Series Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Maryland baseball showed in Wednesday’s extra-inning victory over Towson that it will be fighting until the very end of the season. The Terps played from behind the entire contest, tying the game in both the eighth and ninth innings before Nick Dunn delivered the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 10th — the first walk-off in his Maryland career.

Now, the Terps will host Rutgers this weekend in another pivotal conference series with postseason implications.

After Wednesday’s game, head coach Rob Vaughn said everyone in his dugout still believes they’re not finished just yet. With six games left in Big Ten play, the Terps are still mathematically in contention despite three teams separating them and the No. 8 seed in the tournament. The current Big Ten standings:

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Losing two of three on the road last weekend against Nebraska hurt, as it put the Cornhuskers one spot ahead of Maryland. But looking ahead to Rutgers, the Terps have a great opportunity to jump up a couple positions with a possible sweep. A positive week can keep Maryland’s hopes alive heading into the final three games of the season next week on the road against Indiana.

The Terps have won four of six games against Rutgers since joining the Big Ten, including a three-game sweep on the road last season. It was a very successful series for Maryland, which held the Scarlet Knights to just one run in each of the three games. Two seasons ago, Rutgers took two of three against the Terps in College Park.

Rutgers is trending downward as the Big Ten season progresses, and has an even more difficult road to the tournament than Maryland. The Scarlet Knights are 1-5 in conference games over the last two weeks, losing two of three to Michigan and being swept against Purdue. Like the Terps, Rutgers will be giving its all with three games on the road this weekend before hosting first-place Minnesota to end the regular season.

The Scarlet Knights are a good offensive team that is often held back by its pitching. They hit .276 as a team with three different players hitting above .301, but their two primary weekend starters haven’t been too successful, and neither have the carousel of Sunday starters they’ve employed.

Senior infielder Kyle Walker leads the team with a .310 average and a .438 on base percentage. He’s walked 23 times with just 16 strikeouts. He was one of Rutgers’ hottest hitters in the beginning of the season, hitting over .400 until April. He’s used primarily as a designated hitter, but only started once last weekend.

Junior third basemen Carmen Sclafani spent the last two games in the four-hole for Rutgers, second on the team with a .305 batting average. He’s third on the team with three home runs and has four multi-hit performances in his last 10 games. Junior Nick Matera is on the 2018 Johnny Bench Award Watch List, awarded to the best catcher in college baseball. He started in 42 of 44 games this season, leading the team with five home runs.

Rutgers’ weekend starting pitching has been suspect for much of the season, with none of their current three players with an ERA below 4.82. Senior right-hander John O’Reilly and freshman left-hander Harry Rutkowski have started every weekend for the Scarlet Knights, while right-hander Karl Blum has turned into the most recent Sunday starter as a graduate student.

The bullpen for Rutgers isn’t the strongest, but they’ve had seven different players make at least 10 appearances out of the pen. Ryan Wares and Serafino Brito have each had over 20 outings in relief duty.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:30 p.m. EST

Sr. RHP John O’Reilly (5-2, 5.28) vs. TBD

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Rutgers plays well with their Friday night guy on the mound, winning in nine of his 12 starts. In the middle of the season, the Scarlet Knights won six consecutive games the right-hander started in. He has a winning record this season, but it’s been more because of run support than his perforance. O’Reilly’s 5.28 ERA isn’t great, and he has allowed 87 hits and 27 walks in 73.1 innings this season. O’Reilly is a workhorse that’ll preserve the bullpen for Saturday and Sunday. He averages six innings per start and has one complete game this year. In his last start, he allowed seven earned runs in 6.1 innings against Michigan.

Maryland’s starter is TBD. Freshman right-hander Mark DiLuia has started the last three Friday nights, though.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 2:00 p.m. EST

Fr. LHP Harry Rutkowski (4-5, 4.82) vs. TBD

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In just his freshman season, Rutkowski has filled the Saturday starting role for Rutgers this season. A 28th round draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school, the left-hander has had ups and downs this year. He’s conceded at least three earned runs in seven of his 12 starts and each of the last three. He had a stretch of five straight starts of at least six innings, including a season-high 8.1 innings of one-run ball against La Salle. In his last start, Rutkowski gave up five earned runs on six hits in 4.2 innings against Michigan.

