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Bobby Zmarzlak’s go-ahead homer lifts No. 24 Maryland baseball over Towson, 4-3, in extra innings

Maryland extends its winning streak to five games.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

It looked like No. 24 Maryland baseball had complete control late in the game, leading 3-0 headed into the bottom of the eighth following a spectacular pitching display through the first 21 batters.

However, with six outs to go, Towson got the bats rolling. Following back-to-back RBI hits from senior infielder Jack McGlaughlin and junior outfielder Elijah Dickerson, the Tigers cut the lead to one, and a lead-off homer from Chandler Castleberry in the ninth tied the game.

Following Towson’s late rally to force extra innings, Maryland’s big-time power hitter and reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Bobby Zmarzlak stepped up to the plate in the top of the 10th inning. Zmarzlak launched a go-ahead blast to give the Terps a one-run advantage and his second game-winning home run in the past four games.

Maryland closed it out in the 10th inning, securing the 4-3 win at Towson on Tuesday afternoon, extending its winning streak to five games.

Both teams opted to go with openers for this game, which paid off early – especially for Towson – who allowed 28 runs in their early-season meeting with Maryland.

Freshman left-handed pitcher Andrew Johnson and sophomore right-handed pitcher Luis Rivera each went through the first inning without any on-base threats, which ended up to be a common theme for the first half of the afternoon affair.

After hitting first baseman Maxwell Costes to start the top of the second, Rivera was pulled in favor of freshman right-hander Brett Seils who would be fantastic in his four innings of action.

Johnson, who had only pitched in a relief role in his Maryland tenure to this point, got his first career start as an opener and looked like a veteran on the mound, going two innings, as scheduled, without any trouble.

Sophomore southpaw Logan Ott, who was coming off a rough outing for Maryland, came in to start the third inning and was nothing short of magical. Not allowing a single hit through the fifth inning, he allowed the Terps to take and build upon an eventual lead.

Unlike the early season clobbering when the Terps beat the Tigers, 26-8, on March 29, it was a pitching battle with the score knotted until Towson head coach Matt Tyner elected to bring in relief pitcher Dom Valis for the fifth – a decision that ended up haunting the Tigers.

Towson’s defense had been suspect all season, highlighted by their rotation having a cumulative ERA of over eight, and that showed in the latter half of the game.

Following an infield single by Schreffler and an error that allowed him to advance to second, sophomore infielder Kevin Keister broke the ice with a single into center field to provide the first run of the game.

Later in the fifth inning with two outs and facing a 2-2 count, sophomore catcher Luke Shliger knocked in his 31st and 32nd RBIs of the season with a two-run blast extending Maryland’s lead to 3-0.

Unfortunately for the Terps, their bats would go freezing cold after that, failing to register a single hit the rest of the game.

Ott continued to excel with a seven-pitch 1-2-3 fifth inning, but Towson’s Justin Rebok came out of the bullpen to start the sixth and kept the deficit at three with a 1-2-3 frame of his own.

After retiring the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth, Towson got consecutive base runners on, propelling the Terps to call to the bullpen for righty pitcher Ryan Van Buren.

The freshman Van Buren showed impressive skill and composure, getting out of the dangerous jam in the sixth and striking out the side in the seventh. His clutch performance ended up being huge as the Terps failed to register a single hit from the sixth inning through the eighth.

In the bottom of the eighth, after forcing a first-pitch groundout, Van Buren allowed a double into the gap from Danny Beccera, whose error prompted Maryland’s fifth-inning explosion.

Damage came from the extra base hit as senior Sean Heine, who relieved Van Buren in the eighth and has been stellar of late, gave up consecutive RBI hits to bring the score to 3-2. Fortunately for the Terps, Heine regained his composure and forced senior Nolan Young into a groundout to end the inning.

With Maryland taking a one run lead into the bottom of the ninth, the game laid on the shoulders of right-handed sophomore David Falco.

The first pitch of the inning provided the game tying run. Falco surrendered the home run to Castleberry, but he was able to retire the next three batters to give the fans free baseball.

Zmarzlak’s homer in the 10th gave Maryland the lead, and eventual win, over Towson. Falco came back out in the bottom of the 10th for Maryland to record the win and did so with a 1-2-3 inning to wrap things up for Maryland on the road.

The Terps will have a few days off before traveling to Illinois to take on the second-place Fighting Illini in a three-game series that starts on Friday.

Three things to know

1. Head coach Rob Vaughn’s pitching plan was executed to near perfection for 7.2 innings. Andrew Johnson did his job, keeping Towson off the board for the opening two innings, allowing normal left-handed midweek starter Logan Ott to come into a comfortable situation and pitch 3.2 innings of scoreless baseball.In the eighth, it almost all fell apart late as Sean Heine allowed two runs in the eighth in relief. Despite exiting the inning with the lead, closer David Falco allowed the game-tying home run to start the ninth. Vaughn stuck with Falco, who retired the next six batters to secure the win.

2. Luke Shliger came up big again. The sophomore slugger went 2-for-3 with two walks on the afternoon, including his two-run homer. His .347 batting average and 32 RBIs both rank second on the team behind only Schreffler. Shliger ranks towards the top of nearly every statistical category among Maryland’s hitters. His phenomenal season continued on Tuesday, and Maryland will need that production from its star against Illinois this weekend.

3. The Terps are rolling with a big weekend series coming up. Now on a five-game win streak, Maryland also possesses an 8-2 conference record and is 13-5 away from home. Combined with its 16-1 record in College Park, this team is proving they can win against anyone, anywhere. Zmarzlak’s homer lifted Maryland to its 30th win for just the 10th time in its 131 seasons as a baseball program. The Terps will travel to Illinois in a key conference series against the Fighting Illini this weekend, with a chance to eclipse them for second-place in the conference standings.