With a two-run lead in the top of the ninth, it wasn’t a done deal for No. 18 Maryland baseball as Rutgers had cut the Terps’ lead to two in the seventh inning with Maryland’s relievers struggling.
In desperate need of some insurance runs, the Terps started their time in the batters box by getting two runners on with no outs.
Then, fifth-year center fielder Chris Alleyne stepped up to the plate, hitting a home run to right field to extend Maryland’s lead and officially put the game out of reach for the Scarlet Knight, securing a 9-4 win on the road and the series victory on Monday afternoon.
Head coach Rob Vaughn had high praise for the center fielder and his impact on the team this season.
“You show me a better player for their team than Chris Alleyne and I’ll tip my hat to you because that guy has been elite on both sides of the ball the entire year for us,” Vaughn said.
Maryland’s offense was on full display against Rutgers on Monday, with five different hitters hitting five home runs. The Terps, who have played three fewer conference games than Rutgers, are now tied with the first-place Scarlet Knights in the loss column.
While the first inning was a dud for both teams, each offense managed to find some power in their bats in the second.
Junior outfielder Bobby Zmarzlak put Maryland on the board in the top of the second. With two outs and nobody on, Zmarzlak smashed one all the way out to center field to strike first for the Terps.
However, the Scarlet Knights were able to get one back in the bottom of the second. Redshirt junior first baseman Chris Brito hit a dinger of his own to deep left-center field for his third home run of the series, tying the game at one after two innings.
The bottom of the order would continue to make an impact for Maryland as senior second baseman Kevin Keister stepped up in the bottom of the third – after a 1-2-3 inning from starting right-handed pitcher Nick Dean in the top of the inning – to hit a solo homer. The homer allowed Maryland to retake the lead.
Rutgers started redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Sam Bello, who transferred from Maryland, where he was a closer for the Terps, after last season. He didn’t have a long day on the mound today, however, thanks to terrific hitting from Maryland. .
Sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw and senior first baseman Maxwell Costes both cracked solo shots in the top of the fourth to end their former teammate’s time on the mound. This gave Maryland a 4-1 advantage with all of its scores coming from solo homers.
Getting runners on base was the key to the visitors scoring in the fifth, with Alleyne hitting a deep sacrifice fly that drove in Keister from third to grow Maryland’s lead to four.
The four-run advantage was short lived, as freshman second baseman Joshua Kuroda-Grauer blasted a solo shot off Dean to bring Rutgers within three runs at the end of the fifth.
The sixth inning saw Maryland tack on another run off the bat of Keister. The second baseman grounded one just past the glove of sophomore third baseman Tony Santa Maria to make it a 6-2 ballgame.
Nick Dean had a nice finish to his time on the mound, striking out three batters in the bottom of the sixth to keep Maryland’s four-run cushion before the relievers started to pile in.
Fellow Maryland starter, junior left-handed pitcher Ryan Ramsey, had some nice words to say about Dean’s performance.
“He’s worked on a lot of stuff and I’m proud of what he did today, and I guarantee it’s gonna keep on going the way it does,” Ramsey said.
Relieving Dean, senior right-handed pitcher Sean Heine didn’t even last the whole seventh inning after walking two batters, both of which would eventually score. Graduate student shortstop Danny DiGeorgio hit a deep single down the right field line to bring both runners home and cut the Maryland lead to two after seven innings.
While the Terps saw their hitters go down without a score in the top of the eighth, Rutgers was not able to capitalize. Right handed pitcher David Falco didn’t throw a strike, but the Scarlet Knights went down in 1-2-3 fashion thanks to the Terps defense. The score was 6-4 heading into the ninth.
Alleyne’s blast put the game out of reach in the final inning, giving Maryland the much needed series victory.
Three things to know
1. Nick Dean had his best start in a while. The former Friday starter was moved to the Sunday spot after some poor showings. However, he had a great start on Monday to help limit a very stout Rutgers offense. He allowed three hits with two of them being solo home runs, but his real work came in the later innings. He threw nine total strikeouts in six innings, but Dean had six strikeouts between the fourth and sixth innings. This included an impressive three strikeout sixth inning as his pitch count got above 100. In recent starts, Dean has given up a lot early, but he managed to stay ahead of batters against the team atop the standings in the Big Ten.
2. The ball was flying off of Maryland’s bats early. It was a nice start for the Terps, who were able to capitalize off their former teammate, pitcher Sam Bello. Each of Maryland’s first four runs came off of four different solo homers hit by four different batters. Zmarzlak, Keister, Shaw and Costes all blasted home runs with no runners on. Maryland’s four big blasts showed just how powerful its batting order can be from top to bottom.
3. This series win gives Maryland a chance for the Big Ten title. After a series win against the first place team in the Big Ten, Maryland now controls their own destiny for the Big Ten regular-season crown. Rutgers is now 16-5 in conference play while Maryland is 13-5. Rutgers has played one more series than Maryland, so the Terps are hoping to close out the rest of conference play with an undefeated record.
Maryland plays fifth-place Michigan at home and seventh-place Purdue on the road to close out the season. If they can win all of their conference games for the rest of the season, they will claim the Big Ten title no matter what Rutgers does in its last series.
“We’ve got an awesome group of guys here, also a very mature group,” Alleyne said. “I think we just approach every day the same way, and come ready to win.”