By Chris Rogers
Behind a strong pitching performance from Tayler Stiles and an offensive outburst, the Terps (12-12) defeated the visiting VCU Rams (16-8) Tuesday, 8-1, in the first game of a home-and-home series that will continue Wednesday in Richmond.
Stiles, who has struggled to begin the season, bounced back well from previous starts, scattering seven hits over seven shutout innings. Meanwhile, the Terps offense that managed just six runs in three games over the weekend came out strong early, scoring eight runs in the first four innings to give Stiles a healthy cushion.
“It’s huge,” Stiles said of the early runs. “You’re just more relaxed when you’re out there with a lead.”
The Terps struck for one in the bottom of the first, when Nick Cieri’s groundout to second scored Kevin Smith from third. They broke out in the second however, batting around and scoring five runs. Anthony Papio walked with one out and Dan Maynard followed with a sharp single to left. They moved up to second and third on a double steal, and Andrew Bechtold drove in the game’s second run on a slow-rolling infield single to short. After a sharp lineout by Nickens, Smith singled in Maynard, and Nick Dunn followed with an RBI double to left. Cieri then drove in his second and third runs of the game with a line drive single down the line in right to extend the lead to 6-0. One batter later, Marty Costes singled, which signaled the exit for Rams starter Jack Alkire (1-1), who went just 1.2 innings and allowed five earned runs.
In the fourth, Nick Dunn led off with another double to left center and Maynard reached on a two-out walk. This set things up for Papio, who hit a ball off the wall in right for a two-run triple to give Maryland an 8-0 lead.
This was more than enough for Stiles, who picked up his second win in his longest outing of the year. He struck out just two, but kept hitters off balance all afternoon, and got help from a solid defense behind him.
“That’s really what we needed,” Szefc said of his starter’s performance Tuesday. “Your team works off its starting pitching. If you get a good start, you’ve got a good chance to win.”
John Murphy came on in relief in the eighth and surrendered the only VCU run of the game on a sac fly by Cody Acker. He managed to work out of a two out, two on jam, however, to limit the damage. Zach Guth pitched a perfect ninth to secure the win and get the Terps back to .500 on the season.
Maryland has a quick turnaround, as they travel to Richmond Wednesday to play VCU again in a make-up game for the Feb. 24 rainout.
Notes: Every starter in the Maryland lineup had at least one hit. Nick Dunn had three hits to raise his average to .340 on the year. He leads the team with 32 hits and eight doubles. Stiles lowered his ERA by nearly two runs, from 7.23 to 5.26.