Trying to redeem itself from Friday night’s disheartening 19-1 loss at Illinois, No. 24 Maryland baseball had a golden chance for redemption with Saturday’s doubleheader against the Fighting Illini.
With two of their star starters on the bump in Ryan Ramsey and Jason Savacool, the Terps aced the task. Neither game was easy, but Maryland impressed to clinch another Big Ten series victory.
With a 13-9 victory in game one and a 7-4 victory in game two of the doubleheader, the Terps improved to 32-8 overall and 9-3 in the Big Ten. Maryland will have two days off before hosting Navy in Tuesday’s midweek contest at 6:30 p.m.
Maryland used a four-run 10th inning to edge out Illinois in extra innings in game one
The top of the first, bottom of the first and top of the second inning all began with leadoff homers to start the scoring in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Sophomore catcher Luke Shliger hit a walloping shot to center field in the team’s first at bat to put Maryland up early, but sophomore outfielder Danny Doligale came right back in the bottom of the first with a homer of his own over the center field wall, making this one even after the first inning.
The last leadoff bomb – a shot to left-center field – came off the bat of junior outfielder Troy Schreffler Jr. in the top of the second. Schreffler’s homer put Maryland up 2-1 after two innings.
Maryland’s Saturday starter, junior left-handed pitcher Ryan Ramsey, had some shaky moments in the bottom of the third when Illinois’ bats went on a little bit of a run.
After Maryland went three up and three down to start the inning, Ramsey gave up three hits in a row in the bottom of the third. Junior first baseman Justin Janas followed up junior third baseman Branden Comia’s double with an RBI triple, evening the score.
Designated hitter Jacob Campbell hit an RBI single to bring Janas on home as the Fighting Illini earned their first lead of the game after the third inning, up 3-2.
Maryland’s defense seemed to put everything together for the next few innings, giving the offense a lot of momentum to get back into the game.
The away team seemed to perform their best with two outs for the rest of the game, as its response in the top of the fourth was an RBI single from designated hitter Ian Petrutz which leveled the game at three after the fourth inning.
With both offenses sputtering in the fifth, the Maryland offense went on an absolute tear in the sixth to get the lead back.
Junior left fielder Bobby Zmarzlak took it upon himself to crush his ninth home run of the season, putting Maryland ahead by one. After the Terps loaded the bases, fifth-year center fielder Chris Alleyne hit a double that brought two runs through, but Alleyne was thrown out to second to end the inning. The damage was done, though, as Maryland took a 6-3 lead.
However, all it takes is one bad pitch for a game to flip on its head. In the bottom of the seventh, Ramsey’s first inning not on the mound, senior right-handed pitcher Sean Heine managed to put two runners on base before giving up a monster two-out, three-run homer to Janas to tie the game at six.
But this game was a back-and-forth affair, and Maryland responded again with two outs in the top of the eighth. This response didn’t come from the stars, but it was rather led by the bottom of the order.
First, Petrutz hit a single to right field to get on base. Then, second baseman Kevin Keister – the last batter in the order – walked up and obliterated a two-run home run over the left-center field wall to put the Terps up by two after eight innings.
They got a cushion run in the top of the ninth off a sacrifice fly from sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw that brought Alleyne home to make it 9-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
An error by Shaw would create chaos in the bottom of the ninth. He misread a routine ground ball for an error, which allowed two Illinois runners to score, making it a 9-8 game with two outs. Cam McDonald stepped up with an RBI single to tie everything up in the ninth and send this one to extra innings.
In extras, Maryland kept on capitalizing in the batter’s box in pressured two-out situations. With two runners on, Shliger stepped up and lasered a two-RBI double into left-center field. A two-run moonshot over the right field wall for Alleyne sealed the deal for Maryland. The Terps found themselves with an even bigger cushion headed into the bottom of the 10th inning than they had in the ninth.
Shaw redeemed himself defensively in the 10th, kickstarting a double play to get the Terps out of a bases-loaded jam. The Fighting Illini’s comeback was stunted, and Maryland escaped game one of the doubleheader to tie the series.
