Maryland baseball is still fighting to extend its season, and while Wednesday’s midweek matchup with Towson would neither help nor hurt those chances, erasing two late deficits before second baseman Nick Dunn’s walk-off single in extras was representative of the team’s challenge to make a late push into the Big Ten Tournament.
First baseman Kevin Biondic hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth and right fielder Marty Costes hit a game-tying sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth to force extras, keeping Maryland alive. All this happened before Dunn delivered the walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th to cap off Maryland’s 8-7 comeback win in its final midweek game of the season.
The Terps were never truly out despite trailing the majority of the game, similar to the team’s position two games back of the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament with two weekends left to play. Mathematically, Maryland still has a chance.
“Belief is a huge thing. That’s the one thing in this dugout. There’s a lot of people that believe that we’re not done yet,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “I think that goes for every game we walk in to. Having guys come through in big spots like they did today can be a big thing to carry into the weekend.”
The Terps fell behind 6-2 in the top of the seventh, but used a late offensive power surge to even the score. Zach Jancarski and catcher Justin Vought each homered in the bottom of the seventh inning to cut the Terps’ deficit to 6-5.
Right-handed reliever Elliot Zoellner recorded a much-needed shutdown in the eighth, just in time for first Biondic to hit a game-tying home run to deep left field. It was Maryland’s fourth homer of the afternoon.
“We were just locked in at the plate today,” Dunn said. “We were seeing the ball well and running off good ABs.”
Trailing since the second inning, the Terps were even with the Tigers, who used similar home runs to claim their lead.
Starting pitcher Billy Phillips worked a scoreless first inning, but allowed three runs over the next two frames. Junior third basemen Richard Miller hit his seventh home run of the season over the batter’s eye to give Towson a 1-0 lead. The Tigers went up 2-0 later in the second inning, and senior left fielder Billy Lennox snuck a ball over the fence the following in the third to put the visitors up 3-0.
“I thought we came out, honestly, a little flat today and I thought Towson kind of did the opposite,” Vaughn said. “They came out with energy and took some really good swings early in the game and kind of punched us in the mouth a little bit.”
After three scoreless frames, Maryland cut its deficit to two in the bottom of the fourth. Biondic legged out a leadoff infield, preceding a two-run home run from Will Watson.
Towson added two important insurance runs in the top of the seventh off left-hander Grant Burleson, extending its lead to 6-2 with just nine outs left to record. But another late Maryland push ensued, tying the game after scoring four runs in the next two trips to the plate.
Closer John Murphy entered in the top of the ninth, but allowed a leadoff walk and a go-ahead double before departing after recording one out. Redshirt senior Alec Tuohy recorded a double play to get out of the inning, and later pitched a scoreless frame in the top of the 10th.
Dunn delivered the walk-off hit down the right field line with one out, scoring Taylor Wright from second. A mob followed, as Dunn was lifted and carried into the outfield in celebration. It was the most emotion on the baseball field Dunn has expressed, according to Biondic.
“It feels pretty good,” Dunn said. “I was just looking to put a good swing on the ball. He kind of left one up and that was it.”
The Terps, who have six conference games remaining, will return to Big Ten play this weekend when they host Rutgers. Maryland trails Nebraska, Rutgers and Michigan State for the No. 8 seed in the tournament.
“We’re just fighting for a spot right now in the Big Ten,” Biondic said. “We start with Friday. Win Friday and go on from there.”