With a three-run advantage in the top of the sixth inning, Maryland baseball was still in a tight battle with Minnesota on the road. Both starting pitchers looked shaky on the mound and it felt as though the first of three games between these two teams were there for the taking.
Up stepped junior third baseman Nick Lorusso, who crushed a two-run homer all the way out to the land behind left field.
The game never felt the same after Lorusso’s two-run shot as the Terps showed all game long just how high-powered their offense can be. Maryland hit a total of five home runs on the day to help it to an 11-7 victory in game one of its weekend series against Minnesota. The next two games of the series will be played on Saturday and Sunday, with the second game coming tomorrow afternoon.
The four-run win over the Golden Gophers was the Terps’ third straight victory and their sixth win in their last seven games. Maryland improved to 24-6 overall after Friday’s triumph.
The Terps started things off with a bang as the leadoff hitter and sophomore catcher Luke Shliger clocked a home run into right-center field, his third of the season, on the first pitch of the day.
It didn’t take long for another run to come home in the top of the first as junior outfielder Troy Schreffler Jr. dropped a deep shot in front of the wall in center field for an RBI double to give Maryland a quick 2-0 lead.
Despite being caught off guard by the Terps’ hot bats, the Golden Gophers responded in the bottom of the first. After a solo home run from junior shortstop Drew Stahl, redshirt sophomore designated hitter Kyle Bork followed it up with an RBI single to tie the game.
After two innings of offensive silence from each side, Maryland managed to find its groove in a big way in the top of the fourth.
Schreffler Jr. collected a single to start the inning, then junior outfielder Bobby Zmarzlak powered a ball over the right field wall for a two-run shot, which marked his fifth home run of the season. That sequence awarded Maryland a two-run advantage, but it kept on coming soon after.
Later in the inning with sophomore second baseman Kevin Keister on first, fifth-year outfielder Chris Alleyne flipped his bat after hitting a line drive laser over the centerfield wall. Just like that, Maryland claimed a 6-2 lead with its second home run of the fourth.
Maryland’s junior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean just couldn’t seem to get out of a jam in the bottom of the fourth inning and Minnesota found a way to shrink the Terps’ advantage.
With two runners on base and two outs, sophomore center fielder Brett Bateman connected on a hit to center field, which was bobbled and dropped by Alleyne, bringing a run home for Minnesota in the process. Dean fought his way out of the inning, but not before giving up six hits over four innings with Maryland clinging onto a three-run lead.
Minnesota’s junior starting right-handed pitcher Sam Ireland faced his own jam in the top of the fifth. Ireland made a slew of mistakes – walking two batters and hitting two as well – eventually loading the bases for Maryland with two outs.
Redshirt senior left-handed pitcher Tom Skoro replaced Ireland and got the Golden Gophers out of the jam by getting Keister to ground out, preventing a handful of Maryland runs.
Following a quick 1-2-3 for Minnesota’s bats in the bottom of the fifth, the Terrapins capitalized with another home run.
A patch of dirt behind the left field wall was introduced to a ball that came off a sailing moonshot from Lorusso. The two-run home run, which brought in Alleyne, was Maryland’s third multi-RBI homer of the game. The Terps went up 8-3 in the top of the sixth because of Lorusso, who has risen as one of the team’s best hitters as of late.
After freshman right-handed pitcher Noah Mrotek replaced Dean in the bottom of the seventh, Minnesota started to find some momentum. A sac fly from senior catcher Chase Stanke and an RBI double from redshirt senior third baseman Jack Kelly brought in two runs to cut the Maryland lead down to three before the eighth inning.
Maryland punched back with a strong response in the top of the eighth to seal the win.
Sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw kicked off the inning with a massive solo home run to center field, which only sparked Maryland’s offense further. Replacement freshman designated hitter Sean Lane then made his presence known as well, stepping up with two outs and cracking a single into left field to bring a runner home.
Soon after, a wild pitch from Minnesota sophomore right-handed pitcher Will Semb went past Stanke and let another Terp come home. Maryland came away with three tallies of its own in the inning to pad its cushion to 11-5 heading into the ninth.
But even with a comfortable six-run lead, Minnesota still gave Maryland a run for its money in the bottom of the ninth. The half-inning was a nightmare for Maryland’s pitchers and the Golden Gophers made a likely extra-inning scenario possible.
Stanke notched a two-run home run to start the desperate run from Minnesota. The homer forced a Maryland pitching change, putting senior right-handed pitcher Sean Heine on the mound with two outs. Heine then walked two batters to load the bases, but a ground out from redshirt senior first baseman Ronald Sweeny got Maryland out of the jam and sealed the win.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s success at the plate was contagious once again. Out of the team’s 11 runs, eight of them came from home runs for Maryland Friday. All five home runs in this game came from five different hitters, showing off the elite versatility of the Terrapin rotation. In 35 at-bats, Maryland tallied 11 hits from eight different batters with Alleyne, Shaw, Schreffler Jr. and Zmarzlak picking up two hits each. Coming into this series, the Terps had the second-most hits in the conference with 236. Maryland also led the Big Ten with 46 home runs and added to that total Friday night.
2. Minnesota’s bullpen didn’t have its best outing. The Golden Gophers had six different pitchers on the mound in the first game of the series. Freshman left-handed pitcher Noah Rooney was the only pitcher out of the bullpen to pitch more than one inning. The starter for Minnesota, Ireland, recorded six strikeouts, but gave up five earned runs. Three of Minnesota’s six pitchers managed to last 0.2 innings or less after Ireland’s departure. The whole bullpen surrendered a combined five earned runs as it was unable to pick up the slack for Ireland.
3. Pitcher Nick Dean started off shaky but got it going later on. The first inning of this game foreshadowed the high-scoring affair that it eventually was. Dean surrendered two runs to the Golden Gophers in the bottom of the first, including a home run. However, as the game went on, Dean excelled on the mound for the Terps. The junior went for six innings and struck out six en route to giving up only three earned runs in what was a decent outing overall. He finished with 105 pitches and only gave up six hits, along with two walks. The first inning from Dean was a rough one, though he managed to eventually produce an outing that would help Maryland to a win.