Runs poured across the plate in the early innings of Maryland baseball’s Friday matchup with Illinois.
The Terps did not need one of their patented late rallies, as they scored eight runs in the first three innings on their way to win 9-4 over Illinois.
Center fielder Zach Jancarski kicked it all off with a double to lead off the game. Then, a hit by pitch and a Nick Dunn walk loaded the bases with one out. AJ Lee, who was moved from the ninth spot in the order to the sixth, squared up to bunt.
The third baseman, who can hit for both power and contact, laid down a successful bunt that was unplayable for Illinois pitcher Ty Weber. Every runner advanced safely and Maryland gained a 1-0 lead.
Then shortstop Kevin Smith blew it open with a double down the third-base line. The hit scored two runs and put the Terps up three. Smith was 2-for-5 with three RBIs.
That would be all for the first inning, but Maryland wasn’t done just yet. After eight batters saw action in the first, catcher Justin Morris came to the plate in the second and slapped a leadoff single. After a successful bunt from first baseman Brandon Gum and a four-pitch walk to Marty Costes, the bases were loaded yet again.
Dunn walked into a bases-loaded situation for the second straight inning and once again came through. The second baseman worked out of a 0-2 count to single and drive in another run. Designated hitter Will Watson tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly, making it a 5-0 game. Lee struck again in this inning, hitting an RBI single to left.
Madison Nickens carried this momentum into the third inning with a leadoff home run, making it three consecutive innings with a leadoff hit. Will Watson earned another RBI, as he worked a bases-loaded full count to make it an 8-0 ball game in the top of the inning.
Illinois answered back. They put up three runs in the bottom half of the inning, with two of them coming unearned on a fielding error. But the rally was quickly stifled by starter Brian Shaffer.
Shaffer pitched eight innings, surrendering two earned runs with eight strikeouts. The right-hander spared Maryland’s bullpen after seven different players pitched in Wednesday’s win over Towson.
Only one bullpen pitcher was needed Friday, as Ryan Hill came in for one inning of relief, where he gave up just one hit.
The bullpen will be fully rested Saturday for Tyler Blohm’s start against the Fighting Illini, although they may not be needed for long. The left-hander has pitched five innings or more in each of his last three starts. The game will start at 4 p.m.
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