Watson, Illinois outduels Blohm, Maryland in freshman pitching matchup

Left-hander Tyler Blohm — after allowing two runs on three straight hits — was just one pitch away from getting out the third inning when Illinois catcher Mark Skonieczny’s bat clipped Danny Maynard’s glove, prompting a catcher’s interference call to load the bases.

Two batters later, Bren Spillane cleared the bases with a double, extending the Illini lead to 6-0, a deficit the Terrapins wouldn’t come back from, eventually losing 6-2.

After allowing three consecutive hits to fall behind 2-0,  Blohm, a freshman, struck out Michael Massey to record the second out of the inning. Now, with runners on second and third, the southpaw got ahead 0-2 on Skonieczny before the catcher’s bat knocked the glove off Maynard on a foul ball.

A bases loaded walk preceded Spillane’s three-RBI hit, giving Illinois four runs following the catcher’s interference. Blohm, who entered the game tied for the most wins among freshman in the country, finished his outing allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits through 2.2 innings. All six of Illinois’ runs came in the third inning off Blohm. 

Illinois also started a freshman arm Saturday afternoon. While Blohm ranks fifth in both ERA and batting average against in the Big Ten, it was Cyrillo Watson who shined on the mound. The right-hander pitched a career-high seven innings, allowing just one earned run on five hits to a Maryland team that scored eight in the first three innings last night.

The Terps, who have completed numerous comebacks in midweek games this season, couldn’t replicate a celebratory come-from-behind win in Champaign.

John Murphy came on in relief for the Terps to record the last out of Illinois’ big second inning. He then pitched three innings of scoreless baseball to keep Maryland in striking distance. Back-to-back doubles by first baseman Brandon Gum and right fielder Marty Costes to start the sixth inning put the Terps on the scoreboard.

Madison Nickens knocked a RBI-double off his own the following inning, scoring shortstop Kevin Smith to cut the Illinois lead to 6-2 in the middle of the seventh. Maryland’s strong relief pitching continued when left-hander Tayler Stiles replaced Murphy on the Hill, pitching a scoreless seventh frame.

Right-hander Jamal Wade gave Maryland one last chance to produce four runs to tie the game in the ninth. The junior came on for Stiles with one out in the eighth and struck out back-to-back hitters looking to strand a pair of Illini runners in scoring position.

But right-handed reliever Ryan Schmitt returned to the mound in the ninth to retire the side in order to clinch the 6-2 victory for the Fighting Illini. Maryland and Illinois will square off in a rubber match tomorrow at 1 p.m.