Defense Falters, Terps Head to Loser’s Bracket

By Ben Harris

Maryland’s infield defense didn’t wake up for their second straight early morning start, making three errors that led to two unearned runs that proved to be the difference in their loss to Michigan State Friday.

In Taylor Bloom’s second start in two weeks against the Spartans, his infield defense left much to be desired. Last Saturday, four Terrapin errors (three from Andrew Bechtold at third and one from Nick Dunn at second) gave Michigan State an extra innings 4-3 win.

The infield spread around the errors today in another 4-3 loss: a botched slow-roller by Dunn in the fourth and another on a hard hit one-hopper in the eighth to Kevin Smith both led to runs.

With the weather compressing the schedule, and creating the possibility of playing four games in the next two days, effective (and rested) combinations of batterymates can be few and far between for many teams.

But Maryland’s roster is well-suited for the postseason with three aces, an above-average good fourth starter in freshman Hunter Parsons, and two catchers to boot in Nick Cieri and Justin Morris.

John Szefc slotted Morris at catcher today and was immediately rewarded. The sophomore ended the top of the second by gunning down Marty Bechina attempting to steal second, following up his defensive effort with an RBI single through the right side in the bottom half of the inning to get the scoring started. Morris impressively gunned down Kris Simonton in the following inning on a 76 mph changeup from Bloom, his thirteenth runner caught stealing on the year.

Designated hitter Cieri continued to see the ball well against Landon after going 2-3 against him last Friday with two RBIs. Cieri reached base in each of his three at-bats against Landon (two walks and a single), scoring on Morris’ second-inning single.

After punishing the Terps from the leadoff spot last weekend—7-13, five runs, an RBI and two walks—Brandon Hughes was nullified by Bloom today, striking out looking in his first two at-bats. Keeping him off the bases for the entire day benefited Maryland two-fold: Hughes is the Spartans’ top base stealer (17 for 22) and stole three of his club’s four bases against Maryland last weekend.

Instead of utilizing their top weapon, Michigan State was forced to try and create runs with lesser base runners. Neither attempt was successful.

Senior Anthony Papio launched a solo homer in the fifth to give Maryland a 2-1 lead after having unsuccessfully attempted to bunt for a hit in his previous at-bat. The next inning, the Big Ten’s leading hitter Jordan Zimmerman (.386) matched Papio, taking Bloom deep to left for his ninth long ball of the season.

Bloom sported a line nearly identical to his outing Saturday against the Spartans. Today he allowed seven hits, four runs (two earned) with no walks and four strikeouts in 7.1 innings. Saturday, he surrendered seven hits, three runs (two earned) with no walks and three strikeouts in 6.2 innings.

Zimmerman proved too much for Maryland, going 2-5 with a clutch go-ahead RBI single two innings after his game-tying homer in the sixth.

When Joe Mockbee relieved Landon after seven innings, Cieri continued to thrive, greeting him with a two-out solo shot to right, his first home run since the Terps’ second series of the year (February 28 vs. Rhode Island).

The Terps nearly came back against star closer Dakota Mekkes in the ninth. Freshman Dan Maynard slapped a pinch-hit single to left before stealing second on a well-read slider in the dirt. However, Bechtold ripped a liner directly at the second baseman Dan Durkin who gloved it and took it to the bag, doubling off Maynard to end the frame.

Entering the loser’s bracket, Maryland will play later today due to yesterday’s rainout, facing an Indiana team playing on a full day’s rest after losing to the Terps on Wednesday.

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