Maryland coach John Szefc faced a classic baseball quandary when a relentless stream of William & Mary batters was crossing the plate in the second inning Tuesday.
He could let the struggling starter work through trouble or force the bullpen into a long night to keep the score close.
Six runs in, Szefc lifted Hunter Parsons to bring in the first of four relievers tasked with collecting 22 outs.
The change worked—Ryan Hill struck out the Tribe’s cleanup hitter and pitched three more scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Maryland’s offense climbed back into the game and took a lead in the sixth, allowing closer Ryan Selmer to grab the save in the Terps 9-8 comeback win.
After the game, Szefc was proud of his bullpen’s effort, but wanted to make sure they wouldn’t need to play hero again.
“You don’t want to wear your guys down early in the year, either, it’s only the fourth week of the season,” he said. “We need to score a lot of runs and get a good start [Wednesday].”
Wednesday didn’t go according to plan. It unfolded much the same way as Tuesday’s game.
The first four Saint Joseph’s batters of the second inning reached against Cameron Enck, filling the bases with no outs and one run already in. Szefc turned to his bullpen for another long afternoon of work.
All three runners Tayler Stiles inherited scored and were charged to Enck, leaving the Terps down 4-0. Stiles ate 3.1 innings with no runs counting against his ledger.
With Maryland’s relievers again preventing the opposition from adding to their run total, the Terps offense resiliently worked their way back into the game and pulled ahead in the eighth.
“Part of the resiliency, you have to give credit to the bullpen too,” Szefc said. “What those guys were able to do gave our offense a chance to come back.”
Selmer put the finishing touches on another Maryland win that was aided by a superb collective relief effort.
Szefc’s early hook worked on two consecutive days, but the skipper isn’t looking to make the strategy a recurring theme for the season.
“Five of our main six bullpen guys threw today, some for the second day in a row,” he said after Wednesday’s win. “Not a ton of pitches, but I’d rather not do that this early in the season. But you’ve got to try to win games too. You try to manage it the best way you can.”
In the two games, six different relievers were used. Three pitched in both contests. The bullpen covered 15.1 innings and gave up just three runs, striking out 18 and walking four.
Parsons and Enck, on the other hand, combined to allow 10 runs and eight hits in 2.2 innings.
“[Parsons] and [Enck], they’re not gonna always pitch like that,” reliever Mike Rescigno said. “[Parsons] is one of our better arms on the team, so is [Enck]. They’re both gonna give us good starts on midweek games most of the time.”
Rescigno threw both days and earned a win on the second. Conveying the main concern for a team needing to rely heavily on its bullpen, Rescigno said his arm could definitely use Thursday’s off day.
Luckily for Rescigno and the rest of the Terrapins relievers, Friday starter Brian Shaffer tends to remain on the mound deep into the game. That reliability wasn’t lost on Rescigno, who had a quick conversation with the staff’s ace following Wednesday’s win. He led off with a simple request.
“Hey, can you give us a complete game on Friday?” he asked.
“Hell, I’ll do my best,” Shaffer responded.
Rescigno said he isn’t worried about being overworked, though. He and the other relievers will receive their treatment Thursday and prepare to take on whatever the weekend throws at them.
“But Shaffer will probably end up throwing seven or eight, so we’ll be good.”
Edited by Connor Mount.