Maryland wins rubber match, takes down Northwestern 10-5

Even before the rain started to come down, Maryland’s pitchers struggled with command. Starter Nick Dean and relievers Nick Robinson and Nigel Belgrave combined to issue eight walks, a few of them proving costly. Three free passes in the top of the seventh allowed Northwestern to take its first lead of the afternoon, going ahead, 4-3. 

The answer came quickly. Immediately, the Terps loaded the bases. Freshman Ian Petrutz came to the plate with the bases full and no outs. He spiked a ball into the infield turf, giving the Wildcats’ second baseman a tough play. The fielder fumbled, unable to get a glove or hand on it as the rain grew stronger. 

The run tied the contest and sparked a rally. Maryland scored three more in the inning to regain a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. The score ultimately grew to 10-5, giving the Terps their fifth straight weekend series victory. 

Dean, pitching for the first time on Sunday, settled into the role the way Coach Rob Vaughn hoped he would. Although he worked slow, allowing several counts to go deep and issuing more free passes than strikeouts, he held Northwestern scoreless in the early innings. 

Troy Schreffler Jr. second inning solo home run, his seventh of the season, was it as far as offense went. Through the opening four innings, his run was the source of the only scoring. 

“The past few weeks I’ve been struggling a little bit,” Schreffler Jr. said. “I wanted to get back in the action.”

Wildcats starter Grant Comstock worked nearly as efficiently as Dean did through four, but Maryland jumped on him in the fifth. A Bobby Zmarzlak single scored Schreffler, who led the inning with a double. 

An inning later, Luke Shliger began with a double, tagged on a fly ball to advance to third and scored on a Lorusso sacrifice fly. The small ball approach gave Maryland, the Big Ten’s leading team in home runs, a 3-1 lead.

After loading the bases in relief of Dean, Maryland reliever Nick Robinson stared down the heart of Northwestern’s lineup in the sixth inning. Leading by two runs, a one-out groundout scored one and cut that advantage in half. Again facing the bases loaded with Maryland’s lead in danger, Robinson induced another ground ball. 

This one was stung, unlike the prior hitter’s soft grounder to second base. This one went to third baseman Lorusso. On one hop, he threw his glove at the ball, spun around allowing his momentum to take him, and threw flat-footed to a fully extended Maxwell Costes at first base to keep the lead alive. 

In the bottom half of the sixth, it was Lorusso’s turn to come through in the clutch with a runner in scoring position. After Luke Shliger doubled to leadoff the frame and eventually advanced to third, a long fly ball to the centerfield warning track was enough to extend the lead to 4-1. 

When Maryland’s bullpen blew up an inning later, Vaughn called on David Falco Jr. to halt the slide. After cleaning up the mess Belgrave handed him, Falco came back for the eighth, where a strikeout and two weak balls in play ended the inning quickly. 

With the rain impacting his ability to grip the ball and move on the muddy mound, Falco Jr. was forced to adjust. 

“Just simplify my mechanics the best I can,” he said. “You don’t want to get too crazy, you start sliding.” 

After a three-run bottom of the eighth, Sean Heine killed a small Northwestern rally before it could linger.

“I talked to David and Heine both yesterday after the game,” Vaughn said. “Let’s just call it was it is, they were bad yesterday and I told them that. If we have another opportunity we’re going right back to you guys.”