Maryland’s starter is TBD. Junior right-hander Hunter Parsons, though, has started the last three Saturdays.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST

TBD vs. TBD

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Both starters for Sunday are to bet determined. For the Terps, senior right-hander Taylor Bloom and sophomore left-hander Tyler Blohm have alternated Sunday starts over the last two weekends.

 

Nick Dunn delivers walk-off hit in extras to beat Towson

Maryland baseball is still fighting to extend its season, and while Wednesday’s midweek matchup with Towson would neither help nor hurt those chances, erasing two late deficits before second baseman Nick Dunn’s walk-off single in extras was representative of the team’s challenge to make a late push into the Big Ten Tournament.

First baseman Kevin Biondic hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth and right fielder Marty Costes hit a game-tying sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth to force extras, keeping Maryland alive. All this happened before Dunn delivered the walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th to cap off Maryland’s 8-7 comeback win in its final midweek game of the season.

The Terps were never truly out despite trailing the majority of the game, similar to the team’s position two games back of the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament with two weekends left to play. Mathematically, Maryland still has a chance.

“Belief is a huge thing. That’s the one thing in this dugout. There’s a lot of people that believe that we’re not done yet,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “I think that goes for every game we walk in to. Having guys come through in big spots like they did today can be a big thing to carry into the weekend.”

The Terps fell behind 6-2 in the top of the seventh, but used a late offensive power surge to even the score. Zach Jancarski and catcher Justin Vought each homered in the bottom of the seventh inning to cut the Terps’ deficit to 6-5.

Right-handed reliever Elliot Zoellner recorded a much-needed shutdown in the eighth, just in time for first Biondic to hit a game-tying home run to deep left field. It was Maryland’s fourth homer of the afternoon.

“We were just locked in at the plate today,” Dunn said. “We were seeing the ball well and running off good ABs.”

Trailing since the second inning, the Terps were even with the Tigers, who used similar home runs to claim their lead.

Starting pitcher Billy Phillips worked a scoreless first inning, but allowed three runs over the next two frames. Junior third basemen Richard Miller hit his seventh home run of the season over the batter’s eye to give Towson a 1-0 lead. The Tigers went up 2-0 later in the second inning, and senior left fielder Billy Lennox snuck a ball over the fence the following in the third to put the visitors up 3-0.

“I thought we came out, honestly, a little flat today and I thought Towson kind of did the opposite,” Vaughn said. “They came out with energy and took some really good swings early in the game and kind of punched us in the mouth a little bit.”

After three scoreless frames, Maryland cut its deficit to two in the bottom of the fourth. Biondic legged out a leadoff infield, preceding a two-run home run from Will Watson.

Towson added two important insurance runs in the top of the seventh off left-hander Grant Burleson, extending its lead to 6-2 with just nine outs left to record. But another late Maryland push ensued, tying the game after scoring four runs in the next two trips to the plate.

Closer John Murphy entered in the top of the ninth, but allowed a leadoff walk and a go-ahead double before departing after recording one out. Redshirt senior Alec Tuohy recorded a double play to get out of the inning, and later pitched a scoreless frame in the top of the 10th.

Dunn delivered the walk-off hit down the right field line with one out, scoring Taylor Wright from second. A mob followed, as Dunn was lifted and carried into the outfield in celebration. It was the most emotion on the baseball field Dunn has expressed, according to Biondic.

“It feels pretty good,” Dunn said. “I was just looking to put a good swing on the ball. He kind of left one up and that was it.”

The Terps, who have six conference games remaining, will return to Big Ten play this weekend when they host Rutgers. Maryland trails Nebraska, Rutgers and Michigan State for the No. 8 seed in the tournament.

“We’re just fighting for a spot right now in the Big Ten,” Biondic said. “We start with Friday. Win Friday and go on from there.”

