In the bottom of the sixth inning, No. 22 Maryland baseball found itself down two runs in the final game of the series against Dallas Baptist. Sophomore catcher Nate Rombach stepped up to the plate to face off against Maryland sophomore pitcher Jason Savacool.
On the second pitch of the at-bat, Rombach sailed the ball deep over the left-center field wall. The home run gave Dallas Baptist a three-run lead and seemed to erase any hope the Terps had of getting back into the game and returning to College Park with the road series win.
The Terps took an early lead in the second inning and loaded the bases in the top of the ninth with a chance to catch the Patriots however, they ultimately lost their second game of the away series, 5-2.
Maryland dropped to 18-5 on the season, possibly putting its current national ranking in jeopardy. The Terps also officially lost their first three-game series of the season with Sunday’s defeat in Dallas, falling to Dallas Baptist twice in three days.
“I thought we played really hard… we just needed to be cleaner,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “Our competitiveness was awesome.”
The afternoon kicked off with solid pitching on both sides. Sophomore right-hander Jason Savacool for Maryland and Dallas Baptist’s right-handed freshman Ryan Johnson both got out clean in the first inning as the game remained scoreless heading into the next inning.
Senior first baseman Maxwell Costes began the second inning with a statement solo home run, his team-leading ninth homer of the season. Facing a full count, the first baseman looked up at a fastball and carried it all the way over the left-center field wall to give the Terps an early 1-0 advantage.
Savacool struck out two batters to help end the second to maintain Maryland’s lead.
But even with Savacool’s solid start from the mound, Maryland failed to truly capitalize at the plate. With the bases loaded in the top of the third, Rombach caught Luke Shliger trying to steal home, dissolving Maryland’s opportunity to take a critical lead in the final game of the then-tied three-game series.
“Obviously in hindsight you look back and wish you could’ve got another swing [with the] bases loaded,” sophomore second baseman Matt Shaw, who was at the plate during the steal, said. “But at the same time, you gotta make the aggressive plays that sometimes pay off for sure.”
It wasn’t long before Dallas Baptist broke the game open.
Center fielder Jace Grady hit a ball into center field that was mishandled by fifth-year Chris Alleyne, which turned into an RBI triple that knotted the game at one apiece in the bottom of the third. An RBI off a groundout from left fielder Andrew Benefield then brought Grady home soon after, and all of a sudden Dallas Baptist held a 2-1 lead as Savacool started to cool off.
Grady found pay dirt again in the bottom of the fourth inning. He beat Savacool again with a line drive single into right field that added another run on the board for the Patriots after four innings.
Maryland’s inability to put runs on the board coincided with a few mistakes. Dallas Baptist’s catcher Rombach threw out Shliger, who was already caught stealing once, with a laser to second base in the top of the fifth inning. The Terps went down quietly in the rest of the inning, making their third straight inning without a run scored as they trailed 3-1.
The bottom of the fifth inning featured a highlight play from Alleyne, who robbed sophomore second baseman Miguel Santos of a base hit with a diving catch in right-center field to secure a clean inning for Maryland.
Maryland took another blow to its comeback hopes in the bottom of the sixth when Savacool had another shaky inning on the mound. He first gave up a deep solo shot to Rombach, which was followed up by an RBI single from Benefield. Savacool eventually made it out of the inning, but Dallas Baptist extended its lead to 5-1, deflating Maryland’s momentum in the process.
Second baseman Kevin Keister tried to spark some momentum for Maryland in the top of the seventh with the Terps’ second solo homer of the day to make it a three-run deficit. But he was the only Maryland batter between the fifth and the seventh inning to not be retired, which did not help the team’s comeback efforts.
“We just gotta be a little more efficient offensively,” Vaughn said. “We set up some innings early and had a chance to just cash in and [we] didn’t quite get it done.”
After an uneventful eighth inning, the Terps were faced with a tall task in the top of the ninth. Maryland loaded the bases with two outs, however, Alleyne hit a line drive to shortstop George Specht to end the game.
Next up, Maryland will take on Towson on Tuesday in College Park.
We’re only 23 games in now or so,” Vaughn said. “And I think we’re in good shape to keep getting better and become really good down the stretch.”
Three things to know
1. Savacool didn’t have his strongest performance for Maryland. After a brilliant 13-strikeout performance against Siena last weekend, the sophomore did not have his best showing Sunday afternoon. In six innings pitched, Savacool gave up four earned runs and eight hits to Dallas Baptist, while he also recorded five strikeouts. He walked four batters on the day. Savacool’s four earned runs were the second-most that he has allowed all season and he’ll need to bounce back for Maryland come next weekend.
2. Jace Grady had an efficient day at the plate. Grady had four hits in his five at-bats on the day, which included two RBIs. He manufactured quite a solid outing at the plate, putting up two doubles and a triple to help pave the way to Dallas Baptist’s win. Coming into this game, Grady had a batting average of .277 and closed out the series boosting that number. He gave Savacool plenty of trouble and was surprisingly the only Patriot to record more than one hit on Sunday.
3. Maryland’s dugout needs to reassess after this weekend. It’s quite obvious that the bats for Maryland, which were quite hot in Saturday’s 11-run showing, struggled mightily Sunday. The team hasn’t seen a hitting performance as poor as this one since its loss to Delaware back on March 15. Maryland will need to shake off this series loss as soon as possible with a few winnable nonconference matchups approaching on the schedule.