Fans came to Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium Sunday expecting to see the final nine innings of the Terps’ home slate. Maryland gave them 11, but couldn’t pull out a win.
The Terps scored five runs in the fifth inning, but Alex Erro tallied four hits and homered to left-center in the 11th to lead Northwestern to a 6-5 series-clinching win in College Park.
Erro’s drive in the 11th came on a 3-1 pitch against left-hander Andrew Miller. It was the freshman’s fourth homer of the season and it sent Miller to his second loss of the season, dropping his record to 2-2.
Despite the loss, right-fielder Marty Costes said he enjoyed the atmosphere at the game.
“I thought today was a really fun day, with the [Senior Day] ceremonies and everything,” the sophomore said. “The ballpark was jumping.”
Four scoreless innings to open the game gave way to a flurry of action in the fifth. The Wildcats scored twice in the top half before Maryland’s big inning in the bottom half.
The Terps (33-17, 15-9 in the Big Ten) batted around in that frame, collecting four hits and getting help from a pair of Northwestern errors. The inning started innocently enough with Madison Nickens getting thrown out after a failed attempt at a bunt hit.
The rally started with a walk to catcher Justin Morris, the first of five straight Terps to reach in the inning. Northwestern had a chance to stymie the uprising when Zach Jancarski grounded to shortstop, but the throw to second for the force went into right field, putting two on with one out.
Three straight singles followed, plating a pair of runs to even the score at 2-2. The third of those hits was a long fly ball to right field off the bat of Nick Dunn that backed Northwestern’s Ben Dickey up to the wall. He got a glove on it, but couldn’t pull it in, allowing Dunn to reach, although the runners could only advance one base because they had to see if the ball was caught.
Dunn later scored the fifth run of the inning when AJ Lee bounced a single up the middle. Earlier in the at-bat, Costes, who had singled, stole third and came around to score when the throw to third went into left field.
“We practice dirt ball reads,” said Costes of his decision to try to take third on the play. “It just kicked a little to the left of the plate and I just became aggressive. Good things happen, so I was fortunate.”
Trailing 5-2, the Wildcats wouldn’t concede, and began the comeback in the sixth. A strange play scored one run. With Matt Hopfner on first and Joe Hoscheit on third, starter Taylor Bloom picked Hopfner off first. The Wildcat senior had the presence of mind of mind to get in a rundown, allowing Hoscheit to break for home. The throw went there and it was late, allowing Northwestern to get a run and Hopfner to reach third safely. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Connor Lind brought in Northwestern’s fourth run, closing the gap to one.
The Wildcats (21-28, 10-11) evened the score in the eighth. Ryan Selmer had relieved Bloom in the seventh and got through that frame. In the next one, however, he surrendered a single to Hopfner and a double off the right-field wall to Lind that brought Hopfner in with the tying run.
“Hats off to them, they got hits right when they needed them” Costes said of Northwestern. “It took a lot of guts for them [to come back].”
Despite allowing the tying run across, Selmer was the MVP on the mound for the Terps, as he held Northwestern to one run in four innings, while saving a depleted bullpen from further taxation. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth, and survived the 10th, before ceding to Miller for the 11th.
Maryland did not have an extra-base hit in the game. Costes and Brandon Gum each had a pair of singles, while Costes’ RBI single inched him in front of Kevin Smith for the team RBI lead. It was the sophomore’s 37th run knocked in. Lee also had two singles, giving him seven hits in the series and raising his season average to .336, second on the team.
“We left a lot of guys on base too, we had our opportunities,” head coach John Szefc said of his team, which left nine runners stranded. “We have opportunities, we have to take advantage of them. They did, we didn’t.”
The game completes the Big Ten and home schedules for Maryland. The Terps finished 21-3 at home, but lost their final three conference series.
Zach Jancarski said after the game the team is not down on itself and it feels it’s ready to break out again.
“I think it takes one inning with this team,” the leadoff hitter said. “We go out our next game and put up a three-spot in the first, it’s like ‘Boom’ it’s back and no one’s even thinking about anything else. This team is very good and we know we’re very good.
“I promise you not one of our guys after this is going to be going into next weekend like, ‘Oh we’re in a slump right now.’ It’s just like, ‘Let’s go.’ Like we’re ready to throw down right now if we could.”