Maryland right-hander Trevor LaBonte had only given up three homers in 40 innings entering Sunday’s start against Ohio State. Buckeyes center fielder Ridge Winand quickly changed that, hitting two in the first three innings to lead the Buckeyes to victory in a rubber match in College Park.
In his first two at-bats, Winand hit a solo shot and a three-run homer to give Ohio State a 4-0 lead in the top of the third inning. The senior, who went 0-for-7 in Saturday’s doubleheader, previously had only one long ball this season.
LaBonte, a freshman no stranger to series-clinching opportunities — pitching in his sixth in nine starts this season — made two costly mistakes in an overall successful outing.
Although LaBonte only allowed four runs over six innings and Ohio State only scored once more, Maryland’s offense only produced one run in a 5-1 loss to drop a fourth straight weekend series at home.
“We knew how good Ohio State is and it just tells you how much you have to finish games when you have a chance,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “We had the chance yesterday to win the series and again, they battled back and showed a lot of toughness on their end.”
Maryland was six outs away from clinching a third consecutive conference series win on Saturday — a feat the program hadn’t accomplished since 2003. It led 8-4, hours after exploding for a season-high 20 hits to take the series opener in the first half of a doubleheader.
But the Buckeyes hit timely home runs to erase a late deficit to win the game in extras. Designated hitter Brent Todys hit a two-run homer at sparked a four-run comeback in the eighth. In the 11th inning, the sophomore went deep again to provide the game-winning hit.
Despite squandering a chance to take win the series before the weekend finale, Maryland was confident it’d erase the result from its mind with LaBonte on the mound. The Terps had won the previous two Sundays with him pitching, taking a pair of road series against Northwestern and Illinois.
But Maryland’s weekend struggles at home persisted, falling to 7-12 at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium this season. Unable to come from behind and erase Winand’s homers, the Terps dropped their fourth straight three-game series at home — the last successful weekend at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium coming in late February against Maine.
“Those two pitches are obviously the two I wish I could have back,” LaBonte said. “I was a little too middle with both of them. [Winand] put two good swings on them, so I paid for it.”
By the end of his start, though, LaBonte had settled into a groove and held the Buckeyes scoreless over his final three innings. Winand’s two homers accounted for the only run production off the Terps starter in six innings.
“I tried to put those two pitches behind me and just keep attacking guys and keep running off the plan that we had,” LaBonte said.
Right-hander Mark DuLuia allowed the only other Buckeyes run of the game in the top of the eighth, when right fielder Dominic Canzone doubled with two runners on. The sophomore pitched the final three innings and only allowed the one run, which was unearned.
That provided a chance to win for Maryland’s offense, which produced 23 runs in two games on Saturday. But it couldn’t replicate similar success against Buckeyes starter Griffan Smith, who tossed a complete game and struck out a career-high 10 hitters.
“I think that’s just baseball sometimes,” catcher Justin Vought said. “You’re going to be swinging the bat well like we did yesterday and bounced back today and [Smith] was throwing three pitches for strikes in the zone and we didn’t get that one big hit.”
Second baseman Benjamin Cowles hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the third and scored two batters later when shortstop AJ Lee bunted him home. But within reach for the entirety of the contest, the Terps left two runners on in the third and fourth innings.
Maryland went 0-for-8 with runners on base. Finishing with only four hits, the Terps only had two baserunners after the third inning — a double from Vought in the fourth a a walk from Vought in the sixth.
“As much as I would like to say we should’ve done more,” Vaughn said, “I have to tip my cap to how much [Smith] competed on the mound.”