Clinging onto a slim 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth inning, Maryland baseball was in a prime spot to distance itself from George Mason with a few insurance runs.
Sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw took advantage of a new George Mason pitcher on the mound and ripped a double down the right field line, which sparked the Terps’ offense soon after.
Junior right fielder Troy Schreffler followed in Shaw’s footsteps with a double of his own to right field, scoring Shaw in the process. Schreffler was then Maryland’s second run of the inning as junior left fielder Bobby Zmarzlak recorded an RBI single through the left side to push Maryland’s lead to three.
Despite a response from George Mason in the bottom half of the eighth, the Terps’ eighth-inning burst proved to be enough, holding on for a 3-1 win in Fairfax, Virginia, on Wednesday.
The lone run that Maryland let up was the sixth time this season that the Terps have held an opponent to one run or less in a game. Maryland’s record improved to 20-5 as it is now on a two-game winning streak heading into a three-game series against Penn State.
Wednesday’s matchup started out slow for both teams, but it was Maryland that had the early opportunities.
After the first two batters were retired in the top of the first, Maryland third baseman Nick Lorusso singled up the middle. The very next pitch, senior first baseman Maxwell Costes was hit by a pitch. However, the Terps failed to capitalize and left them both stranded as Shaw hit a routine ground ball to third base to finish the inning.
Sophomore pitcher Logan Ott forced three straight outs in the bottom of the first to keep George Mason quiet.
The Terps broke through in the top of the third in the midst of a scoreless game. Sophomore catcher Luke Shliger walked to lead off the inning and advanced to third on two wild pitches. Then, Lorusso sent Shliger home on a groundout to shortstop.
Costes and Shaw hit back-to-back singles to center field but were left on second and third after Schreffler grounded out. Still, Maryland left the top of the third inning with a 1-0 lead.
Ott was on his way to another successful inning in the bottom of the third, forcing two quick flyouts. However, a double and walk put the Terps’ one-run lead in jeopardy. Fortunately for Maryland, a miscommunication between George Mason’s base runners led to Shliger tagging one out on his way back to second to keep the sophomore’s shutout intact.
With a new Patriots pitcher on the mound, the Terps found themselves in a prime position to widen the gap in the top of the fourth inning. Maryland quickly loaded up the bases with three walks and just one out. After a second pitching change, sophomore Christian Mracna forced consecutive outs that left the bases loaded for the Terps. It was yet another solid chance the Terps just couldn’t convert on.
But while Maryland couldn’t seem to add to its lead, its defense stepped up. A double play from the Terps in the bottom of the fourth allowed them to maintain their advantage, despite them going silent offensively once again in the top of the fifth.
The defense soon followed with a second act. Zmarzlak saved a potential double for Maryland to begin the bottom of the fifth, making a sliding catch in left field. Yet, the Terps weren’t out of trouble yet. George Mason right fielder Alex Knapp hit a double to left field directly after, as the tying run was yet again in scoring position for the Patriots.
Ott was able to protect the lead from the mound, striking out the next batter and then forcing a groundout to once again deny the Patriots a run.
Maryland graduate student right-handed pitcher Nick Robinson only wasted 15 pitches en route to another scoreless inning for George Mason in the sixth, then a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh still kept the home side at bay offensively.
With Mracna finally off the mound to begin the eighth inning, Maryland broke through, scoring two decisive runs to provide enough insurance on the scoreboard the rest of the way. It started with back-to-back doubles from Shaw and Schreffler, then Zmarzlak capped off the run with an RBI single to bring Schreffler home.
In desperate need of runs with just six more outs to spare, George Mason second baseman Brett Stallings stepped up in the bottom of the eighth. Stallings singled through the right side and scored the Patriots’ first run of the day. The Terps were able to get two more outs before any more harm was done, though, allowing them to boast a 3-1 lead with just one inning to go.
Senior pitcher Sean Heine got himself into some trouble in the bottom of the ninth. George Mason loaded up the bases with two outs, putting Maryland in a dangerous situation. The upperclassman showed no signs of distress though as he forced a groundout to second, which was enough to officially deliver a two-run win to the visitors.
Three things to know
1. Logan Ott survived five innings. Ott, the Terps’ typical midweek starter, has struggled to consistently produce more than three solid innings, but that was not the case today. The sophomore pitched a season-high five innings, shutting the Patriots out while only walking two batters and striking out three. If he can continue to stretch the duration of his outings with that kind of efficiency, the Terps bullpen will be scary no matter the day.
2. The Terps couldn’t figure it out on the offensive end after Tuesday’s showing. Despite coming off a 26-run explosion the day prior against Towson, Maryland scored just three runs in this game, the seventh time this season it scored fewer than four runs. The Terps found themselves in multiple scoring opportunities early, but couldn’t convert, leaving eight runners stranded on base in the first four innings. Luckily for the Terps, Maryland’s pitching and defense stifled George Mason’s offense, holding it to only one run.
3. Maryland picked up two important wins so far this week. After losing last weekend’s series to Dallas Baptist and dropping out of the d1baseball.com top-25 rankings, the Terps needed to take care of business in their two midweek games, and they did just that. Now on a two-game winning streak, Maryland should feel confident as Big Ten play approaches. The Terps will start with Penn State on Friday night in what will be a three-game series that concludes on Sunday.