Down three in the eighth, Nick Cieri came to the plate with a chance to be a hero. With men on first and second and one out, the senior catcher represented the tying run. After working a 1-1 count, he unloaded, driving the ball over the right-field wall to tie the game at 11. Zach Jancarski’s RBI single three batters later drove in the go-ahead run as Maryland rallied back to defeat the Richmond Spiders at home Tuesday, 12-11.
The Terps were plagued by defensive lapses for most of the game, tying a season high with five errors and surrendering nine unearned runs. But this was all erased on the four-run eighth-inning rally as Maryland (19-8) won its fourth straight contest.
The comeback started when Crumbs, the Terps’ rally squirrel, scampered past the on-deck circle as Brandon Gum went to bat in the eighth. Gum led off the inning with a single and Will Watson followed with a walk, setting the stage for Cieri’s game-tying shot.
“He’s been here since my freshman year, and we kind of look at him like a little bit of a rally squirrel,” Jancarski said of Crumbs. “Every time we’ve seen him in my years here, something good has happened.”
Looking for a solution to their midweek pitching struggles, the Terps sent right-hander John Murphy to the mound for his first start of the season Tuesday. He provided little relief, surrendering three runs in the first inning, but Maryland responded in the bottom of the inning. Jancarski and Nick Dunn both reached to open the frame, and after Jancarski was thrown out at home on Marty Costes’s single, Gum got the Terps on the board with a single of his own. Cieri’s bases loaded walk cut the deficit to one before Danny Maynard’s two-run single gave the Terps a 4-3 lead.
But the advantage was short lived, as things unraveled for Maryland in the second. Murphy lasted just 1.2 innings, exiting after surrendering a hit and a walk. Ryan Hill came on and appeared to work out of the jam unscathed, inducing a weak ground ball to second base. But Dunn’s throw skipped in the dirt, and Watson, making his first start of the season at first, couldn’t handle it, loading the bases with two away. The Spiders followed with four straight hits, including Jonathan De Marte’s second two-run double in as many innings, as they took a 9-4 lead.
Already facing a five-run deficit in the second inning, the Terps plated two more in the bottom of the frame, but missed an chance to add more. Jancarski scored from third on a wild pitch with two-out, and a walk to Gum and a single by Watson put two men on with two out. Madison Nickens followed with a line-drive single to right to score Gum, cutting the lead to 9-6. Watson was thrown out attempting to score on the play, the second Terp thrown out at home in two innings.
The Terps cut the deficit to 9-8 in the fifth when Maynard launched his first career home run, a two-run shot, over the wall in left-field, but they missed several other opportunities to get on the board.
In the third, Maynard singled with one out but was caught stealing. Hisle then drew a two-out walk but the Terps couldn’t extend the inning. In the sixth, now only down one, AJ Lee doubled and Maynard walked with two out. The Terps then executed the double steal, but Hisle struck out to end the frame.
Maryland coughed up two more unearned runs in the seventh, after Andrew Miller’s errant throw on a sacrifice bunt led one run to score and allowed the batter to reach third. Ryan Selmer came in to pitch for Miller, and uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop, allowing the second run to cross.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game in the world, and we did an awful lot to not win that game, but sometimes you win a lot of different ways,” Maryland Head Coach John Szefc said after the game. “We’re clearly a way better defensive team than we showed today. It was just one of those strange days.”
Down three in the eighth and running out of opportunities, Cieri’s game-tying homer gave the Terps new life. Hisle then doubled, his third hit in two games, and scored the winning run on Jancarski’s two-out frozen rope single to left.
“You just gotta be able to battle through that,” Cieri said of the team’s struggles early in the game. “It showed a lot of character in our team to be able to… pick ourselves up. I think this year, especially lately, the energy has been really good in our dugout, so even when things on the field aren’t going as good, our dugout gives us that boost.”
The Terps got scoreless appearances out of the bullpen from Jamal Wade, Mike Rescigno and Selmer (1-0), who worked three innings to pick up the win.
“Our bullpen did a really good job of holding the line; [Richmond] scored all their runs early, a lot of them unearned,” Szefc said of the relievers’ efforts. “Really, they threw seven innings and gave up two runs, and gave our team a chance to come back.”
The Terps will be back in action Friday when they travel to Nebraska for a three-game set with the Cornhuskers.