Trailing 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Maryland baseball looked hopeless after failing to score for four straight innings.
Senior first baseman Maxwell Costes walked and junior right fielder Troy Schreffler singled to start the ninth, giving the Terps hope. Then, junior left fielder Bobby Zmarzlak came in clutch, clearing the bases with a walk-off home run over the left-center field wall.
“That was the best feeling ever, so hype, so thankful,” Zmarzlak said.
Zmarzlak’s three-run homer gave Maryland an 8-6 victory in the series opener in College Park on Friday night. The Terps will face off against Ohio State twice more this weekend as they look to continue their hot Big Ten start.
“Bob’s the man, like that guy has worked really hard. He’s had some ups and downs this year,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “A night like tonight is a night that Bobby will remember 30 years from now and so [I’m] really happy for him and really happy for our team.”
Junior pitcher Nick Dean kept the Buckeyes scoreless in the top of the first, and Maryland’s offense capitalized.
Ohio State sophomore pitcher Nate Haberthier’s first pitch of the day was sent right back at him as sophomore catcher Luke Shliger ripped a leadoff single up the middle.
After junior third baseman Nick Lorusso smacked a double to left-center field, Costes hit a slow ground ball to third that scored Maryland’s first run.
Back-to-back singles scored the final two runs of the first inning as Costes and Schreffler gave the Terps a 3-0 lead.
Dean was dealing to begin the top of the second, forcing two quick outs. He didn’t find the same success with his next two pitches, however, as Ohio State hit back-to-back home runs, cutting Maryland’s lead to one.
The Buckeyes completely erased the first inning deficit in the top of the third. With runners on first and second, sophomore center fielder Kade Kern lined an RBI double to left-center field, tying the game at three apiece. That was all the damage Ohio State could do as Dean forced two straight flyouts.
Maryland regained the lead in the top of the fourth thanks to a two-out rally. Sophomore shortstop Kevin Keister got things rolling with a double to right field, and designated hitter Ian Petrutz sent him home on a single through the left side.
Dean only saw three batters in the fourth. He struck out the final batter of the inning with freshman Jacob Orr and Keister taking care of the other two outs with the game’s first double play.
The Terps’ bats got right back at it in the bottom of the fourth, extending their lead to two.
Alleyne and Lorusso each hit infield singles before Costes popped up to shortstop. Luckily for Maryland, the ball was dropped, leaving room for Alleyne to make a break for home. Alleyne scored the Terps lone run of the inning as they left the bases loaded to end the inning.
After an uneventful fifth inning, Ohio State brought Maryland’s lead back down to one in the top of the sixth.
Redshirt sophomore designated hitter Blayne Robinson drilled a triple to deep center field, which Alleyne barely missed as he made contact with the wall. A groundout to first scored Robinson, the only run of the inning as the Terps couldn’t respond.
Freshman Noah Mrotek relieved Dean in the top of the seventh and got off to a shaky start, allowing back-to-back singles. However, Mrotek was able to collect himself before any damage was done, recording a groundout and a strikeout to end the inning.
Schreffler attempted to revive the Maryland offense in the bottom of the seventh, singling through the right side and then stealing second. He was met with no help, though, as three consecutive outs followed.
Mrotek didn’t make it through the eighth as senior Sean Heine relieved him after three batters. With runners on first and third, Heine delivered a wild pitch, scoring junior right fielder Mitchell Okuley from third to tie the game at five.
Heine then walked two batters and hit another, giving Ohio State its first lead of the game. Redshirt sophomore David Falco closed out the inning, forcing a groundout to second base.
The Terps were unable to score in the eighth, so it was up to Falco to keep the deficit manageable. Falco did just that, recording a 1-2-3 inning.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Zmarzlak’s bomb over the left-center field wall gave Maryland the series opening win.
Three things to know
1. Nick Dean didn’t look like himself. Maryland’s Friday night ace didn’t have a poor performance, but wasn’t his usual dominant self today. After recording four straight outs, Dean let up back-to-back homers in the second inning, which visibly frustrated him. He finished the night allowing seven hits and four runs, while making a few mistakes in the field. Dean’s performance should just be a blip on the radar, but he will have to return to his beginning of the season form if the Terps want to continue their Big Ten dominance.
“Nick did his job and gave us a chance to win tonight, which is what you’re supposed to do, it’s what you need out of your Friday guy,” Vaughn said.
2. Maryland’s relief pitchers struggled to throw strikes. Once Dean left the game, Mrotek produced a solid seventh inning, but the eighth inning was a coach’s nightmare. Mrotek hit one batter and walked the next as Shliger allowed two passed balls. When Heine entered the game, not much changed as Ohio State took its first lead of the game.
“Heine’s been our savior this year man, that’s our go-to dude and [he] just didn’t have it tonight,” Vaughn said.
3. The Terps missed Matt Shaw tonight. Maryland’s starting shortstop was inactive today, and the Terps missed him in both aspects of the game. The sophomore was Maryland’s clean-up hitter and defensive anchor. His absence was felt, especially when the Terps failed to produce runs in the game’s middle innings.
“I feel like everyone, you know, takes a step up, does their job. Matt’s a great player, but everyone just needs to do the best they can do,” Zmarzlak said.
Shaw’s status for the rest of the series is questionable.
“We’re just trying not to rush him back, you know, it’s a long season,” Vaughn said. “Hope to have him back potentially in a DH type situation tomorrow maybe, but it’s going to be how he feels.”