The bottom half of the third inning against Rutgers on Saturday will go down in Maryland lore as one of the best in the history of the program. And senior Will Watson’s performance will live on forever in the record books.
In the second game of his last series in College Park, Watson tied a school-record with eight RBI on the day. The majority of that came in the third inning, hitting two home runs and knocking in seven runs to lead the Terrapins to 17-2 victory.
Not to be lost among the offensive showcase that Maryland put on was the outstanding performance of starting pitcher Taylor Bloom. In his last outing ever on the mound at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, the senior delivered a masterful gem, hurling seven strong and holding the Scarlet Knights to just one earned run on six hits.
“I just wanted to give the fans a good start, the team a good start,” Bloom said following his outing.
A double from Dan DiGeorgio to kick off the game was not how Bloom wanted things to start. And when Mike Nyisztor ripped the very next pitch towards the third base line, it seemed as though it could be the makings of a disastrous outing.
But Taylor Wright made a diving stop to hold the runner at second base and get the out, and Bloom picked off DiGeorgio soon thereafter to take away the scoring threat. He then struck out the next batter to close out the first inning without any damage.
AJ Lee doubled to start off the bottom half for Maryland, and some good baserunning allowed him to score on a passed ball. After Marty Costes made his way to third base following a walk, Watson brought him home on sacrifice fly in his first at-bat of the game.
In the top of the third, Rutgers got its first run on the board. Luke Bowerbank sent a seemingly innocuous ground ball to second base, but Nick Dunn couldn’t field it cleanly. That put a runner on base, and it came back to hurt the Terps. DiGeorgio delivered his second double in as many at-bats to cut Maryland’s lead to one, but Bloom stranded him on base to leave with the inning with the lead.
Marty Costes doubled with one out in the bottom of the third, and Kevin Biondic singled to put runners on the corners for Watson. At that point, the Terps held a 2-1 lead and were looking to add some insurance runs for Bloom. But the senior left fielder wanted more, ripping a line drive over the wall in left-center field to give Maryland a four run advantage.
“He’s swinging the bat with a lot of confidence right now,” coach Rob Vaughn said of Watson. “Will just comes out and keeps working every day. You’re seeing the fruits of his labor right now.”
The Terrapins didn’t stop there. Seven of the next eight batters reached base, sending Watson to the plate once again. This time around, he stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and his team sporting a 9-1 lead.
“With runners in scoring position, you’re just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Watson said about heading to the plate for the second time in the inning. “Once you get one over the plate, you have to be moving the barrel and good things usually happen.”
On an 0-1 pitch, Watson drove a long fly ball to left-center field, sending outfielder Kevin Blum to the warning track. Blum followed the ball as far as he could, scaling the wall once he ran out of room. But his efforts were futile, and it was a grand slam for Watson.
That was the senior’s second home run, combining for seven RBI in the third inning alone. He sits in second place in NCAA history for most in a single inning, and Terps now led by a score of 13-1.
“We’re having so much fun right now, we’re just trying to keep it rolling,” Watson said.
Bloom did his part to keep the Terps ahead – the senior went above and beyond to quiet the Scarlet Knights the rest of the way. The tops of the next three frames were all scoreless, as Bloom used a combination of the strikeout and the soft-contact routes to silence Rutgers.
Despite such a large number already on the scoreboard, Maryland kept putting runs across. The fourth inning saw AJ Lee and Nick Dunn knock runners in on a single and sacrifice fly, respectively. Then in the sixth, Dunn plated another run with a second sacrifice fly.
Bloom’s only real mistake came on the first pitch to Chris Folinusz to kick off the seventh, as the first baseman lifted a fly ball over the wall to get Rutgers back on the board. The bases became loaded with one out, but he got Blum to roll a pair to close out his outing. Elliot Zoellner came on to finish off the final two innings, and he did so without incident to complete the blowout victory.
Maryland still has some work to do if it is to make the postseason, but if Saturday is any indication, the Terrapins are up to the task to get the job done. These seniors don’t want to quit playing just yet.
“For most of us, this is our last time playing baseball,” said Bloom. “We’re just laying it all on the line.”