Maryland catcher Justin Morris dove for the ball near the Maryland on-deck circle, a desperate attempt to keep it from rolling past him as Purdue’s Nick Dalesandro rounded third and headed for home. Morris couldn’t corral the errant throw, and pitcher Grant Burleson picked it up and threw it home wildly, allowing Dalesandro to score, as Purdue unloaded the bases on a bloop single to tie the game.
One batter later, Skyler Hunter scampered home on a wild pitch, giving the Boilermakers their first lead of the game in a wild seventh inning as Maryland fell to Purdue Sunday, 8-6. The Terps (16-23, 3-8 Big Ten) dropped all three games of an important conference series, getting swept at home for the first time since losing three straight to Indiana in May 2015.
“Coach [Rob] Vaughn kinda said it the best, he said he’s never seen anything like that before, and to be honest, I haven’t in a while either,” Maryland center fielder Zach Jancarski said of the three-run bloop single in the seventh. “The throw was a little bit up the line, communication wasn’t there as far as to cut it off or not, and then it kinda had a negative domino effect from there.”
Desperately needing a victory Sunday to stay relevant in the Big Ten Tournament conversation, everything seemed to be going right for Maryland through six innings. Tyler Blohm, who exited his last start with arm discomfort, was through six innings of two-run ball, and five combined RBIs from Zach Jancarski and Nick Dunn had given Maryland a 6-2 advantage.
But things came apart quickly for the Terrapins in the seventh, as they coughed up five runs on just two hits, highlighted by Hunter’s bases-loaded single and Will Watson’s throwing error. Blohm, who minimized damage through his first six frames, loaded the bases in the inning on a double and two walks with nobody out.
He exited in favor of freshman left-hander Grant Burleson, who induced a ground ball fielder’s choice that scored a run, but set up the potential for an inning-ending double play. But after a walk loaded the bases, Hunter blooped a single into left-center. Two runs crossed, and Will Watson’s throw home skipped past cutoff man Taylor Wright and up the third base line, as Morris sprinted over in an attempt to reign it in. Dalesandro scored on the play, and Hunter crossed later on the wild pitch, completing the Maryland collapse.
“If you don’t play catch, if you let the game get fast, you know it can snowball on you a little bit and that’s what happened right there,” Vaughn said. “One bad throw led to three bad throws and a flail to the outfield ended up being a three-run triple essentially. So yeah, just not taking care of the baseball right there kinda came back to get us.”
This negated a strong outing early on by Tyler Blohm, who allowed just a solo homer and an RBI single while striking out four through his first six frames of work. He was aided by some early run support, as Maryland broke out for four runs in the third, highlighted by Zach Jancarski’s three-run homer.
The Terps took an early lead in the inning when AJ Lee scampered home on a wild pitch to make it 1-0, and Jancarski took Purdue starter Trent Johnson deep over the left-field wall after a missed catch on a pop-up extended the inning. The homer was Jancarski’s fourth homer of the year, setting a new career high for the senior center fielder.
Nick Dunn lined a two-out, two-run double into the right field corner in the sixth, scoring Lee and Brad Barnett, who had both walked earlier in the frame. Dunn’s team-leading 27th and 28th RBIs gave the Terps a commanding 6-2 lead heading into the final three innings of play, before the wild seventh inning turned the game upside down.
Purdue added another in the ninth, when Hunter doubled off Sean Fisher to open the inning, and eventually came around the score on AJ Lee’s error at shortstop. John Murphy came on in relief of Fisher to escape a bases-loaded jam to close out the top of the ninth.
Maryland brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth against Purdue closer Ross Learnard, as Kevin Biondic singled with two out and Watson walked. But Jancarski popped up in foul ground to end the game and ensure the sweep for Purdue.
“We have to continue to be as consistent as we possibly can, and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Jancarski said. “If you don’t earn those 27 outs and you don’t play as good as you can that day, you’re probably going to lose. That’s just the way [the Big Ten] is, it’s pretty even, and we just gotta do a little bit better job moving forward, but I like our chances.”
With the loss, the Terps drop to 3-8 in conference play, as they drift further from the No.-8 spot in the Big Ten that is necessary for them to make the conference tournament.
“What we can’t control is where we are in the standings, what we can’t control is the last two months of baseball,” Vaughn said. “All we can control is our effort today and what we come out on Tuesday and do. That’s what I’m looking for out of these guys, just come back, bounce back. If we play a clean game of baseball and get beat and we compete our tails off, I can live with that.”
Maryland is back in action Tuesday at home against George Mason at 4 p.m.