When Maryland starter Zach Thompson exited the Terps’ Saturday game against the Golden Gophers in the seventh, Minnesota led 5-1, and the right-hander hadn’t given up a run since the second inning.
Then, the Terps put up a two-run eighth inning, closing in on the Golden Gophers, who led 5-3 entering the bottom half.
But Maryland’s bullpen failed to complete Thompson’s start, calling on three relievers in the inning and giving up four runs on four hits and two walks, eventually falling 9-3 to Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Though the Terps controlled Friday’s game en route to their 7-3 win over the Golden Gophers, Maryland (24-26, 9-11) failed to carry momentum from its series opener into Saturday’s matchup with Minnesota (23-24, 12-8). The Terps lost, 9-3, after early defensive struggles and inconsistent pitching combined with a lackluster offense.
Maryland’s troubles started in the first, after the Terps fell in order––the only inning the Maryland didn’t get a runner on base. Then the Terrapin defense, let by the right-hander Thompson, gave up four runs on five hits and two errors in the bottom of the first.
After a leadoff single from Minnesota, an error from Maryland left-fielder Caleb Walls set the tone for the inning, when the ball fell out of Walls’ glove in what should have been a sure out. Then, later in the half, second baseman Benjamin Cowles bobbled the ball and failed to secure an out on a ground ball, loading the bases with two outs. Thompson got our the bases-loaded jam with a pop-up to first base, but not before giving up four runs, two earned, on the two errors and five hits (all singles).
But, while Thompson bounced back, giving up only one additional run on a solo shot from Wilson in the second inning, putting the Golden Gophers ahead 5-1. Maryland’s only run through seven innings came in the second, when Maxwell Costes led off the inning with a solo home run to left field, his tenth homer of the season.
When Costes returned to the dugout, after trotting around the bases, he went over to Thompson and placed his hands on the righty’s shoulders, grinning and seemingly attempting to pump up Thompson and boost the starter’s confidence.
It worked, and the solo shot in the second was the only additional run Thompson allowed in his 7.0 innings of work. He finished with four strikeouts, allowing five runs––three earned––on six hits and one walk.
Maryland committed another error in the fourth, when shortstop A.J. Lee fielded a ground ball and threw the ball short of the bag for an E6. But Thompson worked around Lee’s error, and kept Minnesota from adding to its lead.
Though the Terps struggled defensively, after the first inning Maryland had a chance at a comeback, largely thanks to Thompson’s comeback on the mound. But the Terps couldn’t convert base runners into runs: in six of the first seven innings, Maryland had at least one base runner. And, in two of those innings Minnesota turned a double play to end the half.
Like Thompson, Maryland’s offense started to bounce back. After the right-hander put up a three-up, three-down inning in the seventh, the Terps came out hot to start the eighth. Caleb Walls led off the inning with a double, the first multi-base hit of the game.
A Randy Bednar single brought Walls across the plate, the first of two Maryland runs in the inning. Bednar scored two batters later, after Taylor Wright and Costes both singled.
But the Terps stranded both base runners, unable to finish the eighth-inning rally. Then, Maryland’s bullpen also failed to finish. Nick Turnbull, Sean Fisher and Sean Heine each pitched a third of an inning to pitch the eighth. Turnbull and Fisher gave up two runs apiece. Turnbull got one strikeout, the only K of the inning.
Minnesota’s pitching, led by right-hander Patrick Fredrickson, contained Maryland. Fredrickson lasted 4.2 innings, throwing 69 pitches in his first start since the end of March. The righty allowed one run on two hits, two walks and one hit-by-pitch, while striking out seven.
A combined effort from Bubba Horton, Brett Schulze and Jeff Fasching finished out the last 4.1 innings, striking out four total Terps and allowing two runs, on five hits and one walk.
Maryland faces Minnesota for the rubber match Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.