Terps open 2018 campaign with shutout victory over Tennessee

With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Maryland senior pitcher Taylor Bloom allowed back-to-back singles. Tennessee was unable to score, but Bloom’s pitch count was inflated — resembling a problem he had at times in 2017.

Then, Bloom found his rhythm. He went on to allow just four more hits in the next six innings, tied a career-high by striking out nine batters, and secured the Terps’ 4-0 win to open the 2018 season.

“That’s vintage Bloom right there,” said first-year head coach Rob Vaughn. “I thought he had to battle and get his feel in the first, and it was like, ‘man, he threw a lot of pitches, we’ll see how this rolls.’ Shoot, you close your eyes and you blink and it’s the seventh inning and he’s still rolling zeroes out there.”

The Terps needed Bloom’s dominance because their offense was plagued by frequent baserunning blunders. The aggressive playing style advertised by Vaughn backfired at times, as three Terps were picked off of first base, and two more were called out in between bases.

Bloom didn’t require much run support, but he got just enough in the fourth inning. Nick Dunn broke the scoreless tie with a long home run to right field, continuing a power streak from last year’s postseason. He homered again in the eighth, marking his first career multi-homer game.

“Dunn’s just one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen,” Vaughn said. “[Assistant] Coach [Matt] Swope has put a ton of time into trying to continue to work with his strike zone discipline, and Nick’s really dove into that.”

Once given a lead, Maryland’s aggressiveness paid off. Junior transfer Taylor Wright stole second and third base after singling, and came around to score when Will Watson punched a grounder past the third baseman for an RBI single.

Tennessee fought back, and — after first baseman-turned-pitcher Kevin Biondic allowed two Vols to reach base — had its catcher Benito Santiago at the plate, representing the tying run.

Biondic saved his best pitch for the biggest spot.

The senior’s erratic pitching debut ended with a strikeout and a fist pump, curtailing Tennessee’s comeback hopes.

Vaughn’s gamble to keep Biondic in the game wasn’t his only decision that reaped benefits. Marty Costes, who took over the leadoff role after leading the team in home runs last year, belted an RBI double in the ninth to add an insurance run.

John Murphy then sealed the deal with a scoreless ninth inning, giving Maryland a season-opening victory for the first time since 2015.

Maryland and Tennessee are scheduled to continue the weekend series on Saturday, but a forecast of rain could delay the game. The Terps will send 2017 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Tyler Blohm to the hill to oppose Garrett Stallings.