By Ben Harris
The Terrapins got the midweek monkey off their back Tuesday, winning a weekday contest for the first time in 2016. The Terps (10-10) tied their season-high midweek run total in a 10-9 win over the visiting Liberty Flames (13-10).
The story of Maryland’s season thus far has been the stark contrast between their weekend success and weekday struggles. Heading into today, the Terps three-headed monster atop the starting rotation makes three-game weekend sets extremely difficult for opponents; Mike Shawaryn (30.1 innings), Taylor Bloom (37) and Brian Shaffer (28.2) each hold sub-3.00 ERAs, but reliable midweek arms have been few and far between for head coach John Szefc.
The pitching staff has given up just 57 runs in 15 weekend games, but allowed 50 runs in only four weekday contests heading into Tuesday’s game against Liberty. After a short 3.1 inning outing for Tayler Stiles – five hits, four earned runs – a hoard of relievers secured the win, not allowing a run between the fourth and seventh innings.
Maryland struggled with runners on base early, hitting just 1-9 through their first four innings. Liberty went 6-17 with runners on to begin the game, working their way to a 4-1 lead on a Jack Morris three-run homer in the fourth.
Freshman catcher Dan Maynard took full advantage of his second start on the year igniting the Terrapin offense. In the fourth, he lofted a foul ball down the line toward the Third Base Grill. Liberty third baseman Josh Barrick drifted over, found the low fence and reached over the wall to make an inning ending play. However, despite coming up with the catch, an unlatched section of the wall had swung open as Barrick leaned on it, causing the third baseman to fall out of play. By rule, a player who exits the field of play can’t record an out.
“Coaches are always stressing staying on the fastball,” Maynard said of his mindset after the foul ball. “And that’s what I was, locked into that plan. I got a new life and took advantage of the opportunity I got.”
With newfound life, the freshman roped a two-strike RBI double to left scoring Andrew Bechtold and Kevin Biondic bringing the Terps within one. In 11 at bats, he’s hitting a whopping .545 with five RBIs.
“He’s a big part of the future here behind the plate,” said Szefc after Maynard’s impressive performance. “He’s a catcher who can hit and it’s hard to find catchers who can hit. He’s definitely one of those guys.”
The following inning, Madison Nickens doubled off the wall in right to lead off the home half of the fifth. Liberty reliever Thomas Simpson got Nick Dunn to groundout, but walked the next two batters. Simpson, who eventually earned the loss, was pulled for Caleb Evans who walked Kevin Biondic, plating Nickens to tie the score. The very next pitch, Anthony Papio blooped a single to no man’s land in left, giving Maryland it’s first lead of the day.
In the sixth, Maynard sparked the Terps offense for a second time. After connecting for his second hit of the evening, head coach John Szefc sent in fellow freshman Peyton Sorrels to pinch run. Sorrels would score two batters later on a Nickens single to right to give Maryland a 6-4 lead. Three straight Terps would single, followed by a two-run homer off the bat of Kevin Biondic. The sophomore’s third long ball on the year put Maryland in front 10-4 and proved to be the game’s winning run. It all began with Maynard.
Maryland hit .300 or over in four key offensive categories: overall (.333), two outs (.300), with runners on base (.350) and with runners in scoring position (.375).
Terps leading off an inning went 6-8 (Maryland didn’t hit in the bottom of the ninth).
“We walk up and we’re ready to hit that’s part of our plan,” said Maynard of his club’s offensive approach. “If we see first pitch fastball we’re going to attack, we’re in attack mode. We’re not walking up to the plate and being passive and working our way into two strike counts. If we see something we can hit we’re going to get after it. It’s just a mindset.”
Szefc and Co. enter Big Ten play this weekend riding a three game winning streak, highlighted by two wins over then-23rd ranked Cal State Fullerton.
“We’re making progress, some days are prettier than others,” said Szefc. “But you just have to hang in there. We’ve had really good performances in general from Friday and over the last five days against good teams in tight situations.”
Notes: Sophomore Andrew Green notched his first win of the season. Maryland pitchers battled from the stretch for the better part of the evening, stranding two Liberty runners on base in the six of the nine innings (13 total). Nick Dunn reached base on an infield single Tuesday, and has still reached base in every game this season (20).