DiLuia, bullpen shine in Maryland’s shutout victory over VCU

Freshman Mark DiLuia and four bullpen arms combined for a five-hit shutout as Maryland defeated the VCU Rams, 2-0, in Richmond, Virginia, Wednesday. The Terrapins (4-4) managed just two hits, but drew six walks and got key RBIs from Justin Morris and Nick Dunn as they got back to .500 on the season. 

In his first career start, DiLuia came up big for the Terps, firing four scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and just four hits allowed. His four-inning outing was longer than all but one Maryland midweek start last spring.

“[DiLuia] set the tone for that game,” Head Coach Rob Vaughn said after the game. “The other pitchers came in and were great, but he was kind of the star of the game today.”

VCU right-hander Sam Ryan matched DiLuia early, keeping Maryland off the board through three innings of work to extend his scoreless streak to ten straight innings opening the season.

The Terps had opportunities to score off Ryan early, but struggled with runners in scoring position just as they did over the weekend against Army. In the second, walks to Taylor Wright and Will Watson gave Maryland two on with one away. After a double steal, however, Kevin Biondic grounded out and Morris struck out, stranding two Terps in scoring position to end the frame.

Ryan lasted only three innings, however, and Maryland broke through against his replacement, right-hander Hayden Moore. Wright led off the fourth with a ringing double into the right field corner, and AJ Lee followed with a walk. After Wright was thrown out stealing third, Watson and Biondic walked to load the bases for Morris. The senior catcher laid down a squeeze bunt, scoring Lee from third to give the Terps 1-0 lead. Randy Bednar then flied out to end the frame, and Maryland had to settle for just the one run.

Maryland used small ball to plate another run in the fifth. Moore hit Marty Costes to open the frame. The Terps’ left fielder moved to second on Zach Jancarski’s sacrifice bunt before stealing third. Dunn lifted a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Costes for his team-leading seventh RBI and a 2-0 Maryland advantage. 

Meanwhile, DiLuia cruised early on, working around a pair of two-out singles in the first. He struck out the side after a leadoff walk in the second, and set the Rams down in order in the third.

“I was just pretty excited to get a chance to go out there and throw today,” DiLuia said after the game. “Mainly I was just focused on executing the pitches I was given and then just go out there and give it my all and hope for the best. Things turned out pretty well today, so I was happy with the effort.”

After the Terps took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth, however, DiLuia ran into a jam in the bottom of the inning. After Mitchel Lacey singled and stole second with one out, Zac Ching hit a weak ground ball to the right side and everyone was safe. Josh Simon, the VCU seven hitter, tried to bring in Lacey with a squeeze bunt, but Lacey returned to third after breaking for home, and Morris didn’t have a play anywhere, loading the bases. 

The Flossmoor, Illinois, native worked his magic however, coaxing a fly out to right and whiffing Haiden Lamb to work out of the jam unscathed. Right fielder Randy Bednar aided his fellow freshman, firing a perfect throw to the plate after catching the second out in right to keep Lacey at third.

“That’s just trusting my stuff and trusting my catcher,” DiLuia said of his ability to work out of the jam. “I knew that anything I was throwing, [Morris] was going to give me a strike or he was going to keep the ball in front of him. I was trusting him and trusting the guys behind me too; I just knew that if I put the ball over the plate, someone’s going to back me up if it’s not a strikeout.”

DiLuia, who threw 1.1 innings Sunday against Army, was pulled after his four shutout frames. Sophomore right-hander Elliot Zoellner (1-0) took over, making his first appearance since his start a week prior in the midweek contest at William & Mary. Zoellner, also known as “The Fuzz,” fired two scoreless innings, allowing just a walk while punching out two.

Sean Fisher threw a scoreless seventh and Kevin Biondic set the Rams down in order in the eighth before John Murphy struck out the side in the ninth for his second save of the year. Of the five arms that pitched for Maryland Wednesday, only Murphy had recorded a collegiate out prior to this season. 

Costes’ third-inning single and Wright’s fourth-inning double were the Terps’ only hits Wednesday, but Vaughn said that “great teams win in a lot of different ways.”

“In the last couple days, we’ve really pitched and played defense, which is huge; I’ll take that any day of the week,” he said. “It takes one hit to get the guys back rolling a little bit, but tonight they grinded it out and found a way to kind of play the short game and found a way put up two runs and get it done.”

The Terps have now won two in a row heading into a weekend tournament in Conway, South Carolina, against Radford, Coastal Carolina and Ball State.