Game Preview: Towson Tigers

Maryland baseball’s chances at making the Big Ten Tournament took a big hit after losing two of three on the road against Nebraska this past weekend. Mathematically, though, there’s still a chance to sneak into the last spot with little room for error against Rutgers and Indiana.

Before then, the Terps will host Towson on Wednesday for their last midweek game of the season. Maryland has won its last seven games against the Tigers dating back to 2012, including a thrilling 6-5 victory last season at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.

Maryland used seven different pitchers, with no one player throwing more than two innings. Ryan Hill tossed the first two scoreless frames, but then the Terps employed six more arms en route to the victory. Of those relievers, though, on John Murphy is still on the roster.

The Terps and Tigers were tied going into the bottom of the eighth, but then AJ Lee launched a solo homer to give Maryland the lead. Will Watson provided an essential insurance run with an RBI single later that inning. Towson cut its deficit to one in the top of the ninth and then loaded the bases, but former right-handed pitcher Ryan Selmer struck out a batter to end the game.

Towson (13-35, 6-12 CAA) has not been great this year, and if the Terps stay focused, it could be an opportunity to get the bats hot and keep the arms fresh before Rutgers comes to College Park this weekend. The Tigers are ranked 266th out of 297 teams in the RPI.

Towson snapped a nine-game losing streak Sunday against the College of Charleston, fending off a two-run ninth inning to win 5-3. During their last 10 games, the Tigers have been outscored 114-35. Towson is 4-8 in midweek games this season.

The Tigers have struggled to match the offense of their opponents. They score 4.7 runs per game with a .233 team batting average, while their opponents average 7.9 runs per game with a .301 average. Towson has conceded double-digit runs 16 times, and three of those occurrences have yielded over 20 runs.

Despite all the troubles, two players have been consistently good for the Towson offense: junior infielder Richie Palacios and senior infielder Billy Lennox. Nobody on the team is hitting above .259 except Palacios and Lennox, who are hitting .322 and .292, respectively.

Palacios became the first Tiger to win the CAA Rookie of the Year back in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. He hit .329 in his freshman season, .338 last year and .322 through 48 games as a junior. He has 16-multi hit games this season, leading the Tigers in runs (50), hits (57), doubles (16), home runs (8), RBIs (30), among other categories. He has 44 walks to only 15 strikeouts and is 22-for-23 on stolen bases.

Lennox played two seasons at Frederick Community College before transferring to Towson, where he hit .256 last season. He’s increased that average to .292 this season, with nine doubles and a triple. He’s one of three players on the team with at least 40 starts this season.

Towson’s pitching is a major weakness, as it has a 7.05 ERA. As a team, the Tigers have given up 493 hits and 288 walks in 407 innings pitched this season. Not one pitcher has found any success; of players with at least 10 innings this season, the lowest ERA is a 4.12.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Wednesday, 4:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Dean Stramara (2-1, 4.12) vs. RFr. LHP Billy Phillips (1-1, 8.47)

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 Stramara has been the best regular pitching for the Tigers, posting a 4.12 ERA in 43.2 innings this season. This will be only his third start of the season, though, and he isn’t accostumed to pitching deep into games. His season-high for innings is five, and that was back on March 14. Since then, he hasn’t pitched more than 3.2 innings and an outing, so this will likely be a bullpen-heavy game for Towson. Stramara does get into trouble, as opponents are hitting .330 against him. He conceded five runs in 3.1 innings on Saturday.

Phillips will be making his third consecutive midweek start of the season against the Tigers. He had a very successful first-career start two weeks ago, but struggled against West Virginia in his last outing. Phillips allowed eight runs in 1.1 innings, but only five were earned. In the 13 batters he faced, he allowed five hits and walked two to get knocked out early. Phillips is still working his way back in his first season pitching for the Terps, and Towson and its .233 average poses a good opportunity for him to record another successful start.

