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No. 24 Maryland baseball comes back to beat VCU, 8-6

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Center fielder Chris Alleyne collected two of the Terps’ four home runs in the win.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Down 5-6 in the bottom sixth against VCU, No. 24 Maryland baseball had runners on second and third with two outs.

Catcher Luke Shliger didn’t let the Rams’ lead last, dropping a soft line drive into shallow left field, scoring both runners. Maryland tacked on one more run before junior Will Glock closed out the game from the mound in the top of the ninth.

Shliger’s two-run double and added insurance was enough for the Terps to pull away from VCU in College Park on Tuesday as Maryland secured the 8-6 win. Maryland will play VCU again tomorrow in Richmond, Virginia, with its improved 10-2 record.

“Not the most perfect game, not our cleanest game,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “But we found a way to score one more than them which is all that really matters.”

The Terps wasted no time getting runs on the board, scoring at least one run in the first inning in back-to-back games. After a ground out to second base to start the inning, center fielder Chris Alleyne stepped up to the plate and crushed the ball over the center field wall for a solo home run. Third baseman Nick Lorusso then hit virtually the same ball to give the Terps a 2-0 lead to end the first inning.

Freshman pitcher Ryan Van Buren got his first start of the season on Tuesday and started off hot, retiring six of his first seven batters.

However, Van Buren wasn’t so successful in the top of the third. After forcing two groundouts to shortstop Matt Shaw, the Rams began to tee off of Van Buren. A double to left field then a single to right field started the two-out rally. A two-run homer capped off the rally, giving VCU its first lead of the game.

Alleyne came up big for the Terps again with a leadoff home run to tie the score at three. Three straight outs followed the homer, leaving freshman pitcher Andrew Johnson with a clean slate to start the fourth.

Johnson couldn’t find his rhythm to begin the fourth inning as his first pitch was taken yard as VCU regained its one-run lead. He then struggled to find the strike zone, hitting the next batter and walking two more. With the bases loaded with only one out, a sacrifice fly to right field extended VCU’s advantage. Johnson was able to strike out the last batter, leaving two men on base.

Maryland was able to respond in the bottom of the fourth inning as left fielder Bobby Zmarzlak hit a leadoff home run, the sixth of the game.

After back-to-back singles and a bunt by second baseman Jacob Orr, catcher Luke Shliger hit a hard ground ball to first base, scoring right fielder Troy Schreffler to even the score at 5-5 heading into the fifth.

VCU put up another run for the third straight inning in the top of the next half-inning.

Shortstop Connor Hujsak doubled to left field and then scored on a single to right field. The Rams almost made it four straight innings in the sixth as they loaded up the bases, but Lorusso was able to field a high-hopping ball and tag third, holding VCU to a one-run lead.

A hit-by-pitch and walk put Maryland’s first to batters on first and second as the Terps looked to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Shliger dropped one into shallow left field, scoring both base runners as Maryland was awarded a 7-6 advantage, marking its first lead since the second inning.

Senior Sean Heine took the mound for the Terps in the top of the seventh and recorded two strikeouts en route to Maryland’s second one-two-three inning of the games.

After two strikeouts, the seventh inning seemed all but over until Hujsak dropped a routine fly ball as first baseman Maxwell Costes reached first. Zmarzlak also got on with a single to right field, then Schreffler sent Costes home with a single up the middle.

With Maryland’s lead at 8-6, VCU needed to generate some offense with only two innings remaining. Heine continued to deliver, however, retiring the side in four batters.

The Terps couldn’t manufacture any more insurance runs as Lorusso started the ninth inning from the mound with his team still holding a two-run lead. With runners on first and third and only one out, Glock relieved Lorusso, helping Maryland secure the win.

“When it’s late in the game, runners on base, definitely the adrenaline’s pumping, but it’s a good time,” said Glock. “Really the most important thing is just throwing strikes.”

Three things to know

1. Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn leaned heavily on his freshman. In this game perhaps more than any other, Vaughn relied on his first-year players to carry a lot of the load in the first game of this two-game midweek series. While they did struggle, Van Buren and Johnson were Maryland’s first two pitchers, pitching five of the nine innings. Orr got his fourth start of the season as he continued to impress.

“Van Buren started awesome, really, really good. He hasn’t been extended, most of his outings have been a, you know, pitch here, pitch there. I thought he learned something tonight,” Vaughn said.

Maryland’s head coach was also fairly impressed with how Johnson performed.

“[Johnson] I just thought let the homer rattle him a little bit,” Vaughn said. “[Johnson] is going to be a really good arm here, man, that guys gonna throw a lot of really big time innings and he’s thrown the ball great for us.”

2. This game was a home run derby. Through the first four innings, a total of six home runs were hit, four by the Terps and two by the Rams. This stretch contributed to seven of the 14 total runs as Maryland won the competition and game.

“I think it’s just kind of been a long time coming,” Alleyne said. “I think today is kind of a coming out party for the rest of the season.”

3. The Terps had to dig deep into their bullpen. With Van Buren getting pulled after the third, Maryland was a little behind schedule and had to rely on their bullpen a little earlier than expected. The Terps used six pitchers who surrendered seven hits and six runs. It will be interesting to see how this will affect Wednesday’s game and possibly this weekend.