Lee homers and doubles as Terps offense returns to form in 8-5 win

Associate Head Coach Rob Vaughn said he wanted his team to “come out and score six in the first” Saturday, after a tough offensive night on Friday.

The Terps didn’t score a half-dozen runs in the opening inning,  but they did put up runs early and often.

Maryland pounded 12 hits, including a big RBI single in the seventh from left fielder Will Watson, en route to a series-evening 8-5 win over Nebraska at Haymarket Park in Lincoln.

The Terrapin offense got going right out of the gate as Zach Jancarski and Nick Dunn both singled to lead off the game. Later in the inning, Brandon Gum hit a hot shot through third baseman Luke Roskam for a RBI single to put Maryland in front. It was Gum’s 17th RBI of the season, second on the team.

Maryland (20-9, 6-2 Big Ten) only scored that single run in the first, but in the second, AJ Lee doubled that total when he led off the inning with a home run high over the left field wall to put the Terps ahead 2-0. It was the second home run of Lee’s Maryland career, both of which have come this season.

Starter Taylor Bloom struggled with his command, though, and let the Cornhuskers (18-11-1, 3-1-1) back in the game in the bottom of the second. Bloom started the inning with a walk and then hit a batter. Two more walks followed, forcing in a run. Cornhusker lead-off man Mojo Hagge then lined a single to right, scoring Roskam to knot the score at 2.

That was all for Bloom, who walked three in the inning. For comparison, he only walked nine hitters in all of 2016. Junior Ryan Hill relieved him and promptly hit shortstop Angelo Altavilla to force in a third run in the inning.

The 6-foot-1 Texan escaped further damage in the second and provided valuable innings in relief of Bloom. It was his team-leading 14th appearance, and one of his best, twirling 4 2/3 innings, allowing just one run and striking out five. His cutter was particularly moving well, darting down and away from right-handers. Hill got the win and is now 3-0.

With Hill was shutting down the Cornhusker offense, Maryland’s offense put together a rally of its own in the fourth. Watson led off and got hit by a pitch from Cornhusker starter Derek Burkamper. Nick Cieri walked to put two on, ending Burkamper’s day after 3-plus innings.

New pitcher Matt Waldron walked Lee to load the bases with nobody out. A failed suicide squeeze ran the Terps into one out, but pinch-hitter Danny Maynard came through with a two-out single to score both Lee and Cieri and put Maryland in front 4-3. Maynard is hitting .316 for the season and .364 with runners in scoring position.

Nebraska tied the game in the fifth on a Roskam grounder to first, but Maryland’s hitters kept working good at-bats and broke through again in the seventh.

With two outs in that inning, Marty Costes ripped a grounder that got through Altavilla at short. Gum followed with a single to left, setting up Watson’s big hit, scoring Costes from second to put Maryland in front 5-4.

Gum and Watson did a good portion of the damage for the Terps in the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the order. The pair reached base seven times and drove in two runs.

Cieri chopped a two-run single up the middle with the bases loaded in the ninth to provide some crucial insurance and Lee followed with a double to the gap in right to close out the Terps’ scoring.

Lee had one of his best games of the season at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two RBI, two runs scored, a walk, and a stolen base.

Andrew Miller and Ryan Selmer combined for three innings without an earned run to close it out for the Terps. Selmer picked up his fourth save of the season.