Marty Costes’ big day at the plate can’t carry Maryland to a series win

Marty Costes went 0-for-5 Saturday, snapping a 13-game hitting streak. Sunday, he was back on track.

The sophomore went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI, but it wasn’t enough as Nebraska first baseman Ben Miller went 4-for-5 to lead his team to a series-deciding 8-4 victory Sunday afternoon at Haymarket Park in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“I think we battled,” Costes said. “I think that was the name of this series, it was just back and forth. I can’t really fault anybody on our team for their performance because we were consistent, they made their pushes, we made our pushes. Hats off to them for punching back at the right times. That’s how baseball is.”

Miller went 10-for-13 overall this weekend, raising his season average to .278. During one stretch spanning Saturday and Sunday, he had hits in eight straight at-bats. He drove in three runs in the series-clinching win on Sunday, giving him 14 RBI for the season. He also scored twice.

The 6-foot-4, 272-pound Miller got going early in the series finale. After a two-out error on Maryland shortstop Pat Hisle and a walk put two on with two out, Miller stepped in and poked a single the opposite way to give the Cornhuskers a 1-0 lead.

Cornhusker starter Jake Meyers, who hit third in addition to starting on the hill, retired the first nine hitters in a row, but in the fourth Maryland rallied.

Zach Jancarski led off with a double and later scored when Costes lined a single to right to tie the game 1-1. Costes leads the team with a .361 batting average and Sunday was his sixth three-hit game of the season.

In the bottom of the inning, though, Miller struck again, singling off freshman Terp starter Tyler Blohm. Two more singles loaded the bases and, with two outs, Jesse Wilkening hit a sinking line drive to left. Will Watson made a sliding catch, but Miller was able to tag up and score the go-ahead run.

Meyers held Maryland (20-10, 6-3 Big Ten) scoreless in the fifth and in the home half of the inning, the left-handed swinging Miller broke the game open when he smoked a double to the gap in left-center, driving in Meyers and Mojo Hagge and putting Nebraska ahead 4-1.

Maryland closed the gap in the sixth when Costes crushed a titanic two-run homer to left field. Hagge didn’t move at all in left as it sailed over his head. It was the seventh homer of the season for Costes, breaking a tie with Kevin Smith for the team lead.

“Honestly I wanted to get a good pitch to hit and I didn’t want to swing out of my shoes necessarily, so it was kind of ironic,” Costes said of his home run. “I kind of just wanted to hit something on the line again, but I got a good pitch, good situation and I put a good swing on it.

“I realized about halfway down the line that I didn’t feel anything at all [at contact]. That’s the best feeling in baseball.”

Coach John Szefc said it was the furthest hit ball he’d ever seen at the Cornhuskers’ stadium.

“I have a picture of my three kids as little kids when I was an assistant at [Kansas] in front of that building in left field [that Costes’ home run went over],” Szefc said. “I’ve never seen a ball go over that building and I’ve coached 15 games in that park.”

The Cornhuskers (19-11-1, 4-1-1) answered in the bottom half, however, as second baseman Jake Schleppenbach hit a two-run home run of his own, over the right-field fence. It was his second of the season.

Nebraska kept adding on in the late innings and Maryland eventually used five pitchers to complete the game. Blohm took the loss after 4 2/3 innings and three earned runs. He struck out three and walked two as his ERA rose to 2.79.

“I thought Tyler [Blohm]’s start today was one of the best of the season,” Szefc said. “Although the numbers might not dictate that, you know pitching against a good team in tough atmosphere with a series in limbo I thought he really pitched well.”

Outside of Costes’ home run, Meyers was a star on the mound for the Cornhuskers, throwing 7 1/3 innings and giving up just three runs overall to get the win. He retired the Terps in order four times and struck out four with only a single walk. It was the second time in three days Nebraska’s pitcher had pitched into the eighth inning.

Jancarski was one of the only Maryland hitters to figure out Meyers as he went 2-for-3 with two doubles, two runs, and a walk. He leads the team with nine doubles this season.

“Today it was a little bit different for me because [Meyers] had a pretty good changeup,” Jancarski said. “In my opinion, that’s the hardest pitch to hit, so I knew I was going to be in trouble if I kind of was out on my front foot at all or was trying to pull the ball.

“I happened to pull both of the doubles, but for those at-bats in particular, and the walk, I was just trying to stay behind the ball as much as I could and hit a fastball to right field and that would at least let me keep the ball fair on a changeup.”

The series loss for Maryland was the first since a three-game sweep at the hands of LSU Feb. 24-26. The Terps are now 4-5 in true road games this season.

Szefc admitted it’s difficult to win at Haymarket Park.

“I really think Nebraska’s one of the hardest places to play in the country,” he said. “I’ve been there five times with five different programs and it’s never easy to play there. And I thought our guys kind of held their own…We were a little sloppy, it didn’t really go our way, but in general this weekend will make us better in the second half of the season.”