By Dan Servodidio
Maryland’s border rivalry with West Virginia came to the diamond on Tuesday as the Mountaineers visited College Park for a mid-week matchup of non-conference foes. The Terps (23-7) beat the Mountaineers (18-12), 12-7, to come away with their fifth win in a row and preserve an unbeaten home record.
Facing a 3-1 deficit in the fourth inning, the Terps’ offense exploded to put Szefc’s No. 16 squad up for good. They scored seven runs in the frame on seven hits, including RBI doubles by Kevin Martir, Jose Cuas and Anthony Papio.
“Sometimes it just takes one guy to jumpstart the offense,” said the right fielder Papio, who had three hits on the day. “Once we get rolling, we’re a pretty dangerous team. Usually it just takes that one guy and sometimes we get some momentum going.”
With the Mountaineers threatening late in the game, the Terps’ lead dwindled to just two after seven innings. However, as they’ve done all year, the Big Ten’s most potent offense rallied and made sure the lead was safe.
To the tune of a three-run eighth inning, the Terps never relinquished their lead, going ahead 12-7 for good. Martir, who had a hot weekend in the team’s sweep of Nebraska, launched a towering two-run homer down the left field line that drew oohs and ahhs from the Maryland faithful at Shipley Field.
The middle infield tandem also went yard on Tuesday. Shortstop Kevin Smith and second baseman Brandon Lowe both hit solo home runs to add to the Terps’ offensive surge. For Lowe, it’s his conference- and team-leading eighth homer of the season as the sophomore has continued to stay hot at the plate.
“Hits come in bunches, that’s just how baseball is,” Martir said. “Especially with this offense, once someone starts it up, it just sparks and it just keeps going from there.”
“That’s kinda what we’ve done all year,” Papio said. “In the middle innings, towards the end of the game, that’s when we’ve been putting up our runs for whatever reason this year.”
The win gives Maryland an 11-0 record at home so far this season, three of which came against No. 18 Nebraska over the weekend.
“The more we play, I think the better we get,” said coach John Szefc after the victory. “That’s probably one of the more stronger offenses we’ve seen this year. You just wouldn’t expect to be playing it on a Tuesday.”
A unique occurrence came in the eighth inning as reliever Zach Morris threw to his younger brother and Terps’ catcher, Justin – the first time the siblings have teamed up this season. Justin, a freshman, came to College Park as a highly rated prospect out of DeMatha Catholic where he last caught Zach, a junior, in an organized game three years ago.
“That’s a cool thing,” Szefc said. “You don’t see it too much at a high level of baseball with one brother throwing to the other.”
“That’s awesome,” Martir said of the Morris brothers’ opportunity. “Pitching to your little brother must be pretty cool.”
The Terps are back in action on Wednesday as they take on George Washington in another non-conference matchup. The Maryland Baseball Network will have the call for you with the first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m.