Biondic’s late heroics give Terps first Big Ten series win of 2018

The chants of a group of fans behind home plate echoed throughout Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium. The family of Maryland two-way player Kevin Biondic, which has been seen waving cut-outs of Kevin’s face throughout the Terps’ three-game series against Northwestern, was wildly celebrating Kevin’s biggest hit of the season.

With a runner on first and two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Biondic launched the go-ahead home run over the center field wall, giving Maryland a 4-3 lead it would maintain to defeat Northwestern, and win its first conference series of 2018.

“I don’t think they’d care if I struck out 10 times this weekend or hit five home runs,” Biondic said. “They’re going to heckle me no matter what, and I think there was some good heckling today.”

Biondic’s heroics didn’t stop there. With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, Biondic was called upon to record the 27th, and final out. He did so, forcing Connor Lind to line out to left field, and earning the save.

“[Biondic’s] tough as nails as a senior, he’s a winner,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “It ain’t always pretty, sometimes it’s up-and-down, but the guy wins and knows how to win.”

Much like Saturday’s 6-5 win, it was a gut-check performance for the Terps, who advance to 14-14 with the win. But unlike Saturday, Maryland completed the comeback in style, using the long ball instead of small ball.

On the first pitch of the bottom of the first, Nick Dunn took Northwestern’s starter Jack Pagliarini deep, giving Maryland an early lead. Two solid hits later, the lead was 2-0.

But a three-run third inning for Northwestern, paired with Pagliarini’s dominant stretch, looked for a while as if it would be Maryland’s demise.

In that third inning, Maryland starter Hunter Parsons saw his 11.1 inning scoreless streak come to an end, when Jack Dunn’s RBI double trimmed the deficit to 2-1. Dunn then came around to score on Alex Erro’s single, erasing Maryland’s early lead.

Then, the close calls that had gone the Terps’ way late in Saturday’s meeting started going the other way. With one out, AJ Lee jolted to his left, played a soft grounder, and threw to first base. It was within inches, but the second base umpire Brian Drury ruled that Lee did not have the ball in his glove until his back foot was off the bag, negating a potential double play.

The next batter, Willie Bourbon, hit a single that ended up driving in the go-ahead run.

While the inning unraveled a bit, Parsons kept his composure and kept the Terps within one run the entire game, despite working into some trouble. In the fourth, Parsons let the first two Wildcats reach base, and then loaded the bases with two outs. He escaped without allowing a run.

“We had Vasturia up in the fourth inning,” Vaughn said. “You close your eyes and you blink and Hunter turns in seven innings, three runs. Shoot, that’s an unbelievable job of competing.”

Parsons allowed three earned runs on seven hits, walked three and struck out three. It was the most runs he has allowed in his last five appearances, a stretch during which he has allowed just six earned runs in 39 innings (1.38 ERA).

Meanwhile, Northwestern’s star freshman did not allow a single run after the first inning, and only allowed two hits. Pagliarini also had a stretch of retiring 15 consecutive batters, a remarkable feat that ended with Will Watson’s two-out single in the seventh inning.

That’s when Marty Costes’ two-out single, followed by Biondic’s homer, gave Maryland its most exciting win of the season.

“If we can keep building on that toughness and showing grit when things aren’t going great, that’s the key,” Vaughn said.

The Terrapins will have a quick break from Big Ten play, as they host William & Mary on Tuesday. The Tribe were the Terps’ first midweek opponent in 2018, as the two teams met in February in Virginia, with the home team securing a 10-4 win. With a win, Maryland would jump to an above-.500 record for the first time since March 16.