For the first time since April 16, Maryland finally had its top five hitters in the same lineup and through a full-strength offense and one of Sean Burke’s best outings of the season, Maryland beat Michigan 7-3 to win their sixth-straight series Sunday.
Maryland was swinging out of the gates with a more aggressive approach against starting pitcher Jacob Denner compared to Saturday with a leadoff double by Chris Alleyne. Up came Ben Cowles who had been hitless in the first two games of the series as Michigan has done a good job containing him.
But on a 3-1 pitch, Cowles hit his Big Ten leading 17th home run to deep left field to give Maryland the early 2-0 lead and also extend his streak of hitting at least one home run in a series. Randy Bednar Jr. would then follow Cowles’ lead and hit his own home run to left field to give Maryland a commanding 3-0 lead in the first inning.
“We got after [Denner] early, with a really good plan and a really good approach by the guys,” coach Rob Vaughn said.
Michigan would respond in the second inning, hitting Sean Burke hard with a single and a double that brought Tito Flores to the plate, and on one swing he tied the game 3-3 with a home run to left field.
But Maryland slugger Matt Shaw responded in the third inning with a double and advanced to third on Cowles’ sacrifice fly that was almost home run No. 18 on the season. Bednar would get the job done and bring him home on the RBI groundout to give Maryland the lead right back 4-3.
Against an offense like Michigan, Maryland needed to add insurance runs. That’s exactly what happened in the fourth inning when Troy Scheffler Jr. got it going with a single and a stolen base. Justin Vought continued his hot streak with a single that put runners on the corners with no outs.
Schreffler Jr. then had a heads up play to score when a wild pitch got away from catcher Griffin Mazur with nobody covering home to make it 5-3 and bring up the big guns of the Maryland lineup with the chance to do more damage.
Shaw’s RBI double would do just that making it 6-3 and the bases would be loaded for the returning Maxwell Costes after missing five games with an ankle injury. Normally, facing a high leverage situation would cause you to be aggressive looking for the big hit. Costes stayed patient and drew the bases-loaded RBI walk to cap off the big inning and give Maryland a 7-3 lead.
“[Costes] really sees the baseball well.” Vaughn said. “It’s good to have him back in there today.”
Sunday featured only the 18th time out of 41 games this season Bednar Jr. and Costes were in the lineup at the same time, and the result was seven runs, which was all the offense Maryland needed on the afternoon.
After his slip up in the second inning, Burke would settle in. In the third inning, Burke picked off Elliot at second base which would ultimately keep a run off the board as Jimmy Obertop would single right after. Burke then retired nine-straight Wolverines from the fourth through the sixth innings.
Around 100 pitches, coming back out for the seventh inning, Burke entered empty-the-tank mode and gave up a walk to Big Ten player of the week Ted Burton, his first baserunner since the Obertop single in the third inning.
But Burke struck out Mazur looking to record the first out and was taken out of the game. Burke went a season-high 6 1/3 innings, gave up three runs on four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.
“[Burke] slammed the door,” Vaughn said. “When he’s throwing his fastball like that he’s really good.”
Elliot Zoellner would come out of the bullpen and only needed two pitches to get out of the inning as he forced a huge double play.
Michigan tried to rally in the eighth with two runners on base, but Zoellner struck out Obertop to end the inning.
Ryan Ramsey was tasked to get the save in the ninth inning and did it stress-free to clinch Maryland’s six-straight series win.
“Unbelievable job by our pitching staff having a big time bounce back day after a tough one yesterday,” Vaughn said.
Maryland is now tied with Michigan for second in the Big Ten standings and has the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Wolverines going into their last series of the regular season against Indiana chasing after that at-large-bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve got one weekend left,” Vaughn said. “It’s our job to go leave a really good lasting impression in the committee’s mind so they don’t have the option to leave us out.”