No. 21 Maryland baseball was in the midst of a tight battle with Michigan in the top of the eighth inning with the score tied at 4-4 as it looked to improve on its best start to a season in program history.
However, the Terps had just conceded four consecutive runs over the last two innings and relief pitcher Sean Heine couldn't stop the bleeding. Michigan started the inning with two straight singles, which prompted an at-bat from junior Joey Velazquez. Velazquez, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter, took advantage of a 3-1 count and rocketed a ball down the left field line. It made its way over and out for a three-run home run to award the Wolverines their first lead of the day.
Maryland’s eventual four-run collapse put an end to the program’s best all-time start. The Terps fell to Michigan, 7-4, on Friday afternoon in Greenville, North Carolina. Maryland is now 8-1 this season. The loss to the Wolverines will not be counted to the team’s conference record, though, as the Big Ten didn’t recognize this matchup as a conference game.
Maryland was able to hold Michigan in check after right-handed pitcher Nick Dean tossed a 1-2-3 scoreless first inning to kick off the game.
And after Dean’s solid start, the Terps found a way to spark their offense in the bottom of the second inning. First baseman Maxwell Costes was the first Terp to reach a base due to a fielding error and then designated hitter Jacob Orr singled to right field to put two runners on. Maryland was sitting with two outs in the inning, but Luke Shliger came through in a big way.
Shliger stepped up to the plate and scorched one to left field that made it over the wall and out for a three-run home run. The catcher’s second home run of the season put Maryland up 3-0 heading into the third inning.
Dean worked his way out of trouble with a few Wolverines in scoring position in the top of the third, then he endured a calm fourth inning to keep Michigan’s offense silent. Maryland couldn’t manage a hit in either inning, though its three-run advantage was maintained in the meantime.
Dean, who entered Friday’s game with 15 combined strikeouts over his last two starts, recorded his fourth strikeout in the top of the fifth inning. Maryland’s starting pitching has consistently allowed it to pull ahead so far this season, and this one was no different when the Terps came up to bat in the next half inning.
Maryland gave itself some insurance in the fifth after Shliger notched a triple to center field to open the inning. It didn’t take much for Shliger to come home as center fielder Chris Alleyne drove him home with a grounder to second, stretching Maryland’s lead to 4-0 in the process.
Dean’s outing came to a close in the sixth inning with the Wolverines beginning to solve what he was offering them from the mound. Michigan put a runner on second with a double, then head coach Rob Vaughn opted to pull Dean after he gave up another double, which allowed Michigan to score its first run of the game.
The Wolverines managed to bring another base runner home later in the inning with redshirt junior Will Glock pitching, though both earned runs were credited to Dean. Michigan shrunk Maryland’s four-run lead to two with just three innings to play.
It wouldn’t be long before Maryland’s original 4-0 lead was officially erased.
The top of the seventh saw Michigan’s comeback take another step in the right direction. With Glock still on the mound, the Wolverines’ Jack Van Remortel kicked off the inning with a walk. Senior Riley Bertram got the best of Glock in the next at-bat, sending a home run to right field, bringing home Van Remortel with him to tie the game at four apiece.
Heine was called to action in the top of the eighth with the task of reeling in Michigan’s abrupt red-hot hitting. Heine gave up two hits in the inning, and then Velazquez’s three-run homer pushed the Wolverines ahead for good.
Maryland left one runner on base in the bottom of the eighth and then it fell quietly in the ninth to officially suffer its first loss in 2022.
Three things to know
1. Michigan showcased its hitting in the second half of the game. Coming into this matchup, Maryland had not let up more than five runs in any of its first eight matchups. In the Terps’ second game of the season against Baylor, the Bears scored five runs but Maryland outscored them by four walking away with the win. On the opposite side, Michigan had scored fewer than five runs in just one game before this one. The Wolverines scored just one run in their 6-1 loss against Oklahoma at the end of February. In this game, Maryland did not let up a run until Michigan scored two at the top of the sixth inning. However, once it got going, Michigan didn’t stop. The Wolverines finished the game with seven runs, all of which came in three of the final four innings.
2. Luke Shilger provided a spark early on. Through the first eight games, Shliger had five hits, three of those coming in Maryland’s matchup against Campbell. He also had one home run that he tallied against UMBC. In this matchup, with five at-bats, Shliger had three hits and a home run. Coming into this matchup, the catcher had five RBIs and against Michigan, he had more than half his total through eight games with three RBIs. His home run came in the second inning giving the Terps an early 3-0 advantage and in the fifth inning, he tripled to center field setting him up for Alleyne to send him home for the 4-0 lead.
3. The Terps pick up their first loss of the season. Maryland got off to its best start in program history with eight straight wins and is now 8-1 for the first time since 2012. Maryland has two more games to play this weekend with a Saturday matchup against Indiana State and a game on Sunday versus East Carolina. The Terps’ last game of the 2021 season was a 9-6 loss against then-No. 12 East Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Now, Maryland will face Indiana State before having the chance to pick up a win this time around against East Carolina with the momentum of one of its strongest starts in program history.