In Maryland’s first doubleheader of the season, the Terps hoped to gain momentum and swing the series with Michigan State in their favor after a quiet Friday night at the plate, but Michigan State’s pitching did not make it easy for a sluggish Terps lineup, starting with Mason Erla, who took the ball in game one.
Nearly replicating his fellow Spartan Sam Benschoter’s stellar start from Friday night, Erla, who was named a 2021 Big Ten Preseason Player to Watch, struck out six Terps over five two-run frames of work. Erla also greatly benefitted from a Terps lineup that — similar to Friday night — failed to convert on plenty of opportunities as the Spartans defeated Maryland, 7-4.
While Maryland was able to score their first three runs of the season in game one, none of them came from base hits, continuing to highlight the hitting struggles the team has had when having runners on base. In total, the Terps went a cold 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
The Terps’ bats were able to put pressure on Erla late into the redshirt junior’s start when freshman catcher Luke Shliger blasted his first collegiate hit for a leadoff triple in the fifth inning, but the cold hitting with RISP carried deep into the seven-inning contest as Maryland could only pick up one run on a Chris Alleyne sacrifice-fly.
As for Michigan State, they converted on nearly all of their chances to score, starting from the beginning of the night.
The Spartans came into their half of the first inning hungry, and some shoddy defense made it easy for Michigan State to give themselves three runs on a silver platter despite having just two hits.
Their fourth run of the night came two innings later, when sophomore Zaid Walker, who brought home Michigan State’s first two runs, picked up his third RBI of the night on a single through the left side of the infield.
Maryland was able to cut the deficit to one run in their half of the fifth inning, but the Spartans weren’t going to let that go without retaliation, as they tagged on another pair of runs in the same inning.
The Spartans put the cherry on top of their offensive showing with a run of insurance in the sixth, giving them a comfy four-run cushion as they entered the seventh and final inning of the night.
Michigan State’s Jordan Beatson entered the final frame hoping to quickly shut down the Terps bats for good. However, Maryland didn’t go down in the seventh without a fight, as Benjamin Cowles crushed a leadoff home run and Maxwell Costes came to the plate as the tying run. With such a threat at the plate, Michigan State turned to Zach Iverson, who pitched in the ninth inning of Friday night’s game to record the final out, and that is what he just did.
Costes went down swinging, encapsulating what was a very frustrating first half of the night at the plate for the Terps.
Moving on to game two, the first inning gave early impressions that the Terps’ hitting struggles would continue, going down in order in the first frame against freshman Adam Berghorst. An inning later, those impressions did a full 180-degree turn, as Berghorst’s lack of control gave Maryland the offensive spark they needed to get runs on the board, but it wasn’t enough as the bullpen presented a problem of its own, allowing Michigan State to bounce back late and defeat Maryland in game two, 5-4.
In the second inning, Berghorst hit Troy Schreffler Jr. with the bases loaded to give Maryland the first run of the night, catcher James Heffley cashed in Maryland’s first hit of the night with runners in scoring position, driving in a pair of runs to put Maryland up early, 3-0.
The same lack of control came back a second time for Berghorst, as he loaded the bags again in the fourth inning before walking in another Terps run.
The shaky control that Berghorst displayed in the second and fourth innings was nearly reflective of what allowed Michigan State to score seven runs in the doubleheader’s first leg, as Fisher had similar control issues in the early going of his start.
As for Maryland’s game two starter, sophomore Connor Staine couldn’t have put the Terps in a better position to split the doubleheader. In his debut as a starter, Staine steadily cruised through six one-run innings.
Staine did work himself into some trouble in the fourth inning, when the first two Spartans reached base and both advanced into scoring position. Staine refused to give in, striking out the next two before forcing a ground out to escape the jam.
In Michigan State’s sixth inning, the Spartans got on the board for the first time in game two, as some great pieces of hitting placed a couple of Spartans on base before Iverson plated a run on a single.
Staine ended his night with career-highs around the board, pitching six innings and recording nine strikeouts while allowing six hits and no walks. The career night for Staine was exactly what the Terps needed to allow the offense to get over its hitting struggles as they were able to take the lead right away and wouldn’t have to look back — that was, until the seventh inning.
After Staine exited with an excellent night of work under his belt, Elliot Zoellner entered the game holding a three-run lead over the Spartans, but staged a complete meltdown without being able to record an out.
A couple Spartan batters later, and Michigan State had the winning run at the plate after a Peter Ahn double rolled under Costes’s glove, making it a 4-3 Maryland lead. Mitch Jebb came up to the plate a couple batters later, and with Sam Bello replacing Zoellner on the mound, proceeded to tie the game up on a blast to the left-field corner that scored Ahn.
The Spartans rally wouldn’t stop, as Maryland’s biggest concern had quickly shifted from their hitting to the bullpen. Michigan State grabbed their first lead of game two as Walker plated Jebb on an infield single, but had their rally halted before they could potentially break open the game.
Bello recovered an inning later, but the damage had already been done as Maryland couldn’t start a rally of their own in the ninth, and ultimately fell to the Spartans after leading for most of game two.
With the weekend series already going to the Spartans, Maryland can now just hope they can at least win tomorrow afternoon’s contest to avoid the four-game sweep.