After trailing Minnesota the entire game, Maryland baseball tied things up with a two-run seventh inning.
Freshman pitcher Ryan Van Buren replaced sophomore Jason Savacool to begin the bottom of the eighth and found immediate success, forcing back-to-back groundouts.
Minnesota second baseman Brady Counsell didn’t give up on the inning, crushing a triple down the right field line to put some pressure on the Terps. With a runner on third, Van Buren delivered a fastball that got away from sophomore catcher Luke Shliger, making way for Counsell to take home.
This final run was all Minnesota needed to take the last game of the three-game series as redshirt senior Tom Skoro struck out the side to secure the Golden Gophers’ 10th win of the season.
The passed ball was the decisive play in a low-scoring affair where Maryland fell to Minnesota, 4-3, in Minnesota on Sunday afternoon. The Terps still captured the series victory with wins on Friday and Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter who plays better overall, it matters who plays better in the moments that really matter,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “When the game was kind of hanging in the balance today they executed better than we did and that was the bottom line.”
After a scoreless first inning for the Terps, Minnesota wasted no time taking an early lead.
Sophomore center fielder Brett Bateman hit a leadoff single through the left side and then junior shortstop Drew Stahl ripped a double down the left field line to score Bateman. Redshirt senior third baseman Jack Kelly then drove home Stahl on an RBI groundout to first base that gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead.
Maryland immediately got a run back in the top of the second to shrink Minnesota’s advantage to one. Sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw singled to right field before junior right fielder Troy Schreffler smacked a double into the right-center field gap, scoring Shaw from first. The Terps weren’t able to score any more runs as Schreffler’s double was followed by two strikeouts.
Savacool swiftly retired the side in the second inning with only nine pitches, then he got hot once again in the bottom of the third. He recorded another 1-2-3 inning and his first two strikeouts of the game to keep Maryland’s deficit at 2-1.
The Terps positioned themselves to tie the game up in the top of the fourth with back-to-back singles to kick-start the inning. However, redshirt junior pitcher Aidan Maldonado weathered the storm, forcing three straight outs to protect Minnesota’s lead.
After striking out the first two batters, Savacool surrendered an RBI double, pushing Minnesota’s lead back to two. Savacool was able to get back on track before the inning ended as he struck out one more, his fifth of the day.
With the Terps’ offense unable to produce, it was up to Savacool to keep Maryland in this game. Savacool kept the deficit at two, retiring the side in five batters in the bottom of the fifth.
Schreffler tried to get a two-out rally going in the top of the sixth with a single to third base, but the rest of the Terps weren’t on the same page as he was left stranded at first, making it four consecutive scoreless innings.
Minnesota made its first pitching change of the game in the top of the seventh and the Terps capitalized. With one out on the board and still down two runs, Shliger started things for Maryland with a single to right field, advancing sophomore second baseman Kevin Keister to second.
Fifth-year center fielder Chris Alleyne finally ended Maryland’s scoring drought with an RBI single through the right side, bringing home Keister and forcing another Minnesota pitching change.
The Golden Gophers' new pitcher, freshman right-hander Seth Clausen, wasn’t able to defend their lead as junior third baseman Nick Lorusso smacked an RBI single to left-center field, tying the game at three.
A ground ball to Savacool turned into a double play as he shut out Minnesota again in the bottom of the seventh in an eight-pitch inning.
Van Buren relieved Savacool in the bottom of the eighth and forced two quick groundouts. Off a 1-2 count, Counsell roped a triple down the right field line. Counsell advanced home shortly after as Shliger lost control of a ball, giving Minnesota a one-run lead heading into the ninth.
The one-run lead was all the Golden Gophers needed as Skoro closed out the game with three straight strikeouts.
Three things to know
1. Jason Savacool kept the Terps alive. When everything seemed to be going wrong for Maryland, Savacool put the team on his back and kept the Terps within striking distance. His phenomenal pitching finally paid off in the top of the seventh as Maryland’s offense broke through, scoring two runs and tying the game at three. The sophomore threw 96 pitches over seven innings, surrendering just four hits and three runs on his way to seven strikeouts.
“They executed early and then he basically shut it down, you know, he was incredible the rest of the way,” Vaughn said.
2. Maryland left runs on the board. The Terps’ offense didn’t have much trouble making contact with the ball, but they struggled to bring in runs. Maryland had countless opportunities to take a sizable lead, but it stranded runners on base on multiple occasions, leaving nine on in total. The Terps’ offense ended the day with double the amount of hits Minnesota produced and still suffered the loss.
“We were setting up innings, but we couldn’t cash in,” senior first baseman Maxwell Costes said. “Sometimes, you know, things don’t fall your way.”
3. Maryland will have a chance to reset before its next Big Ten series. Despite Sunday’s loss, Maryland still captured two wins in three games against Minnesota to round out the series. The Terps will have a golden opportunity to bounce back in the midweek game against James Madison, the program they will be facing off against on Wednesday evening in Harrisonburg, Virginia. That game will provide a short buffer between Maryland’s next Big Ten series, which will be against Ohio State. That three-game series is set to start on Friday.