In the top of the second inning, Penn State first baseman Cole Bartels collected a solo home run to tie the game up at one apiece against Maryland baseball, putting pressure on Maryland starting right-handed pitcher Jason Savacool.
Right after surrendering the solo shot, the sophomore flipped a switch on the mound for Maryland as he struck out the next six batters he faced, denying the Nittany Lions a chance to score over the course of the next two innings.
Backed by Savacool’s brilliant 13-strikeout outing, in which he recorded nine over the first three innings, Maryland went on to take down Penn State on Sunday in College Park, 7-2, to win its first conference series of the 2022 season.
Savacool was the difference-maker, allowing only one earned run off five hits to help Maryland improve to 22-6 this season.
Savacool recorded three quick strikeouts in the top of the first inning against Penn State, which foreshadowed his dominance over seven full innings. Savacool’s strong opening inning led to the Terps taking their first lead of the game in the bottom of the first.
After being walked and taking two bases on an error, sophomore catcher Luke Shliger was able to trot to home plate on a deep sacrifice fly from junior third baseman Nick Lorusso to put Maryland up 1-0.
Penn State first baseman Cole Bartels stepped up in the top of the second and immediately took Savacool long, smashing it over the right field wall to tie the game at one apiece. The sophomore pitcher responded beautifully though, rattling off three straight strikeouts to put him at six total in that category after two innings.
Hitting became contagious as Maryland took the lead right back in the bottom of the inning. Sophomore second baseman Kevin Keister laced an opposite field homer way past the wall, which brought in freshman designated hitter Zach Martin in as well as the Terps claimed a two-run advantage after two innings.
Good pitching can do wonders for a team’s momentum on both sides. Savacool was locked in, striking out every batter that stepped up to the plate in the third inning to maintain Maryland’s 3-1 advantage.
Savacool’s stellar pitching provided a safety blanket for Maryland and gave its hitters plenty of fuel, which they managed to display in the fourth inning.
It started with Penn State replacing its starting pitcher Tommy Molsky after he hit a batter with a pitch for the third time. Then, replacement pitcher Jordan Morales threw a pitch to Shliger, which he chopped in the infield’s direction. Shliger singled to first base, sliding into the bag and bringing outfielder Bobby Zmarzlak home for a run, Maryland’s fourth of the day.
Just after, Maryland found a way to balloon its lead ever further.
Lorusso was quiet for much of the afternoon, but he stepped up with Shliger and Alleyne on base, hitting a laser over the right field wall for a three-run home run to award the Terps a comfortable 7-1 advantage after four innings. The homer from Lorusso was his second home run over the last five games.
The next three innings became a defensive battle from both sides as neither team managed to score.
Savacool cooled down a bit, but still helped his side with a strikeout in two of those three innings. The Terps’ infield also made plays to limit the Nittany Lions bats. Sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw turned a double play single-handedly as he managed to tag up second and then he whipped a throw to first to complete the play.
As soon as freshman left-handed pitcher Andrew Johnson replaced Savacool on the mound, the Nittany Lions added another run on the board in the top of the eighth inning. Second baseman Ben Kaliher grounded out to shortstop, but it brought a runner home from third to shrink Maryland’s lead to five.
Three pitchers touched the mound for Maryland in the eighth inning, with right-handed pitcher Matt Orlando briefly coming in and then leaving after allowing a hit to put two runners on base. Right-handed pitcher Nigel Belgrave then made an appearance and struck out Bartels with two outs to get Maryland out of the jam.
Belgrave remained in the game in the ninth inning and tossed a strikeout to help finish the game off to give Maryland the much-needed win in College Park.
The Terps will be back in action on Tuesday and Wednesday with two midweek games coming up. First it will face off against George Mason, then Maryland will see Navy on Wednesday evening. Both games will be held in College Park.
Three things to know
- Jason Savacool took command on the mound. Despite giving up a home run in the second inning, the sophomore had an incredible start on Sunday. All three outs that Savacool recorded in the first three innings came from strikeouts. Posting a total of 13 strikeouts in seven full innings pitched, Savacool made hitters miss all afternoon with his nasty curveball. His ability to get ahead in the count, along with throwing a multitude of tough pitches, was impressive as he only gave up one run on the day. Savacool surrendered just one earned run, marking the fourth time this season that the Baldwinsville, New York native gave up one earned run or less in a start.
- Maryland made its early at-bats count. The numbers might not stick out too much, but Maryland’s eight hits today from its bats all came at opportune times. After tying the game up early, Keister stepped up and hit a two-run home run to put Maryland right back in the driver’s seat when the momentum seemed like it was swinging the other way. Then the Terps’ ability to capitalize with runners in scoring position was big in the bottom of the fourth when Shliger hit an RBI single and Lorusso crushed a three-run homer to strengthen their lead. Despite failing to score a run from the fifth inning on, that cushion Maryland had in the beginning of the matchup proved to be the difference.
- Maryland claimed two out of three games against Penn State to win the series. Many would consider Maryland’s loss to Penn State yesterday an upset as the team that was once ranked lost an extra inning battle. To be able to come back from that and win the series the next day was no easy feat. Maryland was able to put yesterday’s game in the rearview and move on. Maryland displayed real character as they were able to come back and get a much needed win in its first Big Ten series of the season.