By Duncan Irvine
Head coach Rob Vaughn’s 200th game was certainly one for he and his team to remember.
Despite numerous defensive slip-ups, Maryland baseball’s offense powered the Terps to an 8-4 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions to officially open Big Ten play Friday evening.
“It feels pretty good because they’re a decent team and we have had a little rivalry with them for a little while so it’s good to get some excitement and get the juices flowing,” pitcher Nick Dean said following the win.
Dean was the Terps’ starter and made quick work of the Nittany Lions early. Jay Harry was the only batter to reach base through the first three innings, but he did manage to score.
He initially reached base thanks to a defensive slip-up at first and was able to get all the way home while attempting to steal second. Two throwing errors from Luke Shliger and Chris Alleyne allowed him to get all the way around the diamond.
The wind and cold weather seemed to affect both teams’ ability to handle the ball all night, but Dean did not seem bothered.
“This was not a fun night for baseball,” said Vaughn. “It’s cold. The wind was blowing 50 miles an hour when we got out here. Not a fun night to play baseball and I thought [Dean] did exactly what your ace does. It was outstanding.”
It didn’t take long for the Terps to get even.
Bobby Zmarzlak brought Maxwell Costes home on a groundout and the Terps got a couple more baserunners, but couldn’t capitalize.
In the third, Matt Shaw gave the Terps the lead with a deep single to left field that brought Nick Lorusso home, giving Maryland a 2-1 lead.
Dean lost his no-hit bid when he gave up a single to Penn State’s star catcher Matt Wood, but he retired the next two batters with ease. Zmarzlak added another RBI in the fourth with a deep home run to left-center field, putting Maryland up 3-1.
“That guy has scary power. When the outfields don’t move, you know you’ve stung the baseball,” said Vaughn on Zmarzlak’s hidden power.
Dean was truly tested for the first time all night in the sixth. Johnny Piacentino tripled and was brought home on a Matt Wood single.
Jay Harry moved Wood to third on a single of his own and Josh Spiegel brought him home with a sacrifice fly. Dean’s night ended with the sixth.
Dean threw 97 total pitches, gave up two earned runs on four hits, and struck out six batters.
Penn State made their first pitching change in the bottom of the sixth, replacing Jaden Henline with Tyler Shingledecker. Henline went five innings, giving up three runs on four hits; he walked five and struck out four batters.
Noah Mrotek came in to replace Dean in the seventh and didn’t exactly pick up where Dean left off. He walked the first batter he faced, Ben Kahiler. and threw two wild pitches in the next at-bat.
Kaliher scored on a sacrifice fly, giving Penn State the lead for the first time since the first inning. Mrotek got out of the inning without allowing any further damage, but Penn State now led 4-3.
Shliger led off the bottom half of the inning with a single and Alleyne walked.Nick Lorusso had a golden opportunity to level the score- and potentially take the lead.
He grounded out a single that slipped through the left side of the infield, bringing Shliger home and tying the score at four. Not to be outdone, Costes hit a single of his own, bringing home Alleyne.
Troy Schreffler couldn’t bring home either runner on base, and the inning ended with Maryland leading, 5-4.
Mrotek came back in for the eighth, seemingly more settled.He retired three of four batters he faced.
In the bottom of the inning, Maryland added a few more insurance runs in the nearly most exciting way possible.
Kevin Keister and Shliger got on first and third with singles, but Chris Alleyne didn’t feel like keeping the ball in play.He blew the game wide open with a three run shot that bounced off of the top of the center field wall.
Maryland led 8-4 heading into the ninth, when Mrotek got the ball again with the chance to close things out.
He gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning, but retired the next three batters to prevent any runs.
“We’re probably more nervous here than he is standing out there, and that kid’s 18 years old… Some young guys will just go into panic mode, and Noah didn’t. He just kept at it and believed in his stuff.”
Mrotek was the pitcher of record, moving him to 2-0 on the season. Despite four errors and multiple costly defensive mishaps, the Terps avoided their obstacles.
The offense powered its way to a 8-4 victory, but the performance was far from perfect.
Nick Dean’s more-than-solid outing was marred by these errors, but thankfully Chris Alleyne did not want it to go to waste. He only went 1-4 on the night, but his one hit was as crucial as any has been this season.
Maryland is now 21-5 on the year and 1-0 in Big Ten play.
“It shows that this team has a lot of fight in us and never really panics,” said Alleyne on the team’s performance, “There’s a lot of situations where we could have just folded it in. Four errors, Dean’s on the mound. He could have got frustrated, but he didn’t; he just kept going out there and pitching and it was our job to back him up and support him with some runs. We did that at the end of the game.”