Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Terps prove they’re down, not out, against Tigers

Maryland’s last midweek matchup of the season was a tale of two team, the Terps at times struggling against the Tigers and at others, looking strong. However, Maryland (21-27, 6-11) eventually walked-off, winning 8-7 and defeating Towson (13-36, 6-12) for the eighth year in a row.

As before, the Maryland pitching staff struggled to keep Towson off the board. Billy Phillips started the game, but gave up three runs in three innings, giving the Tigers an early lead.

Towson initially went ahead two-runs in the second, with a solo home run from Richard Miller and an RBI-single from Craig Alleyne that plated Dirk Masters. Then, in the third, a solo home run from Billy Lennox–his first of the season–gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

With that, Phillips’ day was done. He was followed by a solid outing from Sean Fisher, who pitched 1 ⅔ scoreless innings. However, he was pulled with two outs in the top of the fifth in favor of righty Ryan Hill.

Hill couldn’t keep Fisher’s scoreless streak alive, however, and in the top of the sixth gave up a run to a well-placed double from Masters that flew over the head of third baseman Tommy Gardiner. Prior to that play, Gardiner dominated the hot corner, with a handful of diving and sliding plays that helped keep Towson from scoring more runs.

Then, reliever Grant Burleson entered to pitch the seventh, giving up two free bases, a hit-by-pitch and a walk, to start the inning. A one-out single from Mark Grunberg plated both runners, putting Towson up 6-2.

Offensively, the Terps’ struggles with clutch hitting continued early against the Tigers. In the first three innings, Maryland had three runners in scoring position, and a total of five runners on base. But, it wasn’t until the Terps were trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth that Maryland got on the board, with a two-run home run for Will Watson.

“I thought we came out, honestly, a little bit flat today, and I thought Towson did kind of the opposite,” said head coach Rob Vaughn. “They came out with energy and tooks some really good swings early in the game and kind of punched us in the mouth a little bit.”

A leadoff solo home run from Zach Jancarski started the bottom of the seventh for the Terps, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 6-3, starting the Maryland rally. Then, a one-out two-run home run from Justin Vought put the Terps one run behind the Tigers.

Maryland couldn’t finish the rally, however, and went into the eighth trailing by one.

A scoreless top of the eighth from Elliot Zoellner kept the Terps in the game, allowing a solo, one-out home run from Kevin Biondic in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at six. Then, Jancarski singled to center field, the ball falling in a “Bermuda triangle” of Towson players and Justin Morris walked, giving Maryland two runners and two outs. But, Taylor Wright grounded out on the first pitch of his at-bat to end another Terps rally.

“[Elliot Zoellner] was unbelievable today,” said Vaughn. “And that’s what it takes, you know, to come back you’ve just got to play clean baseball when you’re behind.”

Maryland closer John Murphy entered for the top of the ninth, but gave up a four-pitch leadoff walk to Lennox. A double from Grunberg that hopped the left-field wall just shy of the foul pole plated Lennox, putting Towson ahead 7-6. After giving up another walk, Murphy’s day was done, and the Terps brought in redshirt senior Alec Tuohy. A double play ended the inning, keeping the Tigers from taking a larger lead.

“Minimize the walks [and] we might have saved some headaches,” said Vaughn. “But [we] played clean enough baseball to get it done.”

A patient approach at the plate in the top of the ninth gave Maryland runners on first and second with no outs, after Vought was hit by a pitch and A.J. Lee walked. Then, a fielder’s choice on a Nick Dunn bunt loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly from Marty Costes tied the game back up.

But, an intentional walk to Biondic re-loaded the bases, and two fielder’s choice groundouts gave Towson two force-out plays to take the game into extra innings.

“It’s just a tough win,” said Biondic. “We strung some at-bats together when we needed them and I think we just had some big plays when we needed them.”

A scoreless top of the tenth from Tuohy gave the Terps another chance at a walk-off. So, with runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the inning, a double from Nick Dunn was all it took for the Terps to get their second walkoff of the season, winning 8-7.

“I think it was perfect that it was [Dunn],” said Biondic. “We never see emotion out of him, and I finally cracked a smile out of him. It’s just good to see, good to have.”

“We have a saying, you know, ‘We’re never out of the fight,’” siad Dunn. “So that’s how we play, no matter who we’re playing or what the score is, that’s how we go about it.”

Maryland faces Rutgers for it’s last weekend series at home this weekend. First pitch Friday is set for 6:30 p.m.