Zac Taylor dropped the bat at home plate and jogged toward first base as the ball sailed over the left-field fence. Maryland right-hander Taylor Bloom stood on the mound and stared in disbelief as Taylor trotted around the bases with a grand slam that broke the game open, giving the Illinois Fighting Illini a 10-3 lead in the fifth inning.
Bloom has been the workhorse in the Terps’ rotation this season, averaging over seven innings per start entering Friday’s contest, but he was no match for the potent Illinois offense, as he turned in his worst start in four years at Maryland. The right-hander labored through five innings, allowing a career-worst ten runs on ten hits and five walks as the Terps fell to the Illini in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, 10-6.
The Terps (14-16, 2-2 Big Ten) kept pace with the Illinois bats early on, but struggled to solve left-hander Andy Fisher as the game went on. The Illini junior scattered eight hits and two walks over eight innings, allowing just three runs in his longest start of the season. Maryland rallied late, plating three in the ninth, but the comeback ultimately fell short.
Meanwhile, Bloom was in trouble right from the start. The right-hander walked Taylor and gave up a single to Ben Troike to open the game, putting two on for the recently crowned Perfect Game/Rawlings Midseason National Player of the Year Bren Spillane with nobody out. The junior slugger delivered, smoking a double to the wall in left-center to put Illinois on the board. Michael Massey followed with a line drive over Randy Bednar’s head in right field, scoring two more as the Illini took a 3-0 lead before Bloom could record an out.
Bloom walked the bases loaded in the third and Michael Michalak followed with a double over Tommy Gardiner’s head at third, plating two. Doran Turchin added the sixth run of the game with a towering solo shot over the batter’s eye in the fifth. A pair of infield hits and a walk loaded the bases, and despite Bloom’s pitch count hitting 100, Rob Vaughn elected to keep his veteran starter in to face Taylor. The Illini leadoff man made him pay, promptly unloading the bases.
Like Bloom, Fisher ran into a jam early, as the Maryland bats got to work early. With runners on the corners and one away in the first, AJ Lee’s ground ball single scored Marty Costes, and Zach Jancarski followed with a bloop hit into shallow right field. Kevin Biondic came across on the play, pulling the Terps within one. After Will Watson’s infield single loaded the bases, a fly out and a strikeout ended the inning however, as the Terps stranded three in the inning trailing by one.
After this, Fisher shut the Terps down. The only other Maryland run crossed in the fourth, when Tommy Gardiner trotted home on the left-hander’s balk. Singles by Gardiner and Nick Dunn and a Costes fly out set up runners on the corners preceding Fisher’s mistake.
Following Bloom’s exit, Grant Burleson, Alec Tuohy and Billy Phillips combined to keep the Illini off the board for the final four frames.
Justin Vought hit a two-run homer to right off Illinois left-hander Jimmy Burnette in the ninth to cut the Terps’ deficit to five, but that’s all Maryland was able to muster as the comeback attempt fell well short. Vought, who was pinch hitting for Justin Morris, has two hits in his college career – both have cleared the fence. Later in the frame, Jancarski drove in the Terps’ sixth run of the contest with a double to the left-center field gap, but Watson struck out to end the game.
With the loss, the Terps have lost two straight, and fall to 7-8 at home this season. They will look to even the series in the nightcap of Friday’s doubleheader when they send southpaw Tyler Blohm (3-2, 4.50 ERA) to the mound against Illinois right-hander Ryan Schmitt (1-1, 3.68 ERA).