It was a bright but blustery day at the Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium as Maryland opened “College Park Pod” play against a Northwestern Wildcats team which came in wielding one of the best offenses in the country. Maxwell Costes separated himself from the rest of his teammates, knelt and said a prayer shortly before first pitch. Whether he was wishing for a win or not, his prayers were answered on the field.
Costes played very well on both sides of the ball – starting out two-for-two and making several standout plays in the field – and Maryland came from behind to stun Northwestern, 4-3, in game one of the twinbill series. Maryland trailed from the very beginning until the bottom of the seventh when a two-out, two-run double from Chris Alleyne scored Bobby Zmarzlak and Justin Vought, putting the game on level terms at three a piece. The breakthrough moment came an inning later, as Benjamin Cowles’ sac fly brought in Matthew Shaw from third for the winning run.
“They’re not afraid to come from behind, they’re not afraid to play behind,” head coach Rob Vaughn said of his Terps. “Obviously we want to play with the lead and step on it, but they don’t panic.”
On the mound, Sean Burke struggled to get going against that high-powered Northwestern offense, walking three batters in the top of the first and sending the opening run home. A fielding error by Matthew Shaw at third on a driven ground ball would score Leo Kaplan and quickly double the Wildcats lead.
Burke racked up five strikeouts through two innings, but also gave up a solo shot to Shawn Goosenberg and the Terps were behind 3-0.
Over time, the defense would grow into the affair and the Terps made some clutch defensive plays to stay in the contest. In the third, a really nice hustle play from Burke to grab an infield fly behind the plate was followed by first baseman Costes snagging a line drive with a diving effort. After four defensive innings, Maryland had only given up two hits.
Offensively, Maryland was nullified by starting pitcher Mike Doherty and the Northwestern fielders for long stretches. But those fielding efforts for Maryland would parlay into some offensive success, as the bats started to come alive in the bottom of the fourth. Costes hit one right back where it came from, skipping past the shortstop and second baseman into centerfield and scoring Randy Bednar to get one back.
“[Coach Vaughn] calls our offense ‘the pack’,” Cowles said. “In a wolfpack, no one person is solely doing anything. If somebody is struggling one day, then somebody else is going to pick them up. I guess today was my day to pick up the offense.”
Burke would leave the game after five innings pitched. Despite the early flurry, he got stronger in his performance as he saw the Northwestern lineup for a second and third time. He would finish with eight strikeouts and just three hits allowed, turning over his duties to Medford, NJ native and junior RHP Sean Heine.
Heine, in conjunction with fellow relievers David Falco and Sam Bello, stranded several batters in key situations to keep Northwestern off the scoreboard in the in later innings.
“I was just trying to keep the game close,” Heine said. “Just keep putting up zeroes and let our offense do the work.”
Maryland would ultimately put in that work, as their best chance to get back into the game came off the back of the seventh inning stretch and they capitalized. After a clean start to the game, the Northwestern fielders got sloppy with short stop Shawn Goosenberg unable to collect a groundball from Vought. Two batters later, left fielder Stephen Hrustich dropped that high fly ball hit deep into left field by Chris Alleyne.
Maryland rode the momentum into the eighth inning when Doherty eventually exited the mound, getting runners on the corners with one out before Benjamin Cowles clobbered the sac fly deep into right centerfield in the eighth. The rest was history.
The Terps will look to repeat this result tomorrow (without trailing for the duration again, perhaps) in a midday tilt against the Wildcats. First pitch is scheduled for noon, to be followed by game one between Northwestern and Michigan.