Following two huge wins on Sunday against Wake Forest and UConn to stave off elimination, top-seeded Maryland found itself just one win away from reaching its first NCAA Super Regional since 2015. The only thing standing in the way of this Terps squad was a winner takes all rematch with the Huskies.
Down 9-1 at one point in this game, Maryland was able to cut the deficit all the way back down to two runs. That was as close as the Terps could get though, losing 11-8 to UConn and putting an end to their season.
The game started about as well as the Terps could ask for, Luke Shliger leading off the game with a home run and sending the sellout crowd at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium into a frenzy.
“You can see how much [the fans] cared that we were hosting a regional,” Kevin Keister said. “We had great fans out here this whole weekend.”
That was followed by two quick outs to start the bottom of the first by starter Andrew Johnson. From there, however, the wheels began to fall off.
Four straight two-out walks brought home the tying run. Sean Heine was brought in and immediately hit his first batter, giving UConn the lead.
“AJ is going to pitch in massive games here for us,” Head Coach Rob Vaughn said. “He’ll be able to look back at tonight, even though it didn’t go his way.”
A Matt Donlan grand slam in the next at-bat gave the Huskies a 6-1 lead while having only picked up one hit. The crowd was stunned and any momentum Maryland had now belonged to UConn.
With the score now at 9-1, the Terps put together a four-run rally in the fifth, capitalizing off a couple UConn miscues and RBIs from Keister and Troy Schreffler to make the score 9-5.
Following another UConn run to put the Huskies into double-digits, Chris Alleyne made his presence in the game known, hitting a laser shot over the right field wall to cut the deficit to three.
The home run marked Bubba’s 24th of the year, the most hit by any player in Maryland program history.
“I couldn’t be more proud of [Chris],” Vaughn said. “Just an unbelievable human, unbelievable kid. We’re gonna watch that guy play on TV one day.”
The lead was further shrunk to two runs when Keister drove in his second run of the game in the eighth inning.
“We always have confidence in our lineup,” Keister said. “We knew from the beginning that we were going to have to hit today and it just came later in the game than we thought.”
What happened next added a flair of controversy to the end of the game.
With Keister on third, Alleyne seemingly legged out an infield single to bring home a run, colliding with the UConn first baseman in the process. To the surprise of many, the home plate umpire called Bubba out for interference, infuriating the fifth-year senior.
“The guy made the call he thought was the right call,” Alleyne said. “And that’s just baseball.”
Following a review, the call was confirmed and Keister was sent back to third base, eliminating both a run and a baserunner. The crowd erupted into furious booing and shouting as Nick Lorusso grounded out to end the inning.
“I didn’t see it the same way, but there’s a reason I don’t umpire,” Vaughn said. “The rule’s the rule, and the way the rule was enforced is right, whether I like it or not.”
Maryland could not do anything in the ninth, having to watch UConn celebrate on the field amid more boos from the crowd.
This historic season for Maryland baseball comes to an end in the regional round, UConn advancing to play either Stanford or Texas State in the Super Regional.
Despite the loss, Coach Vaughn still held a very optimistic demeanor, especially when talking about the future of this program.
“We’re gonna keep building this thing,” he said. “This group is gonna walk though the gates in Omaha, there’s no doubt in my mind. This group is gonna do some special things.”