Maryland knew to beat a baseball powerhouse like East Carolina in front of the hostile home crowd in Greenville they had to get off to a great start and take advantage of their scoring chances with runners on base early. Neither happened as they never led and left eleven runners on base. As a result, Maryland’s season came to an end Sunday night in an 9-6 loss as East Carolina advanced to the Super Regionals.
The big blow came in the top of the eighth after Maryland failed to turn a double play that would have gotten them out of the inning still down 5-4. Costes and Shaw couldn’t turn it fast enough allowing a runner to score to make it 6-4.
The next batter Zach Agnos delivered the big blow of the game: a double into the gap that scored two runs and broke the game open 8-4. Down to its last six outs, Maryland did not give up and fought to the end. Maxwell Costes displayed that mindset with a two-run homer — his third of the regional — to cut the deficit to 8-6 hoping for some late-inning magic.
But after East Carolina added another insurance run in the ninth inning, Maryland was unable to rally like they did earlier Sunday, and as a result, the clock had literally struck past midnight as its road to Omaha came to an end.
“I thought the guys, laid it on the line and I thought they absolutely left the tank completely empty,” coach Rob Vaughn said.
After a rain delay delayed the start of the game. Connor Staine was given the ball to start off and East Carolina jumped on him from the start, getting back-to-back doubles from Thomas Francisco and Josh Moylan to go up 1-0, and an Alec Makarewicz single made it 2-0 before Maryland could grab a bat.
Matt Shaw wasn’t afraid of the moment and got one of the runs back quickly in the bottom half of the inning with a leadoff home run to left field.
“As leadoff hitter, I’m kind of just trying to see some pitchers and every time I go up to bat I’m just trying to hit the ball hard,” Shaw said.
After a shaky first, the hope was Staine could settle in and pitch a clean second inning for the Terps. He didn’t and was pulled with two outs in the second inning for Sam Bello after giving up a solo home run to Seth Caddell to make it 3-1.
“I just didn’t [Staine] wasn’t too sharp because he hasn’t been on the mound, a lot in the last couple of weeks,” Vaughn said.
East Carolina would add another run in the third inning with a sacrifice fly by Agnos before Shaw would hit his second home run of the game to cut the deficit to 4-2 in the bottom half of the inning.
When Bello loaded the bases in the fourth inning, Sean Fisher was summoned from the bullpen and was wild to start his outing, hitting two batters in a row to force in another run. That made the score 5-2, but Fisher got out of the inning without any more damage to keep Maryland within striking distance.
Maryland definitely had its chances with runners on base to do some damage early in the game. The Terps had two runners on in the second inning, but Tucker Flint grounded out to end the inning. They were in the same scenario in the third after Shaw’s home run, but Bobby Zmarzlak struck out and Justin Vought popped out to the shortstop to end Maryland’s hope of a rally.
In the fourth inning, Maryland had runners on second and first with its two best hitters up. Shaw this time struck out, and a Ben Cowles flyout was a couple of feet away from tying the game but died at the warning track.
“We had some opportunities early, and just couldn’t quite get the big hit,” Vaughn said.
Maryland finally broke through in the fifth inning. With the bases loaded, a rocket off of Troy Schreffler’s bat deflected off Ryder Giles’ glove at shortstop into left field and allowed two runs to score, cutting East Carolina’s lead to 5-4. Maryland couldn’t find that important tying run before East Carolina added those insurance runs late to extend their season for another game.
Even with the heartbreaking loss, it was a successful and historic season for Maryland as it finished with a 30-18 record and finishing second in the Big Ten despite the injuries and the adversity they faced all season.
“You just can’t say enough about this group, [with] the adversity that these guys have been through and the challenges that have been put in front of them,” Vaughn said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a team that’s done what this team’s done.”