Strong performance by Phillips, home runs, guide Maryland to midweek win

With his team in the midst of a six-game losing streak, left-handed pitcher Billy Phillips took the mound for his first career start.

He was an unlikely hero, but just the one the Maryland Terrapins so desperately needed, as they rode his four scoreless innings to a 6-1 win against James Madison. It was Maryland’s first win since April 10, also against the Dukes.

“We just want to go out and play a really excellent brand of baseball,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “Our guys rang the bell today and did a great job.”

Phillips retired 12 of the 14 batters he faced, allowing just two hits and striking out four. Neither of the two baserunners made it past first base, and the southpaw lowered his ERA from 8.49 to 6.32.

After Taylor Bloom missed his last two starts — he was struck in the head by a line drive before a game on April 13 — the Terps had to shuffle their starting rotation. Mark DiLuia, their usual midweek starter, pitched over the weekend against Purdue, leaving a vacancy that Phillips filled admirably.

It was his longest appearance of his collegiate career, which has certainly had its peaks and valleys. The redshirt freshman missed his first two seasons of eligibility while he was battling Leukemia.

“There was a good portion of my life where, during that time, we didn’t know if I was ever going to play again,” he said. “At that point it was just a fight for each day. Baseball wasn’t even a thought in my mind at the time.”

Phillips was given run support instantly on Wednesday. After he retired the Dukes in order in the top of the first, his offense put up two runs in the bottom of the frame. Marty Costes’ return to the lineup — following a series-long suspension for violating team rules – began with an infield hit. Then, Kevin Biondic drove a RBI triple into the right field corner. He later scored on an infield hit by Zach Jancarski.

“From the very first pitch, Billy really set the tone,” Jancarski said. “Our offense consistently through nine were tough outs. Guys came up with some big hits. We just played a really clean game today.”

Maryland added to its lead with a trio of homers. The culprits? Freshman Randy Bednar, who hit one in the fourth, a solo shot by Nick Dunn and a two-run homer by Will Watson in the seventh. Dunn’s deep fly over the right field fence was his team-best eighth of the season.

Once Phillips’ duties on the mound concluded, Vaughn turned to a committee of relievers to close Maryland’s fourth midweek win in 2018. Mike Vasturia worked into some trouble, but navigated through two scoreless innings. Freshman Sean Fisher threw a 1-2-3 seventh, Ryan Hill made his season debut with a scoreless eighth, and John Murphy allowed one run, but closed the door in the ninth.

Maryland will look to carry this momentum and reverse its recent Big Ten struggles. It will look to snap a six-game conference losing streak when it travels to East Lansing over the weekend to face Michigan State.