The Terps (19-14) saw their six-game win streak come to an end on Friday night, dropping a 2-0 pitchers duel to Illinois (16-16).
The starters for both clubs were the stories of the night, with both pitchers going 7 2/3 innings. Illini sophomore Andrew Hoffmann recorded a career high 12 strikeouts, with the first eight coming through the first four innings. Hoffmann threw 80 of his 111 pitches for strikes, giving up only three hits, no runs and no walks. The sophomore’s 12 strikeouts were the most in a game for an Illini pitcher since April 2016.
Hoffmann got out to a hot start and never cooled off. The tall, lanky right-hander made quick work of the Terps early on, striking out six through three frames. He caught hitters off guard on his breaking ball, which sat about 20 miles per hour slower than his fastball. The two-time transfer student pounded the strike zone all night, getting the Terps hitters to chase. The righty reached two strike counts against each of the first nine Terps hitters.
Dean retired the first seven batters he faced, but faced trouble in the third. Left fielder Nathan Aide came up with the first hit of the game for either side with one out in the bottom of the third. Two pitches later, Freshman Cal Hejza hit an opposite field RBI single to put the Illini on the board.
Chris Alleyne got things going for the Terps with a leadoff single in the fourth. Hoffmann responded with his seventh strikeout of the night, getting Matt Shaw to strike out swinging. Alleyne promptly stole second for his conference-leading 19th steal of the season. The speedy Alleyne advanced to second on a Ben Cowles groundout but the right hander worked out of trouble and recorded his eighth strikeout, stranding Alleyne on third.
In the bottom of the fifth, leadoff hitter Taylor Jackson reached third on a three-base error off an errant throw from third baseman Tommy Gardiner. Illinois was unable to drive Jackson home as slugger Jackson Raper ended the inning with a flyout to right.
The Terps were unable to capitalize off of catcher Riley Langerman’s one out single in the sixth, as Hoffman continued to cruise through six.
Designated hitter Justin Janas got on base to start the bottom half of the inning with a slow roller that hugged the third base line for a single. Tommy Gardiner made up for his fielding blunder in the fifth with a heads-up play. Gardiner intentionally dropped a lineout to third to get the lead runner at second, but catcher Ryan Hampe was called safe at first after a lengthy review, leaving manager Rob Vaughn displeased and looking for an explanation from the umpiring crew. The questionable call did not seem to phase Dean, though. He left Hampe stranded on first and recorded his first strikeout to end the inning.
With one out in the seventh, Maxwell Costes reached first on his 15th hit by pitch of the year, the second most in the conference. It was just the fourth base runner allowed by Hoffmann. The sophomore recorded his career-high 10th strikeout of the game after Tommy Gardiner was caught looking to end the top of the inning.
Both pitchers shined through seven innings, with Dean giving up just one earned run on four hits, and Hoffmann striking out a career-high ten on just two hits while giving up no runs. Neither pitcher allowed a walk through seven innings. Maryland saw only two runners reach scoring position through the seventh.
Hoffmann recorded his 11th strikeout for the first out of the eighth, which gave him 7 1/3 innings pitched on the night, a new career-high. Hoffmann seemed to get better as the game went on. He recorded four straight strikeouts in the seventh and eighth innings as he climbed over 100 pitches. Catcher Riley Langerman ended Hoffmann’s excellent outing with a two-out bloop single in the eighth, but Cole Kirschsieper came on in relief, getting Alleyne to pop out to shortstop.
Dean also came back out for the eighth, starting the inning at only 80 pitches. After recording two quick outs, the sophomore walked Branden Comia, the first free pass issued by either team. Five pitches later, Janas hit a single down the right field line to advance Comia to third, ending Dean’s excellent outing. Elliot Zoellner’s first pitch in relief was a wild one, scoring Comia from third and giving the Illini a much-needed insurance run. Zoellner escaped further trouble with a Hampe groundout on the next pitch.
Matt Shaw gave the Terps life with a leadoff walk in the ninth, but Kirschsieper recorded a huge strikeout of slugger Ben Cowles, who looked to be swinging for the fences during his at bat. Kirschsieper followed the Cowles strikeout with a punchout of Costes for the second out of the inning. The sophomore earned his second save of the year by retiring Matt Orlando, giving Illinois a 2-0 win.
With the win, Illinois gets back to .500 for the first time since starting 6-6. This was only the Illini’s third win this year when scoring five runs or less. Dean took the tough-luck loss, and Hoffman earned his second win of the year.
Due to expected inclement weather on Sunday, the Terps will take on the Illini for two at Illinois Field. The first game starts at noon with the pitching matchup uncertain due to the sudden schedule change. The series finale will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one.