Minnesota clawed its way back against Maryland baseball, shrinking the Terps’ 5-0 lead to just a one-run advantage heading into the bottom of the eighth.
After denying the Golden Gophers in the eighth, redshirt sophomore David Falco was tasked with closing out Minnesota in the bottom of the ninth in the second of three games between these two teams.
Falco refused to let the Golden Gophers complete a five-run comeback. He struck out the first two batters of the inning with nasty off-speed pitches and then forced a groundout to finish off the game.
The right-hander’s late-game magic on the mound secured Maryland’s second Big Ten series win of the season as the Terps improved to 25-6 with a 5-4 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
The win marked Maryland’s second win against Minnesota over the last two days. The Terps will have a chance to capture the three-game sweep on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.
Unlike Friday’s game, the first inning was relatively uneventful for both sides. Sophomore catcher Luke Shliger got on base with a leadoff walk for the Terps, improving on his team-leading .478 on-base percentage, but was caught stealing second shortly after in the top of the first. Similarly, Minnesota’s lone base runner got caught stealing second to end the inning.
The Terps got off to a promising start in the top of the second with a single from sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw and a walk from senior first baseman Maxwell Costes.
However, with the bases loaded and only one out, back-to-back strikeouts extinguished Maryland’s scoring hopes.
Junior left-handed pitcher Ryan Ramsey kept the Terps afloat and tossed a quick 1-2-3 inning, which opened the door for Maryland in the top of the third. Fifth-year center fielder Chris Alleyne got to third on a single from junior third baseman Nick Lorusso.
Minnesota starting pitcher J.P. Massey lost control of his next pitch, making way for Alleyne to score the first run of the game in Maryland’s favor.
The one run in the top of the third was just the beginning as the Terps’ offense exploded in the fourth inning to add to their 1-0 lead. Junior right fielder Troy Schreffler got things rolling with a leadoff single, then sophomore second baseman Kevin Keister sent Schreffler home on a single to center field.
Alleyne continued Maryland’s stretch of success with a single to left-center field to bring in two more runs. The inning was capped off with an error from Minnesota sophomore second baseman Boston Merila, which pushed Maryland’s advantage to 5-0.
After walking his third and fourth batters in the bottom of the fourth, Ramsey allowed his first hit of the day to give the Golden Gophers some life. Minnesota came up with its first run of the game in the inning to halt the Terps’ momentum, albeit it being a minimal response to the visitor’s previous rally.
Ramsey faced another dangerous situation in the bottom of the fifth with Maryland holding onto a four-run lead. With one out and the bases loaded, Ramsey forced a flyout and then struck out his fifth batter of the game, letting the away crowd know how energized he was with an excited scream.
Freshman Andrew Johnson replaced Ramsey in the bottom of the sixth and got off to a rocky start after Maryland’s starter allowed just two hits over five innings. After Keister and Shaw turned two, Johnson loaded up the bases, quickly relenting the pitching duties to senior right-hander Sean Heine.
With Heine on the mound, Minnesota managed to score only one run off an error from Shaw as Maryland escaped the sixth inning with a 5-2 lead.
But even though Maryland averted most of the danger in the sixth, Minnesota’s offense found a way to shrink the Terps’ advantage even further with sophomore Nigel Belgrave on the mound in the bottom of the seventh.
Belgrave didn’t find much success in his appearance that lasted just 1.2 innings. After striking out the first batter, Belgrave allowed an RBI triple that was ripped to right-center field. Merila then got his first hit of the day with an RBI single through the left side, cutting Maryland’s once 5-0 lead to 5-4.
Back-to-back singles put the Terps in a prime position to halt the Golden Gophers’ momentum in the top of the eighth, but Lorusso and Shaw, two of Maryland’s premier hitters, couldn’t convert as Maryland’s advantage remained at just one.
Belgrave and redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher David Falco Jr. put down a combined three Golden Gophers in the bottom of the eighth to cut down Minnesota’s lifeline to just three outs.
Falco shut down the Golden Gophers with two strikeouts and a groundout in the bottom of the ninth to seal Maryland’s second win of the series against Minnesota.
Three things to know
1. The Golden Gophers couldn’t figure out Ryan Ramsey. Ramsey cycled through Minnesota’s lineup twice and the Golden Gophers failed to produce much against Maryland’s starter. The former Big Ten Pitcher of the Week pitched for five innings, surrendering just one earned run and two hits while striking out five batters. Ramsey also walked a season-high six batters. Even with the walks, Ramsey still topped out at 104 pitches over his five innings and delivered a solid performance for the Terps.
2. Maryland’s offense dried up as the game went on. It seemed as though the Terps were going to put together another double-digit day on the offensive end, but that was not the case. Maryland recorded five runs and four hits in the third and fourth innings as its bats were hot the second time around. The Terps went scoreless for the rest of the game, allowing Minnesota to score four unanswered runs. Fortunately for the Terps, their offense did just enough in the early innings to give them their 25th win of the season.
3. The Terps win their second Big Ten series of the season. With Friday’s 11-7 win over Minnesota, Maryland needed to win one of the next two in order to take its second Big Ten series win. The Terps wasted little time, getting it done on Saturday in a nail-biting 5-4 win. Sitting at second place in the Big Ten, a series sweep could propel Maryland past the first-seeded Rutgers Scarlet Knights.