 

 

Maryland’s bats stay cold as Terps drop series to Nebraska

In the top of the fifth inning, the Maryland Terrapins had a chance to even the score at one. Zach Jancarski and Taylor Wright had just singled back-to-back, and for the first time all afternoon, the Terps had a runner in scoring position.

An unassisted double play off the bat of Justin Morris ended the inning and the Nebraska Cornhuskers answered. In the bottom of the frame, Nebraska rallied for three runs against Taylor Bloom, guiding it to a 5-2 victory and a critical conference series win.

Bloom’s fifth inning woes came after the senior right-hander had one of his better appearances of the season. In his first start since an injury he suffered during batting practice a few weeks ago, Bloom retired the first 10 Huskers he faced. A solo home run by Scott Schreiber in the fourth broke the scoreless tie, but Bloom didn’t really falter until the fifth.

In the sixth inning, Bloom allowed a pair to reach scoring position, but got out of the jam without allowing anymore Cornhusker runs. In all, he threw 103 pitches in seven innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits.

After the Terrapin offense scored 15 runs in Friday’s win and eight runs in the first two innings of Saturday’s contest, it took a step backward to end the series. Maryland failed to score in 15 of the final 16 innings of the series. Both of Maryland’s runs came in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game — one on an RBI single by Morris, the other on a wild pitch.

Maryland’s best chance to break the slump came in the eighth, when a pair of singles by Randy Bednar and Nick Dunn and a peculiar defensive miscue loaded the bases for Kevin Biondic. Facing closer Jake Hohensee, the Terps first baseman lined into an inning-ending double play.

As a team, the Terps finished 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and just 4-for-19 with runners on base.

Seemingly every time Maryland placed a runner on base, he was erased on a double play. The Terps hit into four double plays on the afternoon, including Biondic’s costly one in the eighth.

With a 6-11 Big Ten record, Maryland’s odds of earning a spot in the conference tournament are rapidly decreasing. The Terps have two more Big Ten series remaining — home against Rutgers and away against Indiana — and trail all but two teams in the standings.

Nebraska scores 16 unanswered runs to stun Maryland

With an 8-1 lead after an inning-and-a-half, it looked as if the Maryland Terrapins were well on their way to a fourth-straight Big Ten win.

But their best starting pitcher, Hunter Parsons, faltered, and the relief core flirted with trouble until it was too late. Seven earned runs against Parsons, followed by a three-run seventh inning against Sean Fisher, gave Nebraska the 17-8 victory, and its largest come-from-behind win of the year.

Maryland’s offense feasted in the first two innings against Nebraska starter Luis Alvarado. After he threw a career-high eight innings in his last start, the senior right-hander could not control his pitches on Saturday. He walked six of the 12 batters he faced, and allowed seven earned runs.

After loading the bases with a pair of walks and a single by Will Watson, Zach Jancarski launched a grand slam over the left field fence to put Maryland ahead 4-0. The blast marked the Terps’ second grand slam in the last week.

After a solo shot by Cornhusker superstar Scott Schreiber (his Big Ten-leading 17th) in the bottom of the first, Maryland put together a second straight four-run inning. Three straight walks chased Alvarado out of the game, and against reliever Nate Fisher, Will Watson and Taylor Wright each drove in a pair.

Once the rally concluded, the Maryland bats went cold for the first time all weekend, and the Huskers were able to chip away. The Terps only had three hits after the second inning, both singles. As a team, Maryland was 0-for-6 with runners on base in the final seven innings, and never advanced a runner into scoring position.

Nebraska scored three in the second to cut the deficit to four. Then, a two-run fifth inning and a three-run seventh gave the Cornhuskers their first lead of the series. They ended scoring 16 consecutive runs

With two outs and one on, it looked as if Fisher would elude further damage for the third straight inning, and keep the Terps clinging to a one-run lead. Then, Nebraska center fielder Jaxon Hallmark belted his first career homer, a two-run shot off the foul pole, to give the home team a 9-8 lead. It tacked on another run on an RBI single by Carter Cross.

The collapse was shocking for the Terps, who have counted on Parsons to give them a reliable outing for the past few months. The junior right-hander hadn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since his season opener.

