Maryland uses small ball, long ball to pick up thrilling victory over Michigan

After storming in front via the long ball, the Terps offense used small ball to save a struggling bullpen in a thrilling 8-7 victory over Michigan on Friday night.

Following a steal of third base, Troy Schreffler scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth off a wild pitch from Connor O’Halloran. There was no sign from third base coach Matt Swope. It was purely impulse from Schreffler.

“The adrenaline took over and I just started running,” Schreffler said. 

Head Coach Rob Vaughn praised the junior’s bold approach on the basepaths. 

“He won the game for us because he was fearless,” said Vaughn. “He was unafraid to crash and burn, and that’s something this group’s done all year.”

Schreffler’s dash for home capped off a wild three innings for No. 17 Maryland in which they relinquished a 7-0 lead before ultimately gaining it back. 

The Terps were in control throughout the first five innings. The offense jumped out to an early lead, connecting on back-to-back solo blasts from Nick Lorusso and Matt Shaw in the bottom of the first.

On the mound, Jason Savacool showed no signs of a back ailment that caused him to exit last Sunday’s start after one inning. The right-hander brought his swing-and-miss stuff against a Wolverines offense that ranks top five in the conference in runs, hits, home runs and RBI. Making his first Friday night start of the year, the righty recorded seven strikeouts through the first three innings.  

Maryland broke the game open in the fourth. Maryland extended their lead to 4-0 on a Bobby Zmarzlak two-run single. Freshman Ian Petrutz followed Zmarzlak with an RBI double to right-center. Five pitches later, Kevin Keister hit a two-run homer to extend the Terps’ lead to 7-0.

When these two teams met back in March, Maryland led 4-0 at the start of the sixth before Michigan scored seven unanswered runs to win 7-4. Friday’s game played out similarly.  

Once again, the Wolverines offense awoke in the sixth, but this time Michigan was spearheaded by an unlikely source. Nine-hole hitter Jake Marti hit his first homer in a Michigan uniform to start the rally.

Michigan proceeded to load the bases with one out, bringing up Tito Flores, the team leader in homers, to the plate. Savacool was able to work out of the jam by getting Flores to ground into a double play. That would be Savacool’s final batter of the night, as the sophomore went six innings, gave up two earned runs on four hits and recorded seven strikeouts along with two walks. With his third-inning strikeout of Ted Burton, Savacool became just the ninth Maryland pitcher to record at least 100 strikeouts in a single season.

After using four of their top bullpen arms on Friday night, Vaughn hinted at bringing in some young arms out of the bullpen on Saturday. 

“There’s some young pups that might get the ball tomorrow,” said Vaughn. “I want them to pitch without any fear of the negative of what could happen because they’re not freshmen anymore. You know, we’re six games left in our year.”

Michigan’s hitters immediately took advantage of Savacool’s exit. Sean Heine entered the game for Savacool and failed to record an out. After a leadoff double and back-to-back walks, Michigan loaded the bases for the second consecutive inning. Right-hander Nick Robinson replaced Heine but could not contain the Wolverine offense. A sac fly followed by a Joe Stewart two-run single cut Maryland’s lead to 7-4. 

Then Matt Frey delivered the biggest blow of the night. The graduate student hit a three-run homer that seemed to keep on carrying, as center fielder Chris Alleyne watched it sail over the batter’s eye. 

Down 7-0 to start the sixth, the Wolverines had stormed back to tie the game in the seventh.

The small but loud Michigan faithful erupted in cheers as the rest of Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium fell silent. But the Wolverines were not finished.

They threatened to score once more in the inning, putting runners on second and third before redshirt sophomore David Falco retired Joey Velazquez and Riley Bertram to end the inning. 

Schreffler and Maxwell Costes worked back-to-back one-out walks to fuel the Terps’ eighth inning rally before Schreffler used his speed to create the go-ahead run.

Schreffler talked about the team’s ability to not only hit for power, but get on base in a variety of ways. “We’re able to hit the long ball and extra bases, and also be able to work the walks, work the hit by pitches and put the ball in play a lot,” said Schreffler. 

The Wolverines would not go quietly in the ninth. Frey worked a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a Nigel Belgrave wild pitch. The hard-throwing right-hander set down the next three hitters, capped off by a called strike three on Velazquez. 

The team’s confidence in their ability to win never wavered, even after the Wolverines came back to tie the score at 7-7, Vaughn said. “I think they expected to win tonight even when it got bad. When I went out to the mound to make a visit there was no panic. It was like, man, they got to get us out nine more times. We’re in a good place,” said Vaughn.

The Terps earned their regular-season record 39th win of the season, just three behind the program’s all-time winningest season set in its run to the Super Regionals in 2015. 

Maryland and Michigan play game two of the series at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. Lefty Ryan Ramsey is slated to start for the Terps while righty Cameron Weston is expected to start for the Wolverines.