Terps sweep Spartans behind strong start from Taylor Bloom

The Maryland dugout erupted into cheers with each ball called by home plate umpire Jeffrey Spisak during the second inning of the series finale at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.

Two Michigan State pitchers threw a dozen straight balls during the back-end of Sunday’s doubleheader, leading to three runs and a 6-2 victory to complete the series sweep against the Spartans.

Left-hander Keegan Baar fell behind to Will Watson, who delivered a 2-0 double to right field to start the impending rally with one man out. After Watson stole third, shortstop Kevin Smith worked the count full and walked, much to the pleasure of the Maryland bench.

“You talk about why you have that kind of success, well [the bench’s energy] has something to do with it,” head coach John Szefc said.

The last two pitches of the at-bat — both balls — started Baar’s control issues. His wild pitch to the next batter allowed Watson to score from third for the first run of the game. The miscue came as part of left fielder Madison Nickens’ four-pitch walk.

Right-hander Jake Lowery relieved Baar on the mound, but the wildness — and mayhem in the dugout — continued. The junior’s first four pitches were all balls, walking Danny Maynard to load the bases for the Terps. After throwing two more straight pitches outside the strike zone to AJ Lee — completing the 12 consecutive balls thrown by Spartan pitchers — Lowery worked back to strikeout Lee.

Junior Zach Jancarski catches a fly ball. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 4/23/2017

Although Michigan State found the strike zone thereafter, center fielder Zach Jancarski delivered a two-out, two-RBI single to extend a Maryland lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. The junior outfielder finished 2-for-5 with 3 RBIs, extending his hitting streak to 14 games. During the streak, he’s hit .500 from the plate.

Danny Maynard — who started at catcher on Sunday — hit a solo shot for his third home run of the year to make it a four-run game. The sophomore reached base all four plate appearances, walking twice to supplement his pair of hits.

“It was a great day for Maynard coming off the bench after watching two games [this
weekend], catching a good game and really doing a good job,” Szefc said.

Michigan State got one run back in the sixth, but Maryland responded with two of their own to make it a 6-1 game on Maynard and Jancarski RBI singles. Jancarski and Maynard accounted for all five of the team’s RBIs. Maryland, as a team, never trailed in the series.

Teammates congratulate Danny Maynard after his solo home run to extend Maryland’s lead.

“I think that was really big for us. We’re a pretty good team of coming from behind but any time you can come out in a series and take a lead, it makes pitching easier, defense, playing more relaxed,” Jancarski said. “Our guys did a good job of throwing the first punch all weekend and it worked out really well for us.”

After he allowed two runs in seven innings last weekend against Penn State, Terrapin starter Taylor Bloom conceded just one run in a season-high 7.2 innings against the Spartans. The right-hander gave up eight hits and walked nobody, earning his fifth win of the season.

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 4/23/2017

“If you’re going to sweep these guys you’re going to have to get good starts,”  Szefc said. “And we got three good starts.”

Bloom, who struggled in several consecutive starts over the past month, has worked with pitching coach Ryan Fecteau to fix mechanical issues, including his movement toward the plate in his delivery. The results have treated him well in his last two starts.

“After a couple tough outings and West Virginia, Coach Fecteau went and looked at some things to try to change things mechanically just to get back to where I was last year,” Bloom said. “It really clicked. It really helped get me back to where I was.”

For the second straight weekend, all three Maryland starters lasted at least six innings, limiting the workload for the bullpen. Bloom, who retired batters on few pitches, was also able to go deep into the game.

“Today, that’s vintage Bloom. Usually when he’s going good, he’s very efficient,” Szefc said. “He doesn’t strikeout a lot of guys, but he pitches to weak contact. So we played very good defense behind him so that’s how he was able to keep his pitch count down and stay in the game.”

Right-hander Jamal Wade relieved Bloom with two outs in the eighth, making his ninth appearance of the season. He walked the first batter he faced, but induced a ground ball to strand two Spartans on base.

Wade stayed on for the ninth inning, recording the first two outs of the inning before left-hander Andrew Miller came on for the game-clinching out. The 6-2 victory capped off the sweep against Michigan State, Maryland’s third conference sweep, adding to Rutgers and Penn State.

The Terps will look to add to their current seven-game winning streak, returning to action Tuesday at 6 p.m. on the road against James Madison to start an eight-game road trip.