Maryland baseball had no hits in its last 23 opportunities with runners in scoring position when shortstop AJ Lee stepped to the plate Tuesday afternoon with both the tying and go-ahead runs on base trailing 1-0 in the top of the ninth inning against James Madison.
After fouling off three straight pitches in an 0-2 hole, the shortstop scorched a ball down the left-field line to tie the game at one. Pinch runner Chris Alleyne, representing the go-ahead run, was thrown out trying to score from first after falling in between third base and home.
Despite the blunder, the game was finally tied and the the day’s 0-for-14 slump with runners on base was finally broken. With two runners on with no outs in the top of the 12th, outfielders Zach Jancarski and Randy Bednar recorded back-to-back singles to give the Terps a 2-1 lead. Maryland held on for the win in the bottom half of the frame.
“It wasn’t pretty. It doesn’t have to be pretty all the time,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “We figured out a way to score one more than they did and at the end of the day I’ll take it.”
Both the Terps and Dukes had no problem getting on base, but struggled mightily once they reached the basepaths. The two sides started the game a combined 1-for-38 with runners on bases and 1-for-24 with runners in scoring position.
For Maryland, it was an awfully familiar phenomenon. After leaving 30 runners on base over the weekend against Illinois, the Terps continued to struggle to capitalize on their chances. They began the day 0-for-14 with runners on base and 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, but had two hits in those situations in the 12th inning alone.
Lee got on base fives times, reaching on two errors and a pair of walks in addition to his nine-inning double. The junior also stole three bases. Brad Barnett—making his first start for Maryland—drew a pair of walks in his first three at-bats of the game. He led off the top of the ninth with a leadoff infield single before he was pinch ran for by Richie Schiekofer, who scored on Lee’s double.
Maryland left the bases loaded in the first, sixth, ninth and 12th innings. Taylor Wright had the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth with a chance to give the Terps the lead but, after working a 10-pitch at-bat, struck out looking.
Starting right-hander Mark DiLuia pitched six scoreless frames after allowing a run in the first inning, but the freshman’s second consecutive strong midweek start—an area that has typically plagued the Terps—was spoiled again with sparse run support.
DiLuia conceded a leadoff double to the first batter he faced, who later scored following a sacrifice fly and an RBI groundout. He then tossed six scoreless innings thereafter, finishing with four hits allowed and four strikeouts in seven innings, but received the no-decision.
“He’s went through some growing pains early,” Vaughn said of DiLuia. “He might have some growing pains still in front of him but the thing is he continues to work, he continues to get better. He’s going to be such a huge piece of what we do going forward over his next couple of years here.”
Left-hander Grant Burleson and right-hander John Murphy each pitched 1.2 innings in relief, holding the Dukes scoreless. First baseman and right-hander Kevin Biondic tossed the final 1.2 innings, earning the win for his efforts. The Terps pitchers did an incredible job pitching from the stretch, holding the Dukes 0-for-21 with runners on base.
“That’s a good win for us. That’s really good team win,” Lee said. “You have Mark DiLuia come out and really pitch well for seven innings and then our bullpen comes in and does what it’s being doing all year for us and we find a way to scratch one off there in the end.”
Maryland (16-17) is scheduled to play Michigan this weekend in Ann Arbor for the first conference road test of the season.