Nebraska even got to senior Kevin Biondic, Maryland’s most reliable relief pitcher. The senior gave up five runs in the eighth inning, all but sealing the come-from-behind win for the Cornhuskers. The final blow was a two-run homer by Alex Henwood that gave Nebraska its 17th run, the second-most it has scored in a game all year.

The two Big Ten foes will meet in the rubber match on Sunday, a critical meeting, as both teams are just out of the Big Ten tournament race. Maryland will send Taylor Bloom to the hill. The senior will be making his first start since his unfortunate injury, when he was struck by a foul ball in batting practice last month. He did enter as a reliever last weekend against Michigan State.

Costes stays hot, guides Maryland to Friday win

A dominant Friday performance and a couple of Marty Parties. The Maryland Terrapins’ series-opening 15-7 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers felt a lot more like a 2017 performance — and a much needed one.

Marty Costes was in 2017 form, and with three homers in his last three games, he may be re-shaping the narrative on his 2018 season. Just under a week after his go-ahead grand slam against Michigan State, the Terps left fielder belted a pair of solo home runs, and had a pair of run-scoring base hits.

Costes, who hit a moonshot in Maryland’s most recent trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, rebounded well from his 0-for-4 performance in a midweek meeting with West Virginia. He finished 4-for-4 with two home runs, a walk, an RBI single, and a two-run single on Friday.

The Terps needed someone to step up offensively, as their second-leading hitter, first baseman Kevin Biondic, was not in Nebraska for the game; he was in Chicago taking his Chicago Police Academy test. In his absence, Maryland got contributions from several starters. Five Terps drove in runs, eight scored runs, and a pair hit home runs.

The 15-run total was Maryland’s most of the season, and the first time it has reached double-digits since March 21.

Costes’ two homers bookended a lengthy second inning, during which Randy Bednar drove in a run with a double, and Justin Morris with a sacrifice fly. The Terps’ big offensive outburst came in the seventh.

AJ Lee got the rally started with a double that nearly cleared the fence in left-center field. He scored on a triple by Nick Dunn, who then scored on Costes’ single. Taylor Wright put an exclamation mark on the frame with a three-run homer, giving Maryland a nine-run lead, and plenty of cushion for its bullpen.

Mark DiLuia had a lead for the entire time he was on the hill, and his third career weekend start was arguably his best. The freshman completed six innings for the third straight time, but was more effective with his pitches. He allowed just four hits and two earned runs, walked four and struck out four.

Maryland tacked on four more in the eighth inning with two-run hits from Dunn and Costes.

The Terrapin bullpen struggled, but was not helped out by its defense. Ryan Hill allowed two unearned runs in the seventh after a Costes error. Then, after Hill loaded the bases, Mike Vasturia came in to clean up the mess, and did so without allowing a run.

He didn’t fare as well in the ninth, when he gave up a three-run homer to Luke Roskam. Ultimately, it didn’t have much of an impact, as the Terps held on to win by eight. Alec Tuohy relieved Hill, and recorded the final two outs.

Maryland will send Hunter Parsons to the hill on Saturday, as he looks to bring the team’s conference win streak to a season-best four games. The junior right-hander will face Nebraska’s best pitcher, senior Luis Alvarado.

Series Preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Maryland Terrapins will look to rebound from a tough 9-5 midweek loss to West Virginia — and continue their Big Ten momentum — when they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to battle the Cornhuskers.

It’s a crucial series, as both teams are toward the bottom of the Big Ten standings. Maryland enters with a 5-9 conference record and Nebraska enters with a 4-9 conference record, 10th and 11th place respectively. The top eight teams in the conference earn a berth in the Big Ten tournament.

While the Cornhuskers have gone nearly two weeks without Big Ten play (they hosted Nevada in a three-game set late last week), Maryland had arguably it’s most impressive conference weekend just days ago. After losing 4-2 on Friday despite starting freshman Mark DiLuia on the mound, Maryland bounced back with a pair of convincing wins — 8-2 on Saturday and 5-3 on Sunday.

