Maryland almost mounts comeback but loses season opener to USF

Maryland’s first game of the year did not go as planned after South Florida put up an eight spot on Preseason All-American Jason Savacool.

The Bulls got off to a fast start, thanks to Bobby Boser’s three-run bomb in the bottom of the first. The Terps bounced back swiftly in the top of the second with a leadoff home run by Ian Petrutz and didn’t stop there as a pair of triples by Jacob Orr and Elijah Lambros tied the game up.

With two outs in the bottom of the third, redshirt senior Travis Sankovich drove in the Bulls’ fourth run of the game off a two-out double.

After a four-inning, three-run, four-hit appearance, the Bulls decided to pull their starter, Hunter Mink. He threw 59 pitches, of which 43 landed for strikes. Junior Riley Skeen took his place in the fifth and walked two Maryland hitters before getting Matt Shaw to ground into a double play.

Savacool found his groove in the fourth and fifth, setting down six straight hitters in a row, including a strikeout on Bulls first baseman Daniel Cantu. Boser proceeded to hit his second home run of the evening off of Savacool in the bottom of the sixth, increasing USF’s lead to 5-3.

A four-pitch walk to Bobby Zmarzlak and Lambros’ single put two Maryland baserunners at first and second with one out. Luke Shliger advanced Zmarzlak to third on a deep fly out to center and Matt Shaw loaded the bases after being hit by a pitch. USF reliever Ethan Brown escaped the two-out jam on a fielder’s choice by Nick Lorusso.

Head coach Rob Vaughn decided six innings was enough, as Savacool was replaced by David Falco. The junior ended the night with six innings, five earned runs, seven hits, and five strikeouts.

Falco came into relief and walked the first batter he faced. As the bottom of the seventh continued, so did the walks and wild pitches. Before being replaced by right-hander Ryan Van Buren, Falco allowed three earned runs on three walks and a wild pitch. Van Buren ended the inning with a groundout from Sankovich.

USF extended its lead by three runs, giving them a five-run gap, needing only six outs to close out the win. Maryland wasn’t fazed by the large deficit as a pair of walks and a single by Kevin Keister loaded the bases for Orr. On a 0-1 count, Orr smashed a grand slam over the center field fence to reduce the lead to just one. This was his first career home run and tied his career-high with five RBIs.

Orr replaced Matt Woods in the outfield because of back tightness, which allowed him to step up to the occasion. When discussing the role Orr played in the loss, Vaughn said, “It’s what good players do man. When their names called they’re ready to go.”

Van Buren’s one-two-three inning allowed the Terps to stay within just one heading into the ninth. Two-hole hitter Matt Shaw was set to leadoff with only three outs remaining. USF got two quick outs, but Maryland didn’t stop fighting with back-to-back singles to keep the inning alive. Keister stepped up to the plate with two and a 2-1 count but grounded out to the shortstop to give USF their first win of the season.

Maryland will play USF for the second game in the series tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m.