Jason Savacool’s monster day on the mound led Maryland to victory in game two
The Illinois bats came right out of the gate in game two with the same energy they had at the end of game one. Comia kicked things off on the scoring front, placing an RBI double into left-center field which scored Doligale.
Then, Campbell hit an RBI single which scored Comia, followed up by a McDonald RBI single to left field. All runs scored in the first inning were with no outs, but Maryland held on for the rest of the frame to end the first trailing 3-0.
The Terps punched back immediately after, with Costes hitting a dinger – his 12th of the season – that just missed the glove of center fielder Taylor Jackson.
Maryland didn’t start to pour it on until the top of the third inning, where it took command due to some luck with the lights at Illinois Field.
A Shaw sacrifice fly with one out brought an eager Alleyne home, cutting the deficit to 3-2. In the ensuing at bat, Schreffler Jr. had a routine flyball turn into an RBI triple as the ball sailed into the lights, causing Doligale to lose the ball. The ball dropped and junior Nick Lorusso scored, tying the game at three apiece.
Costes then hit a pop-out, and Sarver and Doligale had a miscommunication that let the ball drop, allowing Schreffler Jr. to come home. Then, an offensive spurt from Maryland gave it the lead after three innings.
While no team scored in the fourth, usual Sunday starting right-handed pitcher Jason Savacool started to get rolling. He punched out the three batters, giving Maryland momentum heading into fifth.
With momentum in hand, Maryland would take the lead in the top of the fifth. After getting two runners on with no outs, Shaw came up clutch yet again with a grounder that leaked past third base and drove Alleyne home to put the Terps on top, 5-4.
A couple of double plays from Maryland’s defense kept its one-run advantage through the next three innings. Shaw, Keister and Costes showed just how much chemistry they have as two double plays helped stifle the Fighting Illini’s momentum with multiple runners on.
Maryland managed to build upon its lead, with Petrutz hitting a sacrifice fly to center field that gave Zmarzlak an easy trip home in the top of the eighth. The Terps took a 6-4 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth.
The bottom of the eighth was highlighted by some brilliant defensive plays. Lorusso dove for a grounder at third base before getting up and gunning the runner at first.
While walking off in the seventh, Savacool told Rob Vaughn “I’m going back in” in an attempt to convince his coach to play him in the eighth inning. He did indeed return for the bottom of the eighth, and he managed to end the inning on a strikeout – his ninth of the day – before leaving the mound exuberant.
Another insurance run in the top of the ninth came off of a Schreffler RBI single. Illinois was not able to extend the game like they did earlier in the day as sophomore right-handed pitcher Nigel Belgrave cleaned up in the ninth to help Maryland pick up the series win.
Three things to know
1. Savacool heated up late. A theme that we have seen in Jason Savacool performances this year is that he tends to feel the game out in the early innings before pouncing on his opponents later in the game. Tonight, he did just that; the four runs he gave up were all within the first three innings. Six of his nine strikeouts came after the third inning had concluded, including a 1-2-3 strikeout performance in the fourth. After the fourth, Maryland would take the lead, showing how a pitcher can change the morale of the whole squad.
2. Maryland’s bats came back with a vengeance from Friday. Maryland’s hitters struggled on Friday night, recording only two hits in the series opener. However, they came alive in game two and game three of the series and showed just how lethal its bats can be. In game one, Maryland outhit Illinois, 14-13, and it also showed its big play potential by hitting five homers compared to the Fighting Illini’s two. In game two, Maryland had three different hitters with multiple RBIs, showing that they can be versatile up and down the lineup.
3. Will Maryland take control of the Big Ten? Maryland’s series win over Illinois is one of its best Big Ten series wins of the season. After getting demolished on Friday night, to be able to come back and win two games on Saturday to win the series is impressive from the Terps. Illinois was in second place in the Big Ten standings heading into this weekend series and Maryland was in third. The Terps proved they are a team to beat in the conference with just four Big Ten weekend series to go before the Big Ten tournament.