Maryland had struggled with allowing the big inning in its first two games, but on Sunday it was the Terps’ turn to take control of a game with a crooked number in one frame.
The No. 22 Terrapins sent 11 hitters to the plate in a six-run fourth inning that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 8-3 lead and withstood a furious ninth-inning comeback for a 9-7 win over Alabama State Sunday at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida.
Shortstop Kevin Smith started the Terrapin rally with his first hit of the season to lead off the fourth, a single to center field. Catcher Danny Maynard drove him in with a soft single and then Maynard scored on an error by Hornet second baseman Oscar Prioleau to put Maryland (1-2) in front 4-3.
Most of the damage in the inning came with two outs. With runners on second and third, Marty Costes singled sharply to center field, driving in a pair of runs. First baseman Brandon Gum followed with a rocket off the glove of first baseman Gustavo Rios that turned into a double. DH Nick Cieri then finished the scoring in the inning with a single over Rios’s head to drive in two more. The two-out hits were hugely important for a Maryland team that had left 25 runners on base in the first two games.
Costes and Gum were the leaders of a potent Terrapin offensive attack that collected 12 hits, including three of the extra-base variety, and four walks. The sophomore Costes went 3-for-4 with a triple, a walk, and two runs scored. He had six hits overall this weekend.
Gum has been a revelation in his first two starts with the Terps. He went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI and added two stolen bases, as well. The transfer from George Mason hit .500 in the tournament.
“I was honestly just taking what was given to me,” said Gum, who hit fourth for the first time since high school. “I’m going to have the same approach no matter where I am in the lineup.”
Maryland Head Coach John Szefc praised Gum’s intelligence and his ability to spot nuances on the field that normally take far more experience to notice. He told a story from practice last Tuesday in which Gum noticed a slight change in pitcher’s body positioning that allowed him get a great jump off of first base.
“Even though he hasn’t been in our program, he’s a very smart college baseball player,” Szefc said of Gum. “He sees things that I think coaches sometimes see…He’s a really good offensive player and probably one of our best baserunners.”
Meanwhile, the Terrapins’ pitching staff also had a good day, limiting the Hornets (0-3) to six hits and two walks before the ninth. Alabama State scored three in the second to take a 3-0 lead, but were largely shut down until the ninth.
Freshman left-hander Tyler Blohm got his first start as a Terp and pitched well, throwing five innings and allowing just those three runs. He retired the side in order in three of his five innings and needed just 78 pitches to pick up the win. The Archbishop Spalding product struck out four and walked two while surrendering five hits.
“I don’t think he had his best stuff consistently,” Szefc said of Blohm. “His breaking ball kind of came and went at times, but he made big pitches when he had to and he adjusted as the game went. Really good first efficient outing for him.”
Catcher Danny Maynard, who had an up-close look at Blohm’s first time on the mound in college, came away impressed with his inaugural performance.
“I think he showed a lot of poise,” said Maynard, who cited Blohm’s 1-2-3 inning after Maryland scored to close a 3-0 gap to 3-1 as a particular moment he was impressed with the freshman. “When things started to go downhill for him in the second, he stood up on the mound with good mound presence, he didn’t really show a lot of emotion and he just kept attacking guys.
“Coach Szefc talks all the time about limiting the big inning and preventing the big inning and for him to come out in his first start and do that, I think really shows a lot about what kind of pitcher he is.”
Maynard added some high praise for Blohm’s raw pitching ability.
“When he attacks guys, he’s as good of an arm as we have on our team.” he said.
Junior Ryan Selmer relieved Blohm to start the sixth and put any thoughts of a Hornet comeback to rest with three straight scoreless innings. The right-hander looked very sharp, allowing just one baserunner, a harmless single in the eighth, and striking out three, all swinging.
“He’s going to be one of our better arms out of the bullpen,” Szefc said of Selmer. “From experience perspective, and just his stuff, he’ll usually be in the game when it matters.”
Alabama State mounted a final rally in the ninth, scoring four times off Mike Rescigno in the senior’s first appearance of the season. Tayler Stiles got one out and then left-hander Andrew Miller came in and got the final two for his first career save. The Hornets sent nine hitters to the plate in the inning.
“Sometimes winning a game the way that thing ended actually can be a blessing at times,” Szefc said. “It was a blessing for Andrew Miller. He really established himself this weekend, which was important for him and important for us.”
Chase Laney pitched well on the Hornets side, throwing 3.1 innings without allowing a run after the Terps’ big fourth inning. The 6-foot-4 junior allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out three. Alabama State starter Terrell McCall took the loss after allowing six runs (four earned) in 3.1 innings.
The Terps don’t have any midweek games so they’ll play next Friday at 7 p.m. ET in Baton Rouge, La. for the start of a three-game series against No. 5 LSU at Alex Box Stadium.