Crumbs—Maryland’s resident rally squirrel—keys four-run frame as Terps defeat UMBC at home

In the sixth inning of a tie game, Crumbs, the rally squirrel, climbed up the netting behind home plate. Moments later, Zach Jancarski stole third, and subsequently scored on Brandon Gum’s single to left field, giving the Terrapins a 3-2 lead. The Terps added two more in the frame and another in the eighth en route to a 6-2 victory over the UMBC Retrievers Tuesday in College Park.

For most of the season, the Terps’ midweek starting pitching has been their downfall, but Tuesday, left-hander Tayler Stiles turned in a gem. In the senior’s final career start in College Park, he tossed five shutout innings, allowing just four hits and striking out four. It was the first time this season that Maryland’s midweek starter pitched long enough to qualify for the win.

“This was the best I’d felt all season long,” Stiles said. “Basically everything was working. Fastball was locating in, locating out, changeup was down, slider was good, so luckily everything felt really good today.”

Maryland struck early against UMBC starter Jacob Christian, who entered the contest with a 6.29 ERA in 44.1 innings. Gum drew a one-out walk, and after advancing to second on an error, scored on Nick Dunn’s sharp single to center to put the Terps up 1-0. They had a chance to strike for more in the frame, as Will Watson came to the plate with men on first and second with one away, but the junior grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Christian (3-3) shut the Terps down over the next four frames, as they didn’t get another man into scoring position until the sixth inning. He traded zeroes with Stiles, who set the Retrievers down quickly in the first two frames. Stiles surrendered a hit leading off the third, but a strikeout-caught stealing double play erased the runner. This proved important for the Terps as the next Retriever to the plate, leadoff man Andrew Casali, roped a two-out triple to right, but Stiles worked out of the jam to keep the game scoreless.

“He threw a lot of strikes and was getting ahead of hitters,” Head Coach John Szefc said of Stiles. “He did a great job for us. We needed a good midweek start and he gave it to us. It was a very well-pitched and defended game.”

After five shutout frames, Ryan Hill (4-1) came on in relief of Stiles, with Maryland clinging to a 1-0 lead. The right-hander allowed a leadoff single to Casali, but appeared to settle down, retiring the next two, bringing him one out away from getting out of the frame with the lead intact. The next hitter, however, Hunter Dolshun, cranked a two-run homer over the wall in left-center field for his team-best seventh long ball of the year, and the Terps now trailed 2-1.

But the Terps are no strangers to trailing in the latter half of midweek contests. Down one run in the sixth, Madison Nickens lined an 0-2 pitch into left field for a leadoff single. Jancarski followed with a rocket to left, just missing his fourth homer of the year as the ball hit high off the wall. Nickens scored all the way from first and Jancarski trotted into second with an RBI double. Now, with the score tied 2-2, Crumbs appeared on the netting next to the visiting first-base dugout, and right on cue, Gum’s ground ball single between short and third put the Terps ahead, 3-2.

After Marty Costes was hit by a pitch, the runners moved up on a groundout, and AJ Lee lined a two-run single to left, extending the lead to 5-2. It was a script similar to so many other midweek games this season: rallying back after the opposing team took the lead.

“When a team scores on us, we want to hit them right back,” Nickens said. “We want to let them know that we’re not going to go down easy, we’re gonna come right back at you, and that makes them uncomfortable.”

Maryland added another run in the eighth on Dunn’s second home run of the season, a solo shot to the right of the center field batter’s eye. John Murphy pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth, allowing just one walk, to pick up his first save of the season. Dunn, Jancarski and Nickens all finished with two hits, and Dunn and Lee both drove in two.

The win, which improves the Terps to 19-1 at home this season and 32-15 overall, comes after they lost two of three at Illinois over the weekend, including a walkoff loss Sunday.

“Getting back out here and getting another win gets us going in the positive direction again,” Nickens said of the victory to open the homestand. ” We’ve got a big series this weekend, but you don’t want to look past any games. An immature team… would come out here and not really give it their all, but we were able to focus and get a good win. It just gets us rolling.”