teammates backing you up with big hits.”
The big hits began in the fourth inning when Maryland catcher Kevin Martir homered to left center. Jamal Wade delivered a home run of his own in the fifth, making it 5-2.
“I struggled in the beginning of the year swinging at bad pitches out of the zone,” Wade said. “I’ve worked on having a better approach and working the count a little bit.”
With two outs in the sixth, Anthony Papio doubled to the left field corner to make it 5-3. Papio’s hit knocked Nebraska starting pitcher Derek Burkamper out of the game after he had only allowed two hits through the first five innings.
After Jamal Wade singled to begin the seventh inning, Kevin Smith came through with two outs and Wade at first. He drove an 0-1 fastball over the left center field wall to tie the game at five.
“I knew we had a guy at second and I just wanted to get a good pitch to hit,” Smith said. “I just put a good swing on it and at the end of the day, special things happen when you play for your team.”
“The thing I’m most happy about is that we came back against a very, very good bullpen,” head coach John Szefc said. “That’s an even better thing than we’ve done in the past.”
Alex Robinson came in to throw two scoreless innings of relief for the Terrapins, getting a key strikeout to escape an eighth-inning jam. The Maryland bullpen tossed six scoreless innings to facilitate the comeback. Zach Morris and Rob Galligan also turned in two scoreless innings apiece.
With the game still tied in the ninth, Smith led off with an infield single which was followed by a hit to left by Martir. With one out, Jose Cuas grounded one to Placzek, who skipped the throw past first baseman Scott Schreiber which would have ended the inning.
Instead, the Terps walked off with the win and the sweep of No. 18 Nebraska. It was the first time Nebraska lost a game after leading through six innings this season – they were 18-0 before Sunday. On the other hand, Maryland is now 10-0 at home.
“It’s hard to play on the road in general, but it’s harder to play in this place.You don’t know what to expect,” Szefc said about Shipley Field in College Park. “It can be a hitter’s park one day, and not so much the next. But our guys are used to it.”
Maryland will look to extend their winning streak to five games when they host West Virginia (18-11) on Tuesday. MBN will be live from College Park for a 4pm. first pitch.