No. 24 Maryland baseball batters struck out swinging to end four of the first six innings against Illinois. The Terps had trouble scraping together any sign of offense as Fighting Illini pitcher Cole Kirschsieper was able to stop his opponent’s momentum at each and every turn.
Between the second and the third inning, the sophomore southpaw also managed to strike out three batters in a row as Maryland’s bats could not muster any production, getting outhit 19-2 on the night.
Maryland struggled to get anything going at the plate all night while also giving up the most runs it has all season in a forgettable 19-1 defeat – its largest of the season – in the series opener at Illinois on Friday night.
The Terps will have a chance to salvage the important weekend series starting with game one of Saturday’s doubleheader at 3 p.m.
Kirschsieper began the game with six strikeouts in the first three innings, shutting out the Terps early before they could establish themselves on base.
On the other hand, junior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean put a plethora of runners on base in the first three innings, even loading the bases in the second.
The Fighting Illini didn’t manage to break through until the bottom of the third, however, when sophomore first baseman Justin Janas hit a grounder right between second and third, bringing sophomore outfielder Danny Doligale home to take a one-run lead.
But, Illinois wouldn’t stop there. After getting two runners on base, junior designated hitter Kellen Sarver did his job, launching a three-run shot over the right field wall. At the end of a disastrous third inning for Maryland, Dean looked shaky on the mound, and the Fighting Illini suddenly controlled the game with a 4-0 lead.
Maryland got a run back in the top of the fourth as a deep fly ball from outfielder Troy Schreffler Jr. brought junior third baseman Nick Lorusso home from third base. Kirschsieper managed to strike out junior outfielder Bobby Zmarzlak – his seventh strikeout of the evening – with sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw in scoring position to end the inning.
Dean exited from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning after he loaded the bases and failed to record an out. The junior gave up seven hits and walked three batters on the mound.
Graduate senior right-handed pitcher Nick Robinson was put in to clean up the mess, but Illinois managed to score two runs immediately after the pitching change. Junior Cam McDonald managed to reach first on a fielder’s choice as second baseman Kevin Keister threw a potential double play ball above senior first baseman Maxwell Costes’ glove.
Illinois managed to get two runners home, extending its lead to five. The Fighting Illini held a 6-1 lead over Maryland after five innings.
With Maryland unable to respond to start the sixth – going three up, three down – Illinois took advantage and put on an offensive display in the bottom of the sixth.
Illinois junior third baseman Branden Comia started the scoring with two outs in the inning, hitting an RBI double off the wall to bring a run home. Two batters later, junior catcher Jacob Campbell brought the runners home with a two-run RBI double.
McDonald got in on the party again, hitting an RBI single through the left side. This forced Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn to pull Robinson for freshman right-handed pitcher Ryan Van Buren. Van Buren threw a pitch off home plate which evaded catcher Luke Shliger with the bases loaded, allowing a fifth run to score in the inning.
Illinois went up 11-1 at the end of the sixth inning, erupting for five runs in the frame to completely eradicate any hope Maryland had for a comeback.
To add more insult to injury, Maryland didn’t score or even get a hit in the seventh or eighth inning. While Maryland’s bats had a rough night, Maryland’s bullpen also struggled. They gave up a whopping eight runs in those two innings with the highlight being a three-run home run from replacement right fielder Andrew Kim in the bottom of the eighth.
Janas and replacement catcher Camden Janik hit two more home runs in the eighth as the pitching staff struggled all around in Maryland’s worst loss of the season.
Three things to know
1. Kirschsieper’s pitching silenced the Terps. The Friday starter for Illinois showed a Maryland dugout, which had been on fire this season, some stiff competition. He managed to limit them to just two hits in six innings, striking out eight batters. The sophomore threw an impressive 60 strikes in 97 pitches in a dominant performance, walking only three batters. He forced the Terps to have one of their worst hitting performances of the season, proving why they are above Maryland in the Big Ten standings in the series opener..
2. Maryland’s pitching staff struggled all night. It wasn’t a good night for anyone on the bump for Maryland, with starter Nick Dean especially struggling. In six innings, Maryland’s Friday night starter threw a dud by allowing seven hits and six runs in just four innings pitched. His replacements didn’t have it going either, with the next five pitchers allowing a total of 12 hits and 13 runs. Illinois constantly scored to end the game as the whole Maryland bullpen managed to throw the same amount of strikeouts that Illinois starter Kirschsieper had in just six innings. The Terps just couldn’t handle the Illinois bats.
3. Will the Terps get stifled this series? Even though Maryland has two more games left in which they can potentially win the series, Friday’s performance makes that prospect tougher. The game on Sunday was moved to a doubleheader on Saturday due to inclement weather, so Maryland will have to deal with a quick turnaround. Vaughn hopes to get his team back on the right track after a double-digit loss. This could prove to be a tough ask for any team, but with Ryan Ramsey and Jason Savacool taking the mound, Maryland has a chance to redeem itself.