Maryland pitchers struggle in midweek loss to VCU

When Maryland baseball shut out VCU earlier this season in a 2-0 victory, five different pitchers shined in scoreless performances. But in the second game of the home-and-home season series on Tuesday, five Terps pitchers conceded at least two earned runs.

Tarnishing redshirt senior Alec Tuohy’s first-career start on the mound for Maryland, VCU scored in its first five trips to the plate, keeping the offensive pressure on throughout the game in a 14-3 victory over the Terps. VCU recorded 13 hits, walked 11 times and reached one on a hit by pitch.

“We’re not playing clean baseball. We’re not responding to adversity very well and that starts at the top. It starts with us,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “We haven’t prepared these guys to handle some of the things that are being thrown at them.”

With Friday night starter Taylor Bloom’s status for this weekend uncertain, head coach Rob Vaughn decided against throwing typical midweek starter Mark DiLuia, who pitched four innings and struck out seven against the Rams in the February meeting.

Even though Tuohy’s first five appearances for the Terps came in relief, he had plenty of starting experience in his first four years of college. He started 22 games at the University of Buffalo, which he transferred from after the college cut its baseball program after last season.

Tuohy’s best season came during his junior year for Buffalo, starting in all 14 appearances in 2016. In 93.2 innings, he went 7-4 with a 2.93 ERA, but the right-hander’s first start for the Terps wasn’t as successful.

With a runner on first with two outs in the top of the first, shortstop AJ Lee booted a grounder to keep the inning alive for the Rams. The next batter, designated hitter Mitchel Lacey, blooped a single into right field to plate an unearned run.

“We put 12 free guys on base, we don’t make a play in the first inning on a routine ground ball that leads to a run and it’s really what our season’s been thus far,” Vaughn said.

Tuohy then got knocked around and gave up three runs on three hits and a walk in his second and final inning. Head coach Rob Vaughn relieved the right-hander after 42 pitches in two innings, utilizing five more arms to get through the game.

Left-hander Sean Fisher conceded three earned runs on on two hits, three walks and a hit batsman in 1.2 innings before right-hander Mike Vasturia allowed two more runs in less than an inning of work. Maryland’s bullpen allowed two baserunners in five innings in the first meeting this season, but struggled Tuesday following Tuohy’s departure.

“It’s a call for us to be tougher as a pitching staff,” Costes said. “Even from a position player’s standpoint. If we’re limited that means me personally, I have to do more.”

It wasn’t until the sixth inning that the Rams were held to a scoreless inning, when left-hander Billy Phillips got three straight outs after allowing a leadoff single. Phillips allowed two runs in 2.2 innings in relief.

Maryland’s offense tried to keep the Terps in the game early, but Maryland’s bullpen wasn’t strong enough. After senior center fielder Zach Jancarski ripped a double in the second, freshman right fielder Randy Bednar launched his fourth home run of his season to cut VCU’s lead to 4-2.

After the homer, though, the Rams matched the two runs in their next trip to the plate. After Marty Costes hit a deep homer straightaway center fielder to make it 6-3, VCU instantly got that run back the next half inning. The bullpen’s inability to record a shutdown inning hurt the Terps chances from storming back.

The Rams scored the game’s last eight runs, completely taking the Terps out of the game. Four of Maryland’s last six at-bat results in strikeouts.

“They battled against us and things went their way,” Phillips said. “They’re a good team and they came back and did well against us.”

Maryland (16-20) returns to Big Ten play this weekend, hosting Purdue for a three-game set starting Friday at 6:30 p.m.