The Maryland baseball team has made a habit of erasing early deficits at home, but the offensive surge in the face of a defensive meltdown made for a remarkable rally.
Five defensive errors led to the Terrapins surrendering nine unearned runs, but the offense kept pace and pulled ahead with a four-run eighth inning to topple Richmond 12-11 Tuesday in College Park.
“This is special,” centerfielder Zach Jancarski said. “This was a grind-it-out game. It felt really long at times. And at the same time, we did a really good job I think of just being patient. There wasn’t much panic.”
With two outs and the bases empty in the eighth, Maryland conjured the winning run with a double by shortstop and Patrick Hisle and an RBI single by Jancarski.
Moments earlier, catcher Nick Cieri pulled a three-run blast to right, tying the game with his first home run of the season. The Terps trailed by as many as five runs but still won its fourth straight.
“The reason this team is good is because when we go down, it’s not like we shut down,” Jancarski said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, we’ve still got six innings left, it’s only a matter of time before we come back.’ It’s not a big deal.
“As far as today goes, that’s just a prime of example of that. Guys just slowly working their way back and just kind of getting it done at the end. It was awesome.”
Jancarski’s clutch hit gave the Terps their first advantage since the opening inning, when they took a 4-3 lead with three RBI singles and a bases-loaded walk.
The Terps’ four-run first was sandwiched by two sloppy innings in which Richmond brought in nine runs, only two of them earned.
The game’s first batter reached on a catcher’s interference by Cieri. Making his first start of the year at first base, Will Watson misread a grounder that rolled past him for an RBI single. That hit by third baseman Justin Cook and a two-RBI double by first baseman Jonathan de Marte gave Richmond a 3-0 lead to start the game.
Maryland had a chance to turn Richmond away quietly in the second, but a fielding error allowed the Spiders to instead send 10 batters to the plate.
Reliever Ryan Hill came in with two outs and two runners on and induced a ground ball. Second baseman Nick Dunn spiked the throw though, and Watson couldn’t scoop it cleanly.
Dunn’s error triggered a hit parade, with Richmond tacking on six runs, propelled by four straight hits. De Marte added another two-RBI double, giving him four RBIs and two runs scored in the first two innings.
In picking up a single out, Hill gave up four runs, but all were unearned. Starter John Murphy lasted 1.2 innings and gave up five runs, two of which were earned. Maryland used six pitchers in the game.
In an effort to clean up his team’s faltering defense in the sixth, coach John Szefc sent AJ Lee to take over third base from Brandon Gum. Gum was making his first start of the year at the hot corner and had already made an error.
“Sometimes when guys are struggling in spots, you try to strategically make a change, and sometimes it’s not necessarily about the offense,” Szefc said. “I always look at it from the standpoint if you’re going to put a good defender out there in a tight situation, it’s about the runs he may take off the board with his defense, as opposed to the ones he puts on the board with his offense.”
Lee made a handful of plays in the field and went 1-for-2 with a double and a steal.
“It worked out well,” Szefc said. “We made that switch and put [Watson] in left and moved [Gum] over to the other side of the infield, and [Lee] really played well down the stretch.”
Despite Lee’s presence, Maryland still gifted Richmond more free runs in the seventh, as reliever Andrew Miller threw the ball away fielding a bunt by catcher Kyle Schmidt. Designated hitter Caleb Ward, on second thanks to his double, had no trouble scoring while Schmidt made his way to third.
Reliever Ryan Selmer then came into the game and skipped a pitch to the backstop, the wild pitch bringing home Schmidt with an 11-8 lead. Selmer regrouped and pitched three shutout innings to earn the win.
“That wasn’t the prettiest game in the world and we did an awful lot to try to not win that game,” Szefc said. “This team can definitely win a lot of different ways, that’s for sure … We’re clearly a way better defensive team than what we showed today. It was just one of those strange days.”
Even as Maryland trailed, Szefc said he didn’t worry about losing, knowing the team has experience pulling out dramatic come-from-behind victories.
“We were down 9-6 in the fifth, and I’m like, ‘I still like our chances down by three, we’ve come back before,’” he said. “They did a really good job of having good at-bats when it matters.”
Maryland next travels to Nebraska for a three-game weekend series with the Cornhuskers.
Edited by Austin Kleber.