by John Vittas
No. 22 Maryland (25-10) scored three runs in the ninth inning to take their first lead of the game and beat Liberty (23-14) on their home field 6-4.
After the first two batters were quickly retired in ninth, it appeared the Terps were heading home losers. But junior catcher Kevin Martir kept the Maryland hopes alive when he lined a double to center that was almost caught to end the game. The Flames then botched a Jose Cuas grounder to keep the door open for Maryland.
Down to their final strike for the second time, Anthony Papio came through. Papio singled sharply to left field to score Martir and tie the game at four. Maryland had trailed 4-0.
“I got down to two strikes and I was just trying to do everything I could to put a ball in play and it happened to scoot through the infield,” Papio said. “I was just trying to see the ball deep and I got a changeup that I drove through the six hole.”
“Cuas and Papio were down to their last strike in the ninth,” head coach John Szefc said. “Both guys hung in there and put the ball in play. We just toughed it out.”
After Tim Lewis was hit by a pitch, freshman outfielder Kengo Kawahara worked out a walk to give Maryland their first lead of the day. Kawahara drew four walks and drove home two runs while making his first career start in left field.
Justin Morris also drew a run-scoring free pass, as the Terps went on to win 6-4.
“It’s all of us not trying to do too much and staying within ourselves,” Kawahara said. “When we’re down in high pressure situations, we stay within the zone and see what happens.”
“I was just happy for our guys. This is a tough day,” Szefc said. “Our guys just never gave in. Our bullpen was tremendous.”
The Maryland bullpen was again spectacular and kept the Terrapins in the game after starter Bobby Ruse allowed four runs in two and two-thirds innings. The combination of Ryan Selmer, Jake Drossner, Alex Robinson, Zach Morris and Kevin Mooney combined to give the Terps six and one-third shutout innings.
Mooney struck out the side in the ninth to extend his school record to 26 saves. Morris earned the win to improve to 3-1.
“They threw their best guys at us. We beat their best guys,” said Szefc. “It’s a good win for our team to feel good going into this weekend against Fullerton.”
“It was great, it was definitely a team win,” Kawahara added. “In that last inning, it was everybody setting eachother up, passing it from one guy to another and everything fell into place.”
“We’ve been good coming from behind all year, and that was another good one for us,” Papio said. “I think that’s going to give us a little bit of momentum going into this weekend against a good Fullerton team.”
Maryland will return home to take on historical powerhouse Cal State Fullerton (19-16) this weekend. First pitch of the series opener is scheduled for 7pm on Friday and can be heard live on the Maryland Baseball Network.
John Szefc after the win:
The heroes, Anthony Papio and Kengo Kawahara: