Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland baseball overcame late pitching struggles in ousting of Michigan

By Frederik Wolfe

Maryland baseball eked out an 8-7 win over Michigan Friday night in the first of a three-game weekend series, yet the familiar storyline of bullpen woes continued to plague the Terps.

“We kind of hang our hats on being able to do things offensively,” coach Rob Vaughn said. “We [have] to come and flex our muscles tomorrow offensively and get it done.” 

Jason Savacool returned to the mound to start the game following an outing cut short thanks to a back injury last weekend. Savacool started off the game by striking out the first two batters. After a single by the three-hitter Matt Frey, he struck out Jimmy Obertop to bring the Terps up to bat.

With two outs in the bottom of the first, third baseman Nick Lorusso hit a solo home run deep over the center-field wall off of Michigan starter Noah Rennard. Shortstop Matt Shaw stepped up to the plate after Lorusso and lined a shot to right field off a 2-2 count to make it back-to-back home runs, putting the Terps up 2-0 early. 

Michigan pulled Rennard in the third inning with 2 outs and the bases empty after only 43 pitches. Rennard’s replacement, a sidearm lefty Connor O’Halloran, struck out Lorusso in three pitches to end the inning.

Savacool continued to work, however, giving up no hits for the next four innings after Frey’s first-inning single.

“His stuff was sharp. He was pounding the zone,” Vaughn said. “It stunk getting our tails kicked last Saturday when he came out in the first, but at the same time, a short week and he ends up being the freshest guy.”

O’Halloran was lit up in the fourth, walking the first two batters on eight pitches who would both score off of a one-out single by Bobby Zmarzlak up the middle. 

A double to right field by the next batter, Ian Petrutz, scored Zmarzlak from first.

With Petrutz on second, second baseman Kevin Keister stepped to the plate and sent a two-run homer over the left-centerfield fence, stretching the Terps’ lead to 7-0.

A solo home run to lead off the sixth inning by first baseman Jake Marti put Michigan on the scoreboard, ending Michigan’s hit drought and Savacool’s shutout. 

After the home run, the pressure built as two singles and a walk would load the bases with only one out. 

Savacool got out of the hot water with a ground ball to second base, ending the inning with a 4-6-3 double-play. 

Sean Heine came out to start the seventh inning, replacing Savacool who gave up four hits on 98 pitches and six innings pitched. 

Heine’s outing would be a short one. After giving up a double and two walks, Heine would be replaced by Nick Robinson without recording an out. 

A sacrifice fly from Jake Marti scored Joey Velazquez from third and Clark Elliot walked to load the bases again with one out as the two-hitter Joe Stewart stepped up to the plate with a chance to close the gap.

Stewart connected on a 1-2 pitch, scoring two off of a line drive single up the center to make it 7-5.  The next batter, Matt Frey, would hit a two-run homer, tying the game and ending Robinson’s outing. 

David Falco Jr. came in for Robinson and walked his first batter, giving up a double to his second batter to put runners on second and third with one out. Falco Jr. would get the Terps back on offense with a strikeout and a grounder to first base to end Michigan’s six-run inning.

The return to offense was short, and the Terps were back on defense after a one-two-three inning from O’Halloran.

Falco Jr. returned in the eighth, and with the help of a diving play and a quick throw to stop a ground ball up the middle by shortstop Matt Shaw, the Terps were able to get out of the inning with no runs. 

In the bottom of the eighth, Troy Schreffler Jr. reached on a walk and another walk moved him to second, where he stole third. He scored on a passed ball later in the at-bat with a dive into home plate, putting the Terps ahead 8-7.

“That was high risk, high reward. I knew there was a chance I could get there,” Schreffler said. “I just saw it down and just started running and dove from about 10 feet away.”

Right-handed pitcher Nigel Belgrave came in to the top of the ninth looking to secure a Terps victory and the save. 

Belgrave walked the first batter, Jordan Rogers, who pinch hit for Matt Frey, on a 3-1 count and a passed ball advanced Rogers to second. 

Obertop struck out swinging for the first out and a fly ball by Flores would make it two outs. 

Joey Velazquez went down 0-2 when Belgrave threw an outside breaking ball to make it 1-2. 

Belgrave set up and threw another outside breaking ball, which Velazquez watched fly by for a called strike three to end the game.

“At first, I ran it a little bit, got the runner on and threw the passed ball,” said Belgrave. “But then I knew: so what if he scores? I trust our hitters. So I just went out there and trusted my stuff.”

Maryland took the first game 8-7, in dramatic finish, overcoming late pitching woes to oust the Wolverines.

“We’re gonna need a good start from Ramsey tomorrow,” Vaughn said, noting the heavy use of the bullpen in the game. “There’s some young pups that might get the ball tomorrow and I want them to pitch fearless.”