Before the Terps’ doubleheader against the Nittany Lions on Saturday, senior Taylor Wright said he wanted to hit a home run into or over the bleachers in left field at Medlar Field in University Park, Pennsylvania.
When Maryland needed it the most––leading 5-4 in the top of the ninth––Wright sent a blast deep into those very bleachers, giving the Terps a much-needed insurance run en route to the series-clinching 6-4 win over Penn State in game one of the doubleheader.
After defeating Penn State 5-2 in the series opener on Friday, Maryland continued to capitalize on the Nittany Lions’ defensive miscues in game one of the doubleheader––the Terps’ fourth consecutive Saturday doubleheader.
Maryland put a run on the board first Saturday, taking advantage of a Penn State throwing error. State College native Caleb Walls laid a sacrifice bunt down the third base line in the second inning, an attempt to move Maxwell Costes to third after the freshman doubled to start the inning.
But the Nittany Lions’ third baseman Justin Williams tripped while fielding Walls’ bunt, sending his throw into right field rather than to first baseman Ryan Ford. Costes came home on the throwing error giving Maryland the 1-0 lead.
Another Penn State throwing error, a failed pickoff attempt from right-hander Eric Mock, helped the Terps put up a two-out two-run rally in the fifth to take the lead. The rally started with a double from Chris Alleyne, who knocked the ball into the right-field corner. Then, Mock sent the ball soaring over second base into center field, and Alleyne made his way to third.
After AJ Lee worked a hit-by-pitch, giving the Terps runners on the corners, Randy Bednar sent a double to right-center field, the ball bouncing off the top of the wall. Both baserunners crossed the plate on Bendar’s hit, giving the sophomore the most RBIs amongst the Terps (42).
Terrapin starter Zach Thompson looked himself on the mound through the first six innings, allowing one run on three hits. But the righty started to fall apart in the seventh, after hitting the first two batters he faced. One run came across in the inning for the Nittany Lions after a sacrifice bunt and an RBI-groundout, but Thompson worked out of the jam and Maryland remained ahead 3-2 heading to the eighth.
Penn State’s only hit through the first four innings came on a solo homer from Shea Sbranti in the third. The senior’s shot sailed over the right-field wall, tying the game at one run apiece.
The Nittany Lions’ second hit didn’t come until the fifth inning, when Thompson gave up a single after hitting Penn State’s leadoff. But help from a Maryland 4-6-3 double play got the righty out of the inning, the Terps’ 3-1 lead intact. Thompson went a full seven innings, putting up three runs on three hits and striking out three.
Right-hander Mark DiLuia entered with a runner on first and no outs in the eighth. After a pickoff error from catcher Justin Vought moved the runner to third, Penn State threatened to cut into Maryland’s 5-2 lead.
Though DiLuia made a huge play shortly after relieving Thompson, fielding a ground ball and sprinting to first base for the first out of the inning, the right-hander gave up two runs on two hits, including a solo home run, and Penn State cut Maryland’s lead to 5-4.
Closer John Murphy finished the game for the Terps, earning his ninth save of his senior campaign after battling against the bottom of the Nittany Lions’ lineup and throwing 32 pitches. Murphy’s outing ensured Maryland’s series win heading into game two of the doubleheader.