There are few things batters love more than a first-pitch fastball in the strike zone, and AJ Lee saw two Wednesday night. The third baseman smoked both those pitches in the Terps’ 6-5 comeback win over Towson at Ripken Field in Aberdeen, Maryland.
The most significant of those came in the bottom of the eighth inning. Lee, a prototypical leadoff hitter that bats in the nine-hole, started off the frame. He crushed the first ball he laid eyes on and sent it over the left field wall to give the Terps a one-run lead.
Two innings earlier, Lee lined a single up the middle to kick off a two-run rally that was punctuated by a two-run double from first baseman Brandon Gum.
It wasn’t until Lee’s home run that the back-and-forth nature of the game tilted in the Terps’ favor. After Lee’s shot, center fielder Zach Jancarski walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. An intentional walk of right fielder Marty Costes and a single from second baseman Nick Dunn loaded the bases for designated hitter Will Watson.
In what seemed to be a recurring theme for the night, Watson swung at the first pitch he saw and gave Maryland a much-needed insurance run after trading blows with the Tigers for much of the game.
There were six lead changes throughout the game, as Towson did not go down quietly. The Tigers hit .333 for the game and were 7-for-20 with runners on base.
Watson’s RBI proved to be the winning run as Towson scored in the very next inning. The Tigers threatened with the tying run on second and one out, but closer Ryan Selmer quickly shut the door on any hopes Towson had at claiming the Ripken Cup.
The right-handed reliever entered the dicey situation with the demeanor of a seasoned veteran. Selmer struck out the first batter he faced on four pitches. A catcher’s interference and an infield single loaded the bases but Selmer sealed the victory with another strikeout.
The clutch performance from Selmer capped off a successful night for the bullpen, as seven different relievers saw the mound in the win. It was Selmer’s seventh save.
Ryan Hill got the start and threw two innings of one-hit ball, striking out two.
On the other side of the ball, Gum, Watson and Lee each recorded two-hit games. Lee’s home run was his sixth of the season.
The Terps retained the Ripken Cup for the third straight time and improved their record to 30-13, giving them a fifth-straight 30-win season.
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