Maryland pitching falters early and attempted comeback falls short, dropping home opener to West Virginia

Maryland’s 13 hits highlighted by back-to-back homers by Elijah Lambros and Luke Shliger were not enough after West Virginia put up seven runs in the first three innings.

Sophomore Ryan Van Buren got the midweek start for the Terps against the Mountaineers, but faltered in the first inning as he walked Leonard Dayne to load the bases and then cleanup hitter Caleb McNeeley hit a two-run double to give the Mountaineers an early two-run lead, Logan Suave followed this up with a two-run single up the middle to make it 4-0 West Virginia. Van Buren then had a golden opportunity to get out of the inning after a flyout when he had a ball hit right at him and he was able to catch the runner at first off guard, but Van Buren botched the toss and was then taken out after a whopping four runs in ⅔ of an inning. Sophomore lefty Andrew Johnson was left to do damage control. 

“A combination of not enough strikes and in the first he let some emotion creep in there on what could’ve been an inning-ending double play and that kind of took over,” head coach Rob Vaughn said when discussing the flaws of Van Buren’s down performance.

Johnson, however, could not get the job done with a runner on third as he walked the three batters he faced and West Virginia scored another run after a Braden Barry bases-loaded walk made the score 5-0 before the Terps even got up to bat. The Terps’ bats started out slow in the first, going down in order and failing to gain any ground. Although Ott looked more composed than Van Buren and Johnson, a Bobby Zmarzlak left field error in the second inning allowed West Virginia to tack on another run to make it 6-0 on a Logan Suave run-scoring groundout.

West Virginia’s Sam White further added to the damage with his solo shot off of Ott, in the top of the third, making it a 7-0 game. The Terps finally got on the board after third baseman Nick Lorusso hit a two-run double. Ott also pitched a scoreless inning to end his day after 2 1/3 innings and one earned run allowed.

Maryland was held scoreless in the fourth as freshman right-handed pitcher and highly touted recruit Eli Stowe made his debut in the top of the fifth. Stowe got two quick outs but left with the bases loaded and David Falco Jr. became the fifth pitcher for Maryland in five innings. He was able to get out of the bases-loaded jam.

Ian Petrutz had a man on first and second with two outs and a chance to do some damage in the bottom of the fifth but was unable to get a hit and the Terps left two more stranded and in need of some offensive firepower as they came up to bat in the bottom of the sixth. Though it would not be the Terps whose offense would reawaken after three straight scoreless innings by both teams, the Mountaineers after a Tevin Tucker solo homer off junior lefty Tommy Kane, who replaced Falco, made it an 8-2 game.

Bobby Zmarzlak would start things off with a leadoff single, and this cleared the way for Elijah Lambros to hit his first career homer as a Terp to make it an 8-4 game. Then Luke Shliger would make it back-to-back homers for Maryland as the Terps began to show some fight as they made it an 8-5 game and forced West Virginia to take out their starter Aidan Major after 6 innings. However, West Virginia’s David Hagman was able to retire Petrutz, Hacopian, and Keister for three straight outs to end the inning.

“It felt pretty good,” Lambros said regarding his first homer as a Terp. “I’m surprised it got out, I didn’t think I got it.”

The top of the eighth began with righty Nigel Belgrave coming in for Kane. Belgrave was flawless, giving the Terps their first 1-2-3 inning of the game. The Terps started the eighth inning off with two quick outs, but a Zmarzlak single and Lambros walk sent Shliger to the plate as the tying run. Shliger hit a deep fly ball to center, but it was caught on the warning track and Maryland remained down by three as Belgrave remained in the game to pitch the ninth.

Belgrave held the Mountaineers scoreless again in the ninth and Maryland went into the bottom of the inning down three but had the meat of the order in Lorusso, Petrutz, and Hacopian up to bat. With a Lorusso lineout and a Petrutz strikeout, Hacopian was Maryland’s last hope and he doubled, which allowed Kevin Keister to hit a single that brought the Terps within two. After a Zach Martin groundout, the Terps dropped to (2-2) and West Virginia picked up their second win of the season. Ryan Van Buren was charged with the loss.

Maryland will travel to Ole Miss for a premier matchup this weekend as they seek to build on their late-game offensive performance.

And even after the brutal end to the home opener, Shliger was still confident in this team’s ability to perform at a high level against Ole Miss and other top-quality teams.

“We’re gonna go down, have a good series, take two take three from them, and come back and win a midweek,” Shliger said. “I don’t think this game hinders anyone’s confidence at all. And we’re going into this series to win three games in Ole Miss.”