Right-handed starter Jason Savacool hurls a pitch in the sixth inning (Courtesy Maryland Athletics).

Maryland baseball falls to UConn in College Park Regional, 10-5, faces elimination Sunday

After Maryland starter Jason Savacool limited the damage from UConn’s hitters for six innings, Rob Vaughn turned to Nigel Belgrave out of the bullpen.

Vaughn’s decision proved to be costly.

Each of the first three batters Belgrave faced, reached base.

Belgrave fanned the next two batters and appeared to be on his way to a masterful escape of the jam. He wasn’t. The next batter was Matt Donlan, who crushed Belgrave’s fastball over the batter’s eye for a crucial three-run homer. 

Donlan’s moonshot broke the game open for UConn, pouring it on Maryland in its home stadium.

Maryland baseball had a chance to advance to the Regional Final Saturday. Instead, the Terps will have to play with their season on the line Sunday, as they were bettered by the Huskies, 10-5.

The sold-out crowd at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium was silenced in the bottom of the first, when the Huskies’ first two batters, David Smith and Erik Stock, blasted homers off of Savacool.

Matt Shaw notched the Terps’ first hit of the game, but he was thrown out trying to steal second. Two batters later, Maxwell Costes grounded into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.

Savacool escaped another jam in the bottom of the second, inducing a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Maryland’s offense finally came to life in the top of the third, when Kevin Keister cranked a solo shot to right-center. Luke Shliger followed with a double down the right-field line, but first-team All-American Chris Alleyne struck out on three pitches to end the frame.

The Terps’ bats were kept quiet in the fourth, even after a leadoff knock by Nick Lorusso. The next batter, Shaw, grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, ending any hope of a rally.

But the bats came alive in the fifth.

After Costes walked, Bobby Zmarzlak trickled a ball up the middle, giving Maryland a golden opportunity.

Designated hitter Ian Petrutz stepped into the batter’s box and continued his hot streak, roping a game-tying single into center. The throw to the plate beat Costes, but a head-first dive allowed him to get his hand under the tag.

Alleyne then came to the dish with two in scoring position. The Big Ten Player of the Year cracked one, but it hung up for Casey Dana, who made the grab.

Savacool surrendered the go-ahead run in the fifth, an RBI groundout by Ben Huber.

Though Savacool had eclipsed the 100-pitch mark, Vaughn elected to send the right-hander back out for another inning of work, and the decision worked out. Savacool sat down the Huskies 1-2-3 – including an inning-ending strikeout.

UConn starter Pat Gallagher kept the game in control all night long. In the top of the seventh, Gallagher struck out two Terps to protect the Huskies’ slim lead.

Nigel Belgrave entered the game for Maryland, and trouble ensued, as Donlan’s bomb gave Uconn a 6-2 lead heading to the eighth inning.

Maryland applied pressure to UConn in the top of the eighth, putting a quick two baserunners on. Head coach Jim Penders elected to go to his closer, Justin Willis. 

Willis induced a fly-out, and then he fanned Troy Schreffler Jr. to strand the two Terp baserunners.

Looking for extra insurance, the Huskies came to bat in the home half of the eighth, and Zach Bushling cranked a two-run shot. UConn then added another two runs before the inning concluded.

In the top of the ninth, the Terps attempted to crawl back. Petrutz launched a three-run homer over the centerfield wall, but Willis shut down the remaining batters and ended the game.

Maryland will play Wake Forest in an elimination game tomorrow afternoon.