Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Terps tame Wildcats in walk-off win

On Friday, aggressive baserunning hurt the Terps (13-14), and no runners made it past first base. On Saturday, Maryland’s aggressive baserunning combined with a boisterous dugout helped the Terps keep the Wildcats (8-13) in check, tying the game in the eighth and carrying it into extra innings.

It was a Taylor Wright walk with the bases loaded in the tenth inning that ended the game, giving Maryland the 6-5 win and tying the series at one game apiece.

Maryland starter Tyler Blohm struggled early, giving up a three-run home run to Jack Claeys before recording an out in the first inning. After a quick talk with pitching coach Corey Muscara, Blohm struck out two in a row and forced a pop-up to end the inning.

Working off of Blohm’s momentum, leadoff hitter Nick Dunn started the bottom of the inning with a single into right field. Maryland’s dugout came to life with Dunn on base, as Northwestern starter Hank Christie threw multiple pick-off attempts, the dugout getting louder and louder with each throw.

“We just need energy,” said head coach Rob Vaughn. ”You know, energy breeds more energy, and I thought our guys did a good job of that at the end right there. Even at the beginning, they did a good job kind of bringing some energy. We’ve been going down two or three to nothing, we haven’t really competed our way back. We did that today, and [the dugout is] a big part of that.”

Senior Kevin Biondic followed with a one-out hit. Biondic had a large cheering section the whole game, many equipped with cutouts of his face taped to popsicle sticks.

It was the Terps’ smart baserunning that cut into the Wildcats’ lead, with both Dunn and Biondic scoring — Dunn on a sac fly from Zach Jancarski and Biondic stealing home on a wild pitch, cutting Northwestern’s lead to one run.

“When you’re kind of scuffling offensively, what you need is you need to see guys touching the plate,” said head coach Rob Vaughn. “We were able to kind of do that in some different ways, you know we left second and third with less than two outs one time. Guys just kept fighting and scratching and clawing.”

The Wildcats added a run in the second, but the Terps used Northwestern’s poor baserunning to their advantage. When Jack Dunn lined out to second, Kyle Burnett Jr. took too large a lead at first, and got caught in a double play.

A leadoff home run from Will Watson cut Northwestern’s lead to one run once again in the bottom of the second, but an solo shot in the top of the third from Claeys brought the Wildcats’ lead back to two runs.

Northwestern’s poor base running continued in the middle innings, when Claeys was caught doubled up in the fifth inning. The play was incredibly similar to Burnett Jr.’s baserunning gaf in the second.Then, in the sixth, Jack Dunn was on second and chose to continue past third and on to home plate when Claeys’ singled to right field. That choice proved costly, and he was out on a throw home from Maryland right fielder Marty Costes.

The Terps dugout was electric in the bottom of the seventh inning, when A.J. Lee singled to right field with two outs, driving in a run to cut the Wildcats’ lead to one run for the third time. Then, Zach Jancarski stepped to the plate.

In the middle of Jancarski’s at-bat, head coach Rob Vaughn wanted a word with his hitter. When home plate umpire Tom Honec didn’t grant Vaughn’s timeout request, even after Vaughn called for a timeout five times. Jancarski took the pitch, and many angry words were exchanged between coach and umpire, after which the Maryland cheering section and dugout filled the air with cheers.

“That’s huge,” said Biondic of Vaughn’s back-and-forth with the umpire. “Not only for us, but it kind of keeps him, we know that he’s in the game too. It helps us cope with that.”

With a spark from their head coach, Maryland’s aggressive baserunning continued in the eighth, when Tommy Gardiner’s heads-up running carried him around the bases, and a double-play ground out from Will Watson brought Gardiner home to tie the game at five.

“We need to steal bags,” said Biondic, “but we also need to be smart about it. If you’re aggressive in the right situation you can’t get mad at a person. It’s kind of like 50-50, if you’re going to steal a bag, you’re going to steal a bag. If you get caught, oh well, the next guy will steal it.”

Blohm exited the game after 4 ⅔ innings, throwing 51 pitches, striking out four and allowing five runs. The Terps’ bullpen finished the game, with a combined effort from freshman Sean Fisher and two-way player Kevin Biondic. Both came in clutch, keeping Northwestern off the board and allowing for a Maryland comeback in the tenth.

“As [Biondic] has kind of gone through the year he’s really maturing as a pitcher,” said Vaughn. “You can see even after not a great at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, he comes out very composed for the tenth, you know, attacks the zone and is really good.”

In the bottom of the tenth, the Wildcats struggled. Reliever Josh Levy hit Lee to start the frame, then walked Jancarski. Gardiner then singled on a bunt, the Northwestern infield was unable to get any runners out, and with no man covering first base Gardiner loaded the bases with no outs.

It was a four-pitch walk to Taylor Wright that ended the game, bringing home Lee and giving Maryland the walk-off win.

Maryland and Northwestern face off for the final game of the series tomorrow at noon in College Park.