Maryland got major contributions from various offensive weapons, and will need that to continue this upcoming weekend. Nick Dunn hit a pair of homers in the Spartan series, increasing his total to a team-high 10, and a slumping Marty Costes hit a crucial go-ahead grand slam on Sunday.

It’s unsurprising that the Terps utilized the long ball to win the series, as the Terps enter the weekend tied for the third-most homers in the conference.

Although Maryland has a powerful lineup, from Nick Dunn to Randy Bednar, Nebraska boasts arguably the best power hitter in the league: Scott Schreiber. The 6-foot-3 senior outfielder is tied for first in the conference with 16 home runs. He has performed even better in Nebraska’s 13 conference games, during which he ranked first in home runs, hits, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and batting average.

With his home run in the series finale against Nevada, Schreiber moved into a tie for fifth on Nebraska’s all-time home run list.

Aside from Schreiber, the Cornhuskers’ next-biggest threat is Jesse Wilkening, the junior catcher who leads the club with 46 RBI.

Both teams will have opportunities to use the long ball weekend, as the two teams enter the weekend tied for last in the conference in earned runs (219) and home runs allowed (33).

The last time the Cornhuskers faced a Big Ten foe was the weekend of April 20, when they lost two-of-three games to Rutgers. The Saturday game in that three-game set was a dominant offensive performance for Nebraska, which racked up 12 runs and 19 hits in one of its best performances of the year. Aside from that, the offense slumped against a decent Rutgers team, scoring six runs in the other two games combined.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 7:35 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Matt Waldron (5-2, 3.88 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia (1-4, 5.68 ERA)

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Waldron got off to a rough start in his last appearance, a Friday start against Nevada last week, but responded to adversity well. After back-to-back homers in the second, Waldron settled down, allowed just one more run, and struck out seven batters in six innings. He has also thrown some of his best games in Big Ten play, as he earned wins against Iowa (seven innings, three earned runs) and Rutgers (six innings, two earned runs) in his last two conference starts.

Since DiLuia took over the Friday starting role two weeks ago, the freshman has thrown two of his better games. The Illinois native still has struggled with his control, as he walked eight batters in 12.2 innings over those two starts, but he has worked into through six innings in both starts. Last weekend against the Michigan State Spartans, he threw 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs. His 5.16 ERA in his two weekend starts has lowered his ERA from 5.92 to 5.68.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 3:05 p.m. EST

Sr. RHP Luis Alvarado (3-5, 3.19 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Hunter Parsons (4-2, 3.01 ERA)  

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Nebraska’s best starter is coming off one of his best starts last Saturday against Nevada. In the series finale against the Wolf Pack, the senior took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning, and progressed through eight innings. He struck out three batters and only allowed two hits. A 13th round pick by the Seattle Mariners in the 2017 MLB Draft, Alvarado has made the most of his final season in Lincoln. The outfielder-converted-reliever-converted-starter is in the top 10 of Big Ten pitchers’ batting average against and strikeouts.

Since his rough first two starts, during which he allowed 11 earned runs in 5.2 innings, Parsons has reliably been Maryland’s best starter. Last week, he threw seven innings against the Spartans, allowing just two earned runs on five hits, and picking up his fourth win of the season. Since those first two starts, Parsons has allowed 13 earned runs in 64.2 innings, while allowing just 46 hits over that span. The junior right-hander has returned to his freshman year form and responded from a shaky sophomore campaign. With the Big Ten tournament just around the corner, it would seem that Maryland’s best chance to make the dance is to ensure it wins every one of Parsons’ outings.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 2:05 p.m. EST

TBD vs. Sr. RHP Taylor Bloom (2-6, 5.34 ERA)

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Maryland mounts comeback, but falls short against West Virginia

While Maryland baseball would’ve liked to earn a road win Tuesday evening against West Virginia before returning to crucial conference play, the Mountaineers needed a victory to continue building their resume for a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament next month.

