With a newly recaptured one-run lead against Penn State, Maryland baseball found a way to add an exclamation point in the bottom of the eighth inning.
After sophomore second baseman Kevin Keister and sophomore catcher Luke Shliger both got on base with a pair of singles, fifth-year center fielder Chris Alleyne stepped up to the plate on a mission.
Alleyne hit a three-run rocket that bounced over the extended centerfield wall and sealed the 8-4 win for the Terps in College Park on Friday night. It was a back-and-forth affair all evening long, with Maryland surrendering three consecutive runs at one point, but it rallied to capture its third straight win to improve to 21-5 on the season.
“It’s not always gonna be pretty,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “We love it when it’s pretty and clean… the guys fought really hard and found a way to win on Friday which is huge.”
Maryland will have two more games with Penn State in the three-game series, with the second game coming on Saturday and the finale arriving Sunday.
The Friday evening matchup didn’t kick off with much action, but it was Penn State that struck first because of a rough display of fielding from the Terps in the top of the second inning.
Sophomore shortstop Jay Harry was walked to kick things off. Harry then attempted to steal second with one out, which sparked Maryland’s comedy of errors. Shliger’s throw, in what was an attempt to cut Harry off, bounced off Keister’s glove, which allowed Harry to take third. Fifth-year outfielder Chris Alleyne followed that up with a throw to third that went all the way to the dugout, letting Harry gallop his way to home plate and put the Nittany Lions on top, 1-0.
It didn’t take long for the Terps to cook up a response.
Junior outfielder Bobby Zmarzlak, who had been struggling with a .267 batting average coming into Friday’s matchup, beautifully placed a bunt down the right field line to bring senior first baseman Maxwell Costes home from third to tie the game up at one apiece.
Maryland broke the deadlock in the bottom of the third with an RBI single from Matt Shaw to make the score 2-1. The sophomore shortstop extended his hitting streak to six games with a hit through the first base gap to bring junior third baseman Nick Lorusso home to give Maryland a one-run lead after three innings.
Junior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean had a strong performance on the mound. Dean fooled a few hitters into falling for deceiving pitches and only gave up a hit and a run through the first four innings, overall limiting the Nittany Lions’ offense.
And while the visitors struggled to solve Dean, Maryland had its bats start to warm up.
Zmarzlak led off in the bottom of the fourth and added to his RBI total with a home run that was rocketed all the way past the left-center field wall. The solo shot handed the Terps a 3-1 advantage.
The Nittany Lions were eager to retaliate in the fifth, but Dean had other plans. He threw two strikeouts, including one with a runner in scoring position to move to the bottom of the inning without any harm done to the Terps’ two-run lead.
However, Penn State swung the momentum its way shortly after that. A 4-6-3 double play helped silence Maryland’s bats in the fifth. Then in the top of the sixth, Penn State started its rally.
The Nittany Lions got on the board quickly with an RBI single from junior catcher Matt Wood, which allowed junior outfielder Johnny Piacentino to reach home after hitting a single. Add in a sac fly from redshirt junior first baseman Josh Spiegel that came soon after and all of a sudden the game was knotted up at 3-3.
Penn State put in left-handed pitcher Tyler Shingledecker, who was tasked with keeping Maryland’s bats at bay and he responded accordingly. Shingledecker struck out three out of four batters in the inning to keep the Nittany Lion’s momentum alive heading into the seventh.
After that shaky inning from Dean in the sixth, freshman right-handed pitcher Noah Mrotek took the mound to start the seventh. It wasn’t his cleanest inning as he walked junior third baseman Ben Kailher to start the inning. The junior made it home on a sac fly from sophomore right fielder Billy Gerlott to award Penn State a 4-3 lead, putting Maryland at its second deficit of the game.
“Some young guys would go into panic mode, some old guys would go into panic mode, and Noah didn’t,” Vaughn said. “He just kept betting, he believed in himself, and [he] executed.”
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Terps’ bats came alive in the next two innings to seal the win.
Lorusso and Costes notched a pair of RBI singles, both of which went to left field, to put Maryland up 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning. However, the real exclamation point came with Alleyne in the eighth inning.
His three-run home run gave Maryland its much-needed cushion heading into the top of the ninth inning. The Terps closed their game out with another double play to take game one of the series in Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
“The crowd was awesome today,” Alleyne said. “Just feeding off that gave us a booster at the end.”
Three things to know
1. There was a lot of sloppy fielding from the Terps. On the way to the program’s best start in history, Maryland has been sharp in the field, limiting mistakes with great defense. However, on Friday night, Maryland displayed an uncharacteristically poor fielding display. Multiple fielding errors in the infield allowed the Nittany Lions to get on base and into scoring opportunities. Fortunately for the Terps, it didn’t impact the final result. But Maryland will need to clean up the fielding mistakes the rest of the weekend.
2. Penn State’s bullpen couldn’t sustain its good pitching. Despite giving up three runs in the first four innings, the pitching start from Jaden Henline was solid. He recorded four strikeouts and only gave up four hits. Then, Shingledecker blanked Maryland for an inning, but after that Penn State had a collapse. Two pitchers gave up a combined six hits and five runs to swing the game back to the Terps.
3. The Terps kept their momentum going and started off conference play with a win at home. Maryland has two more games remaining in its series with the Nittany Lions and started things off with a win to advance to 21-5 on the season and 1-0 in Big Ten play. The Terps faced Michigan earlier this season and although Maryland fell by three runs, the loss did not count against its conference record since the Big Ten didn’t recognize the matchup as a conference game given it was played at a neutral site early on in the season on March 4.