Inconceivable! (and yes, that word means what I think it means) MSM 2 UMD 1

How, you may wonder, did the Maryland baseball team mange to drop a 2-1 decision in College Park to the (now 7-21) Mt. Saint Mary’s Mountaineers? One statistic tells the story: 13 men left on base.

Here’s how that happened:

Bottom of the second (2 LOB): DH Greg Olenski leads off and is hit by a pitch. Kevin Martir follows with an 0-2 line drive single to left. This threat is killed by a pop out to third, a ground out to second (moving the runners to second and third) and a strike out.

Bottom of the third (2 LOB): One out walk to Charlie White (who steals second for his 34th stolen base of the year and a new single season Maryland record) After a strike out, LaMonte Wade walks but the runners are stranded when Olenski flies out to right.

Bottom of the fourth (2 LOB): Anthony Papio reached on a one out infield single. On a a run and hit, Jack Cleary singles to left and Papio motors to third. The inning ends on a Cuas nubber to the catcher on an attempted bunt that hit his bat and hand almost simultaneously and a Blake Schmit fly ball out to left.

Bottom of the seventh (1 LOB): Schmit reaches on a two out gift triple to courtesy of the Mount’s right fielder who came in on the soft liner that then sailed over his head and rolled to the wall. First pitch swinging Charlie White hits a one hop grounder to short. End of inning.

Bottom of the eighth (3 LOB): LaMonte Wade reaches on a bunt single. Olenski strikes out and Martir flies out. After Wade steals second, Papio is walked intentionally. The runners advance on a passed ball and Cleary walks to load the bases. Cuas grounds out to second.

Bottom of the ninth (3 LOB): Schmit draws a four pitch walk to open the inning. On a 3-1 pitch, White is out pitcher to first on a sac bunt. The Mount elects to intentionally walk Hagel. Wade walks and the bases are loaded with one out. Olenski strikes out and Martir, after lacing a ball down the right field line that falls just foul, grounds out to second to end the game.

How, then, did the Terps score their only run? Well, that came courtesy of Jordan Hagel who blasted a mammoth shot over the Maryland Pride banner in left center.

Meanwhile, the Terps got seven strong shutout innings from starter Jake Drossner who gave up just one hit while walking four and hitting a batter. He also struck out seven in his stint. Hagel’s aforementioned homer tied the game at one after the Mount had scratched out a run in the top of the eighth off reliever Brandon Casas with run coming on a wild pitch strikeout. The Mountaineers scored the winning run in the top of the ninth on a one out single, a sac bunt and the clutch two out hit that the Terps failed to get all night.

They say that every baseball game presents you with something you’ve never seen before. Well, tonight that came courtesy of the Mt. Saint Mary’s manager who employed an unusual pitching strategy bringing a new pitcher to star every inning and making situational pitching changes in the ninth to bring the total to eleven pitchers for the game.

One of the pleasures of sport is the opportunity to be an armchair manager and during tonight’s game I second guessed two of Coach Szefc’s decisions. The first came in the eighth inning. Following Hagel’s home run and Wade’s bunt hit, Szefc asked Olenski to try to bunt Wade to second. I thought this an odd (if understandable) choice for your DH and for someone who looked as uncomfortable trying to bunt as Olenski looked to me. The decision I questioned was leaving the bunt in place after the count reached 1-2. The swinging strike out the box score shows was, in reality a missed bunt. The second questionable choice (though it may have been the batter’s) was White’s bunt on a 3-1 pitch. White pushed this bunt far enough up the first base line that he might have been bunting for a hit. Still, with the count standing at 3-1, a pitcher who had thrown 7 balls in his eight pitches, a left handed batter standing in looking at the big hole between first and second, the decision to bunt just seemed ill-timed to me. With a runner now on second, the decision to walk the hitter who had slugged the home run an inning earlier became an easy one meaning the bunt effectively took the bat out of the hands of two hitters. The decision is further complicated by the fact that Szefc had already brought his closer, Keven Mooney into to the game to get the last out in the top of the ninth meaning even if the Terps push across one run as a result of the bunt the closer would be pitching in the tenth inning of a tie game. But, as I said, those decisions are easy to make from the stands.

The Terps will try to keep their fading NCAA hopes alive when they take on Virginia Tech in College Park Friday night in the first of a three game weekend series. Game time is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Todd Carton (AKA FHFAN)

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