The contrasting sense of urgencies showed early, as the surging Mountaineers took advantage of three first-inning Maryland errors and a successful second inning to jump out to an 8-0 lead. The Terps got the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but eventually lost 9-5.

All three meetings between Maryland and West Virginia held significant meaning last season, one a resume-building opportunity for both teams in the regular season and two in the Winston-Salem Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

But Tuesday’s matchup — the fifth consecutive year the two programs have met — was played in much different circumstances than years prior. While the Terps’ hopes of playing into June likely relies on qualifying and then winning their conference tournament, the Mountaineers could still earn an at-large bid with quality results throughout the remainder of their schedule.

Maryland’s defense gave West Virginia a little help toward that goal in the first inning, committing a trio of errors that immediately led to four runs. Starting pitcher Billy Phillips mishandled a sacrifice bunt, third basemen Taylor Wright booted a ground ball that scored two runs and Justin Vought misfired on a throw to third, which capped off the four-run first.

The Terps entered Tuesday with 45 errors in 43 games, good for sixth-best in the Big Ten. Maryland exited Morgantown with four more, though, including the three in the first frame.

Phillips, who tossed four scoreless innings in his first career start last week against James Madison, was responsible for only one of those runs. But the Mountaineers recorded three hits and worked a walk when he returned to the mound in the second, prompting an early exit as West Virginia doubled its lead through two innings.

Relievers Sean Fisher, Ryan Hill and Grant Burleson stopped the bleeding following Phillips’ departure, holding the Mountaineers scoreless over the next five innings. Maryland’s relievers combined to allow just three hits and one run after the second inning.

The Terps battled back in the sixth, cutting their deficit in half on three hits. With the bases loaded, Zach Jancarski broke an 0-for-14 slump with an RBI single. Wright cleared the bases with a double, making it an 8-4, and then scored on a throwing error to cap off a five-run inning.

Back-to-back walks in the seventh got the tying run to the plate with no outs for the Terps, but a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play altered the inning completely. Runners on first and second quickly turned into a scoreless inning, a big opportunity wasted.

Burleson allowed a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth to fall behind 9-5, and the Terps went down without a hit in top of the ninth to end the game.

Maryland (19-25) returns to conference play on Friday at 7:35 p.m. when they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska for a pivotal three-game set against the Cornhuskers.

Game Preview: West Virginia Mountaineers

Maryland baseball (19-24, 5-9) kept its Big Ten Tournament hopes alive over the weekend, taking two of three games from Michigan State on the road. The Terps sit in 10th place in the conference, with Rutgers and Michigan State still in between them and an opportunity in the postseason. Now, before their next conference challenge, they’ll travel to Morgantown, West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers on Tuesday evening.

The Terps began their weekend at Michigan State poorly at the plate, recording just three hits in a 4-2 series-opening loss to the Spartans. Freshman Mark DiLuia made his second consecutive Friday night start, allowing four runs (three earned) in 6.2 innings, but the offense struggled to back him up.

Maryland responded to the tough result on Friday with two big wins to finish the weekend. Hunter Parsons and Kevin Biondic held the Spartans to just two runs on seven hits en route to an 8-2 win on Saturday. Second baseman Nick Dunn went 3-for-4 with four runs, including his ninth and tenth homers of the year. Biondic and shortstop AJ Lee also recorded multi-hit games to help even the series.

In what was perhaps a must-win game on Saturday, left-hander Tyler Blohm and left fielder Marty Costes rose to the occasion. The southpaw allowed just one earned run over six innings, while Costes hit a go-ahead grand slam and later made a diving catch to preserve the lead.

The Terps will turn their attention to West Virginia for a midweek road content. Maryland and the Mountaineers met three times last season, with the Terps taking the regular season matchup at home, while West Virginia returned the favor twice in the NCAA Winston-Salem Regional to eliminate Maryland from the tournament.

The Mountaineers (22-19, 6-9 Big 12) have taken a step back from last season and have struggled in conference play. West Virginia has won just two of its five conference series, but just took two of three from No. 19 Texas at home. The team is now 12-6 at home this season.

