Although 223 pitches were thrown between Maryland and Penn State Friday night, the last two were the decisive moments at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
In a game where scoring opportunities were scarce and the two teams combined for no hits with runners on base, three solo homers accounted for the three runs in the Terrapin’s 2-1 victory over the Nittany Lions.
Catcher Ryan Sloniger’s home run in the fifth inning appeared to be all Penn State would need to earn the victory heading into the bottom half of the ninth inning.
Sal Biasi returned to the mound in the final inning for the Nittany Lions in search of a complete game shutout for his fifth win of the season. The right-hander, who held the Terrapins scoreless in 5.2 innings last year, allowed just one hit and four base runners through eight innings.
“Biasi was pretty much throwing fastballs the whole game which is normally what we succeed on,” center fielder Zach Jancarski said. “He did a good job of being effectively wild, [making us] swing at balls that were out of the zone.”
But fortunately for the Terrapins, Biasi’s first eight innings weren’t indicative of his last.
Danny Maynard pinch-hit for AJ Lee to leadoff for the Terps down one run in the ninth inning. Maynard, who hit a home run off the bench in Tuesday’s win against West Virginia, struck out looking. Although Maynard failed to reach base safely, the top of the order remained confident.
With two strikes in the count, Zancarski erased Penn State’s lead with one swing of the bat. The junior tied the game with his second home run of the year.
“I wasn’t trying to hit a home run,” the outfielder said. “I was just trying to hit something hard to start something.”
Before the crowd had time to stop cheering from the previous swing, the very next pitch was blasted over the scoreboard in left-center field by first baseman Brandon Gum, cementing the Terps walk-off win.
“I looked down at the third baseman and saw him playing really deep and I thought about bunting and I was like ‘no I’ll wait a few pitches,’” Gum said recalling his thoughts in the batter’s box. “It’s a good thing I did.”
For the second straight weekend, Maryland’s offense couldn’t give right-hander Brian Shaffer enough run support for him to earn the victory. After giving up three runs in eight innings last Friday night against Nebraska, the Pylesville, Maryland, native allowed four hits in 8.1 innings of one-run baseball.
“My main goal every game is to literally come out and attack hitters,” Shaffer said. “Throwing strikes, that’s what is going to win you ballgames.”
Shaffer’s 11 strikeouts set a new career-high, breaking his previous record of 10, which he accomplished earlier this season against Princeton. But Biasi, his counterpart, was just as effective on the mound.
Maryland managed just one hit through eight innings off the starting right-hander, who recorded six strikeouts of his own.
Gum’s single in the first inning was the lone Maryland hit for the majority of the game. For the second straight Friday, Maryland entered the ninth inning with just one hit. The Terps finished with three, two of which were the home runs on the final two swings of the game.
Sophomore Andrew Miller entered the game for Shaffer in the ninth, where a strike-him-out, throw-him-out gave the Terrapins momentum heading into the bottom half of the frame.
‘That’s a big throw right there,” head coach John Szefc said of catcher Nick Cieri throwing out a runner after Miller’s strikeout. “Immediately we have the tying run come to the plate.”
Going into their last three outs, the team stayed calm.
“There was no panic in anyone’s eyes. It was almost like it’s not if, but when,” Jancarski said. “In the dugout, there was no fear, no worry. It was like this is going to happen and that’s actually what did.”
Jancarski and Gum’s homers will look to spark the Terrapin offense for the rest of the series. Maryland and Penn State return to action tomorrow at 2 p.m.