Missed opportunities hurt Terps in 4-3 home opener loss to Army

The bases were loaded with two out in the bottom of the second for Maryland, with cleanup hitter Taylor Wright coming to the plate. The junior third baseman, who walked in the first, squared to bunt, looking to bring home Kevin Biondic from third. But Wright’s bunt rolled straight back to the pitcher, who tossed to first to end the inning and stomp out the Terps’ rally.

It was that kind of night for the Terps (2-3) in their 2018 home opener, as they couldn’t come up with the big hit they needed throughout, falling to the Army Black Knights, 4-3, Friday night. Taylor Bloom pitched well enough to win, allowing four runs over seven innings and minimizing damage along the way, but Maryland’s offense squandered opportunities to get him a substantial lead. The Terps cracked the scoreboard first, on Zach Jancarski’s second-inning sacrifice fly, but stranded the bases loaded twice and left eight men on base total. 

“[Army starter Tyler Giovinco] settled in after that second inning, did a really nice job, kept us off balance and he got comfortable,” Maryland Head Coach Rob Vaughn said after the game. “You’re right, that kind of hurts you when you leave those guys on at home, not cashing in for a little bit more.”

The Terps had a chance to strike early, loading the bases in the bottom of the first on two hits and a walk. But Will Watson, who entered the game tied for the team lead with four RBIs, grounded into a fielder’s choice at third, stranding the bases full and keeping the game scoreless.

Biondic was hit by a pitch to open the second, and after walks to Justin Morris and Marty Costes, the Terps loaded the bases again. Jancarski made Tyler Giovinco pay this time, driving in Biondic with a sacrifice fly to left for his team-leading fifth RBI and a 1-0 Maryland advantage. They couldn’t capitalize further, however, as after a two-out Nick Dunn walk, Wright’s bunt left the bags full for a second straight frame.

“We give our guys freedom,” Vaughn said. “Taylor Wright’s the best bunter on the team. It wasn’t really a sign we put on, he’s just got a really good feel for it, a really good ability to do that. He had a lefty on the mound…the second baseman was out in right-center field, so he saw an opportunity, and it just didn’t work out for him.”

Maryland added another in the bottom of the third on Lee’s leadoff homer, his first of the season. The bats went cold after this, however, as Giovinco retired the next 13 hitters he faced.

Through two innings, Bloom looked dominant, just as he did in his season-opening start a week prior Knoxville, retiring six Black Knights on just 17 pitches. He ran into trouble in the third, however, allowing three straight singles to open the frame as Army tied the score at 1-1. After a fly out, Jon Rosoff, Army’s leading hitter from a year ago, lined a single to center, scoring Jacob Hurtubise for the Black Knights’ second tally of the inning.

After a scoreless fourth, Bloom surrendered a single to Army second baseman Tim Simoes and a walk to Hurtubise to open the fifth. The senior right-hander intentionally walked Rosoff to load the bases, and reigning Patriot League Player of the Week John McKenna lined a two-run single to left, giving the Black Knights a 4-2 lead.

With the Terps in a jam, Army attempted a delayed steal of home, sending Rosoff to the plate after McKenna took off for second. But Bloom sniffed it out, attempting to pick off McKenna, and AJ Lee threw home to nab the runner and keep the score at 4-2.

Maryland first baseman Kevin Biondic saved a couple runs in the game with heads up defensive plays. In the sixth, he thwarted a squeeze attempt, picking up the bunt and flipping it to Morris at the plate, who applied the tag for the out. In the top of the ninth with the bases loaded, Biondic fielded a ground ball and fired home to get the force and keep the deficit at one. 

With one out in the seventh and the Terps down 4-2, Costes hit a grounder to short and reached on a wild throw by Army’s Josh White. The next hitter, Jancarski, also reached on an error, this one by second baseman Tim Simoes, setting up a two-on, one-out situation for Dunn, Maryland’s three hitter. The junior grounded into a double play, killing the rally, and the Terps’ deficit remained two.

Wright led off the eighth with a double, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Lee, who had homered earlier. Lee struck out, and after a pop out by pinch-hitter Tommy Gardiner, Biondic took a big swing at a 1-2 pitch in the dirt and missed. But the ball bounced away from Rosoff behind the plate and went all the way to the backstop, and Wright raced home from second base, cutting the Terps’ deficit to one run. The next hitter, Morris, lifted a fly ball to deep right field, but it landed in the glove of Drake Titus just a few feet short of the warning track as the eighth inning came to a close. 

The Terps went down in order in the ninth to lose their home opener for the first time since 2010. Maryland is back in action Saturday against Army at 12 p.m. Left-hander Tyler Blohm (0-0, 3.38 ERA) gets the ball for the Terps against Army right-hander Matt Ball (0-0, 4.50 ERA).