When junior Brandon Raquet sent a long ball over the fence in the bottom of the seventh, all Maryland center fielder Chris Alleyne could do was look up and watch the ball go over the fence. Raquet’s homer was his second grand slam of the season for the Tribe, and broke open the Maryland-William & Mary midweek, pushing the Tribe to a seven-run lead.
After struggling against the Indiana Hoosiers over the weekend, Maryland’s bullpen struggled against the William & Mary (20-7) lineup, as free bases added up in Maryland’s 8-1 loss at Plumeri Park in Williamsburg, Virginia.
“When you kind of go in a rut and you’re scuffling a little bit,” head coach Rob Vaughn said, “you start thinking ‘well here we go,’ and that’s a dangerous place to be. We tell these guys all the time…when you think is going to happen is probably going to happen.”
Entering the Wednesday matchup, Maryland (13-14) was 5-0 in midweeks, outscoring their opponents 49-23. But, after a week off heading into Big Ten Play last weekend, the Terps struggled to carry their midweek momentum into their matchup with the Tribe.
“The stuff from a pure pitch standpoint is still pretty good,” catcher Justin Vought said. “[We’re] not getting enough first-pitch strikes. Say we have a good inning, guys are sitting down and coming back out and not saying focused.”
Maryland called on six pitchers, after starter Tuck Tucker went four innings, striking out four and allowing three runs on four hits. Tucker also hit two and walked one. After securing the leadoff out in the first, Tucker gave up three free bases, allowing the Tribe to take the one-run lead with a sac fly. Two innings later, the southpaw gave up a two-run homer to Hunter Smith, his Tribe-leading eighth homer of the season.
“We’ve got to minimize freebies,” Vaughn said. “[Tucker] didn’t give us his best stuff, but he competed for us and did fine. [Elliot Zoellner] was fine…and then [Mark DiLuia] made some really good pitches and then let one bleed…and a guy pits a good swing on it.”
Of the six Terrapin relievers, who pitched a combined 5 innings, Sean Fisher put up the most impressive relief outing, going 1.2 innings and giving up one hit and struck out two. DiLuia and Mike Vasturia went an inning apiece. Maryland gave up a total of nine free bases––six walks and three hit-by-pitches––and struck out six.
Maryland reliever Sean Fisher took the mound in the bottom of the fifth with one out, inheriting a 2-0 count against third baseman Zach Pearson. The southpaw walked Pearson, but struck out consecutive batters to get the Terps out of the inning trailing the Tribe 4-1.
Building off Fisher’s momentum, Maryland’s fortune seemed to change heading into the sixth inning, when the Terps loaded the bases on a leadoff hit, a fielder’s choice and a hit-by-pitch. But, Maryland could not finish, and William & Mary recorded three straight outs––two of which were strikeouts––to end the Terps’ rally opportunity.
Leading off the third inning, catcher Justin Vought sent a solo blast over the right-center wall, his fourth of the season. Rounding the bases, the sophomore was the first Terrapin to reach base in any capacity against the Tribe, after William & Mary starter Jacob Haney struck out the side to start the first, and sent Maryland down in order again in the second.
“We just aren’t moving the barrel early in the count,” Vought said. “Today, even last weekend [against Indiana], we’re just not moving the barrel on hittable pitches when we’re supposed to.”
While the Tribe capitalized on free bases from the Terrapin pitching staff, Maryland not only struggled to connect with the ball with runners on base, but also failed to capitalize on three free bases from William & Mary’s own staff.
“If you unwind this thing four of five weeks ago, that’s something we were doing a pretty good job of,” Vaughn said, “getting guys on [and] executing. We have to do a better job of stringing quality at-bats together, and then when we do get in those spots we have to cash in, especially when you gave a runner at third and less than two outs.”
Maryland had chances to tie the game in both the sixth and seventh, but the William & Mary pitching staff came in clutch for the Tribe, and the Terps stranded a total of nine runners on the day.
“I think we’ve proven that we can play with the best teams in the country,” Vought said. “We’re still remaining optimistic, we’re still showing up every day getting our work done. We’re all pretty confident we’re going to get this thing turned around in a hurry.”
“I can live with it when we play hard and when we do things right as far as that goes,” Vaughn said. “But that’s where we’ve really got to step up our game a little bit.”
The Terps hit the road again this weekend, taking on the Illinois I for their first road series in four weeks. Maryland faces the Illinois Fighting Illini for a three-game series in Champaign, Illinois, starting Friday at 4 p.m.