With each team struggling to score in the final three innings, No. 1-seed Maryland baseball had a walk-off opportunity in the bottom of the 11th inning with the score tied at four.
Following a junior left fielder Bobby Zmarzlak strikeout, sophomore second baseman Kevin Keister got the inning started with a single to left field, forcing No. 3-seed UConn to make a pitching change. Freshman right-handed pitcher Jack Sullivan was put in the game and struggled heavily, surrendering a single and hitting a batter on back-to-back pitches.
With the bases loaded, junior third baseman Nick Lorusso stepped up to the plate with a chance to extend Maryland’s season. The Villanova transfer didn’t look back, smacking an outside fastball to the right-center field wall where the opposing outfielders could only watch the ball sail over their heads.
With the walk-off hit, Maryland defeated UConn, 7-6, on Sunday night in College Park, setting up a rematch of the regional final and another chance to advance to the NCAA super regionals. Maryland and UConn will play once again on Monday night to determine who wins the regional and who is sent home packing.
With his three aces unavailable, Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn chose graduate student right-handed pitcher Nick Robinson to start on the mound.
Robinson was electric in his first two innings, only facing seven batters while picking up three strikeouts.
Similar to its last outing against Wake Forest, Maryland made things happen with two outs on the board in the top of the first. Junior third baseman Nick Lorusso got things going with a double down the left field line and was immediately sent home on a single up the middle from sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw.
Junior right fielder Troy Schreffler capped off the inning with a two-run shot over the left-center field wall, giving the Terps an early 3-0 lead.
In the third inning, Robinson and UConn graduate student right-handed pitcher Enzo Stefanoni traded 1-2-3 innings as the game quickly became a pitchers duel.
The Huskies produced two hits in the top of the fourth, but Robinson kept his shutout alive, picking up his fifth strikeout of the game.
Stefanoni recorded two quick outs in the bottom of the fourth, but he began to lose control of the strike zone. After hitting Zmarzlak and walking Keister, Stefanoni was relieved by sophomore left-handed pitcher Garrett Coe.
With the bases loaded, Coe put a lid on Maryland’s two-out rally, forcing fifth-year center fielder Chris “Bubba” Alleyne to flyout.
The Terps broke the scoring drought in the bottom of the fifth inning as Lorusso smashed a solo home run to left-center field. Coe didn’t let the homer give Maryland any momentum as he struck out the next three batters.
UConn made its way onto the scoreboard in the sixth inning as well, completely erasing the Terps’ four-run lead. Redshirt freshman right-handed pitcher Nigel Belgrave started the inning and couldn’t get into a rhythm, hitting and walking his first two batters.
Then, redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Will Glock took the mound and allowed two-RBI singles, which cut Maryland’s lead to one. Freshman left-handed pitcher Michael Walsh was the final Terp to take the mound, but the Huskies scored one more before the inning came to an end with the score knotted at four.
While Maryland couldn’t respond in the bottom of the sixth, they retook the lead just an inning later. Alleyne led off the inning with a double to left field, bringing everyone at “The Bob” to their feet.
With senior right-handed pitcher Devin Kirby now on the mound, Shaw hit an infield single to second base. UConn graduate student first baseman Ben Huber attempted to gun Alleyne out at home, but his throw was inaccurate, allowing Shaw to advance to second. Senior first baseman Maxwell Costes tacked on one more run with an RBI single to right field, pushing Maryland’s lead to two.
The lead didn’t last for long as UConn put together a two-out rally of its own. With two strikes on him, redshirt sophomore second baseman David Smith drilled a stand-up triple to the right field wall, scoring redshirt junior center fielder T.C. Simmons from first.
In an attempt to protect the lead and the season, head coach Rob Vaughn turned to junior left-handed pitcher and Friday’s starter Ryan Ramsey, who made his first appearance of the season from the bullpen. Ramsey struck out the only batter that he faced, but threw a wild pitch in the process, which scored Smith from third to even the game at six apiece.
Neither team scored in the ninth inning, sending Maryland to its sixth extra-innings game of the season.
Ramsey pitched a smooth top of the 10th to give the Terps another walk-off chance, but Kirby countered with a 1-2-3 inning to send the game to an 11th frame.
Freshman southpaw Andrew Johnson relieved Ramsey from his gutsy showing in the top of the 11th, and he swiftly retired the side in four batters. His sharp pitching gave the Terps a chance to win it in the bottom half of the inning.
A one-out single by Keister forced UConn to pull Kirby in favor of Sullivan, and the Terps did not leave any doubts from there.
Maryland will have a chance to advance to its third super regional in program history with a win on Monday night.
Three things to know
1. Nick Robinson was flawless. In just his second start of the season, Robinson showed up. The graduate student pitched the first five innings, surrendering four hits, one walk and zero runs while striking out five batters. With Ramsey, sophomore right-handed pitcher Jason Savacool and junior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean already pitching this weekend, Robinson answered the call as the fourth starting pitcher in the rotation.
2. The Terps’ bullpen struggled yet again. After Robinson’s fantastic start, Maryland’s bullpen immediately wiped all of his progress, surrendering four runs in the top of the fourth. It was eerily similar to the last time these two teams met on Saturday evening. Savacool allowed three runs during the first six innings, but the one-run deficit ballooned into eight when Belgrave and sophomore right-handed pitcher Gavin Stellpflug let up seven runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
Despite the bullpen’s struggles in the middle innings, Ramsey and Johnson combined to give up no earned runs and only one hit in the game’s final 3.1 innings.
3. Maryland is one win away from advancing to the super regionals. With the 7-6 win under their belt, the Terps are now just one win away from moving onto the NCAA super regionals. Maryland’s season was on the line on Sunday night, but the Terps dug deep and came out on top. The Terps will now play UConn for the third time in three days on Monday in a winner-take-all game.