A cloudy day in Champaign did not stop the Terps from shining both at the plate and on the mound, propelling Maryland to a doubleheader sweep of Illinois.
Starter Jason Savacool had a memorable outing in game one, only to be topped by his battery-mate Justin Vought in game two.
Starter Nick Dean set the bar high with an outstanding performance on Friday night, but Savacool was up for the task. The freshman phenom shined on the mound for the Terps in game one, falling just two outs short of his third complete game of the year. He recorded a career-high seven strikeouts and allowed just four hits against an Illinois offense that came into the day leading the conference in batting average.
The Terps were firing on all cylinders in game one. After being silenced last night, Maryland’s bats came alive and capitalized on many of their chances. Bobby Zmarzlak tallied a career-high three hits and Chris Alleyne drove in three runs. Six Terps recorded multi-hit games.
The Terps also found success on the basepaths. The team was successful in all seven of their stolen base tries, with Zmarzlak, Troy Schreffler and Ben Cowles swiping two bags apiece. It was a great all-around game for the Terps, who bounced back in a big way after Friday’s tough loss.
The Terps scored their first run of the series in the third on Alleyne’s RBI single. Alleyne scored from first on freshman Matt Shaw’s RBI double down the third base line, giving Maryland a 2-0 lead. That is all the run support Savacool needed.
Sporting No. 45 for Gerrit Cole, the freshman flashed shades of the Yankees right-hander early on, retiring the first nine Illini hitters. Illinois got on the board with an RBI fielder’s choice from Justin Janas but the Illini were unable to tack on any more runs.
Savacool continued to shine, striking out Janas and right fielder Cam McDonald for his career-high seventh strikeout of the afternoon. The freshman sailed through the seventh with only three hits allowed.
In the eighth, Alleyne extended the Terps lead to 5-1 with an RBI single, his third of the afternoon. Still in search of his first home run of the series, Cowles came up later in the inning but struck out swinging.
Savacool worked around one hit in the eighth and got slugger Jackson Raper to fly out to center and end the inning. The freshman was back on the hill to begin the ninth, but following a hit batsmen and a single, Savacool’s stellar start ended just two outs short of a complete game.
Closer Sam Bello entered the game, and things got a little too close for comfort for the Terps. With the bases loaded and the Illini down to their final out, catcher Jacob Campbell hit Bello’s offering off the wall for a two-run double, cutting the Terps’ lead to two. Bello was able to close out the game with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Tom Jurack, and the Terps evened the series at one apiece by taking game one 5-3.
While the story of game one was the Terps’ success on the hill, Maryland’s offense led the charge in game two.
Down 1-0, the Terps were held quiet until the fourth inning. After being bogged down all series long, the Terps’ bats finally came alive. Maxwell Costes led off the fourth with a single before Tommy Gardiner laced a single into right, moving Costes to third. With one out, left fielder Tucker Flint stepped up to the plate and delivered an opposite-field three run homer to left.
But the Terps weren’t done. Catcher Justin Vought followed up Flint’s homer with one of his own, a solo shot to left center.
Maryland’s offensive onslaught had just begun.
Vought led off the sixth with his second homer of the day, another solo shot to left. Alleyne followed with a homer of his own, and the Terps went back-to-back for the second time in three innings.
The Illini pushed across one run in the sixth and seventh innings to cut Maryland’s lead to three, but that was the closest they would get.
Vought’s career day at the plate was not over. The catcher unloaded on a 1-1 offering from reliever Ryan Kutt for his third home run of the game, becoming the first Terp with a three-homer game since 2009. Two batters later, Ben Cowles joined the home run party with his Big-Ten leading 14th homer of the season, giving him a home run in each series this season. The two solo home runs gave the Terps an 8-3 lead.
As the rain started to fall, the Terps continued to pour it on. Schreffler came around to score on a wild pitch and give the Terps a 9-3 lead in the ninth. Later in the inning, Vought stepped to the plate with a chance at history: a four home run game. While he did not hit one out, the catcher did lace an RBI single to left field for his fourth RBI of the game. Shaw kept the line moving with a two-run single to give the Terrapins 12 runs on the day.
The Illini tacked on one in the bottom half, but David Falco shut the door on the Illini’s comeback hopes, giving the Terps another series win.
Maryland has won eight of their past nine and 11 of their last 13. With only three series left in the regular season, the Terps have caught fire at the right time.
The Terrapins will be back at the “Bob” next weekend for a three-game set versus a struggling Purdue ball club that has lost five of their last six.