Fresh off the 12-1 drubbing they handed Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond Tuesday night, the Maryland Terrapins traveled a slightly shorter distance going north rather than south on I-95 to take on an intrastate rival the Towson Tigers at the nicest facility I've seen the Terps play in - Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen. With a constant hum of traffic from the nearby interstate, the Terps and Tigers took the field on a cool May night in the what the program listed as the "Ripken Cup Collegiate Baseball Invitational." The Terps took possession of the inaugural Ripken Cup with a 4-3 win over the Tigers.
Terps on top early
Taylor Stiles got the start for the Terrapins and, after retiring the first two Tigers on ground outs, watched as Peter Bowles skied a looping fly ball into the left field corner that went for a double when Tim Lewis couldn't quite run it down. The lefty remained composed and after running the count full stuck out Towson cleanup hitter left fielder Kurt Wertz. Despite a shaky third Stiles would give the Terps six solid innings before giving way to Ben Brewster in the top of the seventh after giving up a leadoff infield single to Towson shortstop Pat Fitzgerald.
Maryland caught a break in the bottom of the inning which started with Charlie White getting hit by a pitch. After LaMonte Wade lined to center, White was forced at second when Brandon Lowe's hard grounder up the middle caromed off pitcher Matt Golczewski to second baseman Hunter Bennett. Jose Cuas lashed a single through the hole between short and third and here is where the Terps got lucky. Lowe took a wide turn around second and Wertz threw behind him. In a bang-bang play, the umpire called Lowe safe. This opened the door for Maryland to open the scoring when Tigers' third baseman Brady Policelli mishandled Blake Schmit's grounder down the line. Lowe scored as Schmit and Cuas took second and third respectively. Tim Lewis' grounder to first stranded the two runners.
Tigers uncaged in the third
Fitzgerald opened the Towson third with a chopper that bounced over the head of Terrapins' third baseman Jose Cuas for an infield single. Thing heated up a bit when catcher Pat Fisher laid down a perfect bunt along the first base line that put runners on first and second. The Terps appeared on the verge of getting out of the inning when Fitzgerald was forced at third on an attempted sacrifice bunt and Dominic Fratantuono was forced at second one batter later. However, Bowles lined a single to left scoring Fisher and knotting the score at one. Wertz then smacked a double off the wall in right that cleared the bases and put Towson up three to one.
Terps tie it at three
After Cuas lined out to third to open the Maryland fourth, Blake Schmit blooped a fly ball down the left field line that fell just fair for a double. He moved up a base when Tim Lewis reached on an error by second baseman Hunter Bennett. Mike Rescigno forced Lewis at second with Schmit holding at third. Nick Cieri, starting at catcher in place of Kevin Martir, got the first of two key two out hits for the Terps lining a single down the left field line scoring Schmit. Anthony Papio followed with a humpback liner that fell in front of Wertz. White ended the inning on a ground out to second.
Another two out rally
Although they recaptured the lead, Maryland lost a golden opportunity to put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fifth. Brandon Lowe bounced a one out seeing eye single that neither the third baseman nor shortstop could field cleanly. Cuas then followed with a line drive single to right moving Lowe to third but Cuas, in an unnecessary bit of aggressive base running was thrown out trying to take second on the play. After Schmit drew a four pitch walk, Lewis hit a ground ball up the middle for a single and an RBI that put the Terps on top 4-3. Rescigno was hit by a pitch to load the bases but Cieri's liner to short stranded three and upped Maryland's left on base total to seven through the first five innings.
Strong work from the bullpen
Maryland coach John Szefc went to his bullpen twice on the night first calling on Ben Brewster who came on in the seventh in relief of starter Taylor Stiles. In an inning and a third of work, Brewster walked one and stuck out three. He left the game with no one on and one out in the top of the eighth in favor of closer Kevin Mooney. Mooney got the final two outs in the eighth making extensive use of Blake Schmit in the process inducing a pop up and a routine ground ball to the Terrapins' shortstop. He kept the Tigers on a short leash by retiring the side in order in the ninth.
The Terps travel to Pittsburgh for the crucial final ACC series of the season before closing out the regular season Tuesday May 13 when they host West Virginia in a 2 pm start.