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Maryland baseball: Illini edge Terps 5-4, take the series

Illinois and Maryland took turns scoring runs. But the Terps' bullpen couldn't shut down Illinois, and Maryland lost a close, hard fought game.

Andrew Kramer @mercator88

In the rubber game of the series Maryland and Illinois battled it out, with the Illini prevailing 5-4.

Teams see-saw back and forth with single runs

Maryland scored in their half of the first. Madison Nickens led off with a single, and Nick Dunn walked. Marty Costes hit a grounder that the second baseman couldn’t handle to load up the bases. Nickens came home on a sac fly by Kevin Biondic to put Maryland in front. Illinois got the run back in the third inning on a single from Adam Walton, a double by Trent Hamilton, and sacrifice fly.

The Terps played small ball in the fourth for a run. Anthony Papio walked, was sacrificed to second, then came home when Zach Jancarski singled through the left side. But once again Illinois came back to tie the score. With two outs in the fifth, Walton and Hammond hit consecutive singles to put runners on the corners. A balk by Brian Shaffer allowed Walton to score; it was the first balk committed by a Maryland pitcher this year.

Neither team scored in the sixth or seventh innings, so the score remained tied at 2-2 heading into the eighth inning.

Illini go on top in the eighth, but Terps respond

Hammond got his third hit of the day when he hit a bloop single to start the top of the eighth. After a pop out on a bunt attempt by Adam Yalowitz, Michael Hurwitz walked. Jason Goldstein was HBP to load the bases. That brought in Ryan Selmer in relief of Shaffer. Pat McInerney blooped a single over Kevin Smith’s head to put Illinois up 4-2. Galligan relieved Selmer, and got the pinch hitter to hit a ground ball that advanced both runners. However, he walked Dan Rowbottom, so the bases were once again loaded. Mike Rescigno came in and struck out the next batter.

The Terps didn’t back down and tied up the score in the bottom of the inning. Costes singled to center to begin the Terp rally. After Bionidc struck out, Papio laced an 0-2 pitch down the right field line for a double. Illinois brought in senior RHP Nick Blackburn to face Andrew Bechtold, who singled up the middle that the shortstop could only knock down. Costes scored and Papio moved on to third. Jancarski tried to lay down a suicide squeeze and didn’t succeed, so Papio was tagged out in a rundown. However, Jancarski took the next pitch and blooped it into shallow left field to tie the score.

Illinois win with one run in the ninth

Rescigno retired the first two batters in the top of the ninth before Yalowitz and Hurwitz hit back-to-back singles. Yalowitz stole third, and came home when Jason Goldstein singled to right: Illinois led 5-4. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, and McInerney walked to load up the bases. A ground out stopped the bleeding.

The Terps went down in order in the ninth, giving Illinois the 5-4 win as well as winning the series. Maryland is now 25-21 overall, 10-8 in the B1G.

Three things to know:

1. Once teams get into the Maryland bullpen, they have the advantage. It's been a frustrating year for the Maryland relievers, almost a complete reversal from last year. That's the main reason why Maryland starters have been asked to go as far as possible, even if it means throwing well in excess of 100 pitches.

2. There's so little room for error now with only seven games remaining in the regular season. Maryland needs to win at least five of those games or their NCAA hopes rest on winning the B1G tournament.

3. Two out scoring by Illini hurt the Terps in this series. Almost all of Illinois' runs in this series came after two were away, sometimes with the bases empty.