One of the most memorable moments of the Terps’ 2019 campaign came in their last series opener, a Thursday-night matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes, when senior shortstop A.J. Lee knocked a two-run walk-off homer out of the park and sent his bat flying before being engulfed by his teammates.
Maryland took the lead early, but struggled to maintain it in the top of the ninth as the Iowa offense mounted a four-run inning to tie the game at eight runs apiece.
Enter: A.J. Lee.
Heading into the ninth Lee was already 2-for-3 on the day with a pair of singles, an RBI, a stolen base and a sacrifice hit.
When Lee stepped to the plate, freshman Josh Maguire stood on second base thanks to his leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt from Benjamin Cowles.
Lee took the first pitch, a ball, then sent the second pitch he saw flying deep over the left-field wall.
Almost as soon as the ball had left Lee’s bat he watched it soar through the air before tossing his bat to the side and rounded the bases, yelling and skipping in excitement.
“I had a pretty good idea [it was going out],” Lee said. “But [the bat flip] was just out of pure excitement. I knew pretty much it was going to be gone.”
As Lee rounded first the Maryland dugout emptied, the energy and excitement palpable as is only the case with walk offs.
But Lee’s homer and the Terps’ subsequent win meant all the more after the struggles the team, and Lee, had been through over the course of the season.
“It’s really special for this team,” Lee said. “We’re been through a lot of adversity as a team, had ups and downs, good days and bad days. But at the end of the day, we’re all brothers and we’re out here trying to fight for a spot in the post season.”
Lee started the 2019 season 0-for-13, before an ankle injury at the beginning of March forced him to take an eight-game break to heal and regain focus. In his first at-bat back on March 15, Lee singled.
By the end of the season, Lee led the Terps with a .317 average and a .443 on-base percentage, plus 60 hits and 10 stolen bases.
“[It] made me appreciate things a lot more,” Lee said. “I just feel a lot more relaxed, a lot more comfortable out there, and [I’m] just having fun and playing the game.”
After his dominant season, Lee was selected by the Houston Astros in the 34th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, the second of two Maryland players drafted, after the Mets chose Hunter Parsons in the 19th round.