West Virginia’s biggest strength is its offense. The Mountaineers hit .273 as a team and average 5.7 runs per game, with three hitters — Marques Inman, Kyle Gray and Darius Hill — all hitting over .300 on the season.

Inman, a sophomore infielder, has been great after taking a medical redshirt season last year. He leads the team with a .349 average and 32 RBIs. Gray, a junior infielder, is arguably the biggest power threat for the Mountaineers. He’s hitting .333 with a team-leading nine home runs. Hill, a junior outfielder, is one of three players who has started in all 41 games, leading the team in hits. He’s also only struck out 10 times in 175 at-bats.

West Virginia’s pitching, though, has given up nearly six runs per game and its weekend pitching hasn’t been as effective as it could be.

Senior right-hander Shane Ennis has been the most-used reliever for the Mountaineers, pitching 37.2 innings in 22 appearances this season. Twenty-one of those outings have come out the bullpen. Ennis has a 3.11 ERA while holding hitters to a .265 average.

Sam Kessler and Jackson Wolf have nearly identical statistics this season, each with a .284 ERA in 19 innings. Kessler has 20 strikeouts to just eight walks, holding hitters to a .236 average, while Wolf has 17 strikeouts to 10 walks while holding opponents to a slim .209 average.

All three of West Virginia’s weekend starters have struggled at times this season, and all have ERAs above 4.00. Opponents have hit .273 against the trio of weekend starters, a main reason the Mountaineers have struggled in conference play.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. EST

TBD vs. TBA

 2000px-West_Virginia_Mountaineers_logo.svg.png vs. 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

 Starters for both team have yet to be announced.

 

Costes’ heroics propel Maryland to Big Ten series win against Spartans

With his team down by a run and the bases loaded with two outs, Maryland outfielder Marty Costes stepped to the plate. He was 0-for-2 until that point, despite hitting the ball hard, symbolic of his tumultuous 2018 season.

Then, the hit that he so desperately needed. A home run over the left field fence, clearing the bases for a go-ahead grand slam. It was the jolt the Maryland Terrapins needed, as they used the slam to top the Michigan State Spartans 5-1 and win the weekend series.

Costes’ heroics were hardly done after the deep fly. In the bottom of that fifth inning, the Spartans threatened to respond. After loading the bases thanks to a pair of walks by Maryland starter Tyler Blohm, Chad Roskelly drove a ball out to left field. Costes extended and made a diving catch, saving at least two — maybe three — runs. It was the inning the Baltimore native has been searching for all year.

Blohm’s tendency to work in and out of trouble was constant throughout the afternoon. The left-hander didn’t have great command on his pitches — as he walked five batters in six innings — but left seven runners on base in his final four innings.

His second straight Sunday start got off to a shaky start, as the leadoff hitter, Michigan State’s Danny Gleaves, reached with a triple. After a sacrifice fly, the Spartans had an early lead that lasted until Costes’ fourth home run of the season.

Blohm was relieved after six gutsy innings by Taylor Bloom, Maryland’s usual Friday starter that had missed his last three starts after he was hit by a liner in pregame warmups against Michigan two weeks ago.

Maryland added a much-needed insurance run when third baseman Taylor Wright lined a double that scored Zach Jancarski in the top of the eighth. The run proved instrumental, as the Spartans responded in the bottom of the frame. A pair of two-out RBI singles, one by Marty Bechina and the other by Adam Proctor, cut the Maryland lead to two. Bloom, who allowed three hits and two earned runs in his two innings, escaped further damage by retiring Bailey Peterson to end the inning.

After Bloom’s lackluster return to the mound, Maryland turned to closer John Murphy to secure the win. After the leadoff hitter reached on an error, Murphy retired three straight Spartans to conclude the ballgame. The final batter he faced, Justin Antoncic, popped out after an intense 14-pitch at bat.

The win improved the Terps to 5-9 in conference play, and gave them their first Big Ten series win since their series against Northwestern nearly a month ago.