Maryland overcomes pitching woes and defensive miscues, wins series opener against Penn State behind a furious late-inning rally

Down to their final out with the bases loaded and Big Ten title implications on the line, Maryland trailed by a run with their program’s career and single-season RBI record holder, Nick Lorusso, at the plate. As he’s done time and time again, the senior third baseman delivered when the Terps needed it the most. He lined a two-run single through the left side, his nation-leading 91st and 92nd RBIs, to give the Terps a lead that they would hold onto after a miraculous late-inning comeback. No. 20 Maryland defeated Penn State by a final of 17-15 in their series opener at Lubrano Park.

Maryland got on the board first in the top of the second with a two-RBI single from Elijah Lambros. Two batters later, Kevin Keister hit a ground ball to the left side that appeared to be an inning-ending double play, but an errant throw to first allowed Lambros to score to give the Terps a 3-0 lead.

The bottom half of the inning, however, was nothing short of a disaster for the Terps. The first five Nittany Lions to bat in the inning each reached base, three of them on singles, and two on errors. Nick Dean got a strikeout with the bases loaded for the first out of the inning, but hit the next batter to bring in the tying run. Johnny Piacentino followed with a sacrifice fly to give Penn State a 4-3 lead. 

Maryland appeared to have stopped the bleeding when Grant Norris hit a ground ball to Matt Shaw and was originally called out at first by the first base umpire, but the home plate umpire overruled the call as Eddie Hacopian’s foot came off the bag. It became Maryland’s third error of the inning, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive. In the next at-bat, Bobby Marsh lined a two-run double down the right field line to add insult to injury. Dean ended the inning with a strikeout, but not before the Nittany Lions plated seven runs on just four hits. 

As always, the Maryland offense responded. Matt Woods led off the fourth inning with a single and would come all the way around to score after Lambros singled and the throw to third base got away. Jacob Orr followed with another single to drive in Lambros to make it 7-5. Later in the inning, Orr scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Shaw that barely fell short of a three-run homer to center field. The Terps scored three runs on four hits in the inning to get back within a run.

Maryland had a golden opportunity to tie or take the lead in the top of the fifth, as they had runners on the corners with no outs, but Matt Woods would hit into a double play and after Lambros walked, Orr lined out to end the inning.

Dean’s day would end in the fifth inning after a Kyle Hannon sacrifice fly pushed the Penn State lead to 8-6. The senior right-hander exited after 4 ⅓ innings of work, allowing eight runs, just two of them earned, on seven hits with five strikeouts and zero walks. 

The Terps had another scoring opportunity in the sixth, but once again were unable to capitalize. Keister and Shaw singled, and Ian Petrutz was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs, but Hacopian flew out to left field to squander the threat.

Penn State broke the game open in the bottom of the sixth with another huge inning helped by defensive miscues. After a leadoff walk, Keister was unable to field a potential double play ball cleanly, and the Nittany Lions had runners on the corners with no outs. Piacentino cashed in with an RBI single and Norris followed with a two-run triple into the left center field gap to extend the Penn State lead to 11-6. Logan Ott would come in for Kenny Lippman, but it wouldn’t stop the home team’s bats. The Nittany Lions pushed two more runs across, making it five in the inning and giving them a seven-run advantage.

Maryland still refused to go away, however, as the offense got them right back into the game in the seventh. Penn State pitchers had trouble finding the zone in the inning. After Lambros walked and Orr was hit by a pitch, Keister drove both of them in with a double in the gap. Luke Shliger and Shaw both drew walks in front of Nick Lorusso, who lined a single into right field to bring home a run to make it 13-9. Penn State brought in left-hander Jordan Morales to face Petrutz, who hit a sacrifice fly to right field. The Terps would score two more runs with two outs on an RBI single by Hacopian and a bases-loaded walk by Lambros to make it a one-run game. Orr nearly gave Maryland the lead, but Morales made a nice catch on the mound on a hard liner back up the middle to finally end the frame.

Nigel Belgrave came on for the bottom of the inning and had trouble finding the strike zone; he issued three walks and allowed a hit while recording just one out. David Falco Jr. entered a bases-loaded jam and induced two soft grounders to limit the damage, but the Nittany Lions still pushed two runs across to extend their lead to 15-12.

After neither team scored in the eighth, the Maryland offense, which entered Thursday second in Division I in runs scored, came through once again. The Terps loaded the bases with one out for Keister, who hit a sacrifice fly to get Maryland within two. Shliger followed with a double down the left field line, scoring Woods and putting the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. After Shaw was intentionally walked to load the bases, Lorusso found the hole on the left side to bring in two runs. After entering the seventh inning trailing by seven runs, the Terps had the lead in the ninth. Petrutz added an insurance run with an RBI single of his own, and Maryland took a 17-15 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Falco Jr. allowed a one-out double, but struck out the next two batters to seal the victory.

Every player in the Maryland lineup had at least two hits. With the win, the Terps improve to 36-18, and 16-6 in Big Ten play. They’ll look to clinch their 23rd straight Big Ten series win tomorrow at 5 p.m.