Maryland defeats Illinois for first series win since March

After struggling offensively against the Illinois Illini (20-10, 1-4), Maryland (15-15, 3-3) showed out with two four-run innings in the second game of the Terps’ doubleheader on Saturday to win 8-4.

With the rubber match victory in Champaign, Illinois, Maryland secured a series win for the first time since its early-March win over the Stetson Hatters.

Maryland’s youth contributed heavily in the series-winning victory, after the Terps put up  four-run innings in both the third and seventh. All but two of Maryland’s eight runs were scored by underclassmen, including two three-run homers, one apiece  from sophomore Randy Bednar and freshman Maxwell Costes.

An RBI-bunt-single from senior AJ Lee brought across the Terps’ first run of the game, after Maryland worked a pair of free bases in the third inning. Then, Bednar went yard, sending a three-run shot to left-field to put the Terps ahead 4-0.

The sophomore’s offensive power proved big in the seventh as well, when he knocked in the Terps’ tie-breaking run on a one-out RBI-single. With two outs, Costes stepped to the plate, looking to give Maryland’s defense some much-needed insurance runs.

It had been almost a month since the freshman had recorded an RBI, but with a three-run blast of his own to left-center, Costes proved he wasn’t done with is dominant freshman campaign. His blast put the Terps up 8-4 with three innings left to play.

Freshman righty Trevor LaBonte put up a solid start for Maryland, just a week after struggling in 2.1 innings of work against Indiana. LaBonte held the Illini scoreless through three, giving up a sole run in the fourth after giving up a leadoff double. He went 5.1 innings and allowed four runs––one earned––on five hits and three walks, but struck out three.

Those three unearned runs came in the sixth inning, when a pair of Maryland infield errors––one fielding, one throwing––combined with a one-out walk to load the bases. A pair of singles and a sac fly drove in three runs for the Illini and tied the game at four runs apiece.

Maryland found itself in an almost-identical situation in the bottom of the seventh. The Terps, leading 8-4, faced an Illini offense that loaded the bases on a single, hit-by pitch and walk, with one out. But, Maryland learned from its sixth-inning blunders, and a 6-4-3 double-play ended the Illinois threat.

Relief appearances from left-handers Andrew Vail and Sean Fisher kept the Terps in the game, after Vail finished the sixth for LaBonte and Fisher entered for Vail in the seventh. Fisher went 2.2 innings, recording eight straight outs to secure Maryland’s series win.

The Terps return to College Park for a pair of midweeks, starting with a Tuesday matching against the William & Mary Tribe, followed by a Wednesday game against the West Virginia Mountaineers. First pitch for both games is set for 4 p.m. ET.