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No. 13 Maryland baseball drops first game of 2023 to South Florida, 8-7

The Terps threatened in the ninth but fell short on opening night.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Twitter @TerpsBaseball

No. 13 Maryland baseball has high expectations for this season, but in its 2023 debut, the pitching staff was punched in the mouth, giving up eight runs to South Florida in seven innings.

Down 8-3 going into the top of the eighth, The Terps responded with a four-run inning after a grand slam by sophomore outfielder Jacob Orr. They threatened with a two-hit ninth inning but ultimately lost 8-7 in their first game against the Bulls. This was Maryland’s first-ever game against USF, which featured bursts of offense on both sides.

Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Hunter Mink was tabbed as South Florida’s starter for the game, marking his second start in two years. He started off spectacular with eight straight strikes, taking out the Terps’ first two hitters on three pitches each.

Junior pitcher Jason Savacool had a rough first inning for the Terps. After two groundouts, Savacool surrendered singles to Drew Brutcher and Daniel Cantu, followed by a massive home run by Bobby Boser, giving the Bulls an early 3-0 lead. He then gave up another hit to Travis Sankovich but picked him off shortly after.

Maryland responded right back, though. Sophomore designated hitter Ian Petrutz hit a home run on the first pitch of the second Inning that landed on the roof of USF’s indoor facility in right field. Junior second baseman Kevin Keister followed it up with a four-pitch walk, and Orr brought him home with a RBI triple. Senior outfielder Bobby Zmarzlak almost brought Orr home, but a great defensive play by USF second baseman John Montes saved a run. But, sophmore outfielder Elijah Lambros smacked an RBI triple of his own to right, tying the game up at three.

Savacool had a similar second inning, but was able to mitigate harm with a strikeout with two runners in scoring position. He also struggled to get out of some at-bats, with two walks and a balk in the third inning that would get a runner into scoring positon. Sankovich would bring home on an RBI single.

Both pitchers cruised for the next three innings until Boser went deep for a second home run against Savacool, extending the Bulls’ lead to two. Savacool stayed in and took out the next three batters, tossing a total of 99 pitches for the Terps.

In the top of the seventh, the Terps got some offense going for the first time since the beginning of the game. Zmarzlak walked, followed by an Lambros hit and a Matt Shaw hit-by-pitch. This loaded the bases for the first time for the Terps, but Nick Lorusso grounded out to Boser, who made a great play to strand three runners.

David Falco Jr. struggled in his debut in relief, giving up three walks in the seventh inning and a fielder’s choice RBI, extending the Bulls’ lead to four. Then, with the bases loaded and two outs, a fly ball by Sankovich to left dropped, scoring two runs and extending the lead to five. It was surprising to see from Falco, since he had only seven walks in over 30 innings pitched last year.

Terps responded almost immediately in the top of the eighth. USF right-hander Tanner Mink walked Eddie Hacopian and Petrutz and gave up a single to Keister. Then Orr, already having an RBI triple to his name, cut the lead to one with a clutch grand slam. Just when the Terps seemed out of it, Maryland’s offense showed up.

But it was too late for the Terps, as they weren’t able to get it done despite a tough fight in the ninth inning, ultimately falling 8-7.

Maryland’s offense was able to get back into the game from some unfamilar faces, including a five-RBI performance by Jacob Orr and transfer Elijah Lambros reaching base three out of four times in his Maryland debut. But the top three in the order did not get a hit Friday, with Luke Shliger, Shaw and Lorusso going a combined 0-for-13.

Three things to know

1. The All-Americans struggled. To their own standards, all three of Maryland’s preseason All-Americans struggled. Savacool did pick things up in the later innings but really struggled early on, giving up four straight hits including a three-run homer in his first inning of 2023. Savacool also had a rough third inning, with a walk followed by a balk and an RBI single. He was able to mitigate harm in the middle innings before giving up another homer to Boser. While not a terrible stat line, it was not Savacool’s best start. The junior gave up seven hits, five earned runs, two walks and had five strikeouts in six innings pitched.

Shliger struck out on his first two at-bats and had some issues behind the plate, but he was still able to get on base with a walk.

Shaw did not have an impressive offensive debut either, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and grounding into a double play in the fifth inning. Shaw did have several impressive defensive plays, though, including two great stops in the fifth to keep Savacool out of trouble.

2. Bobby Boser showed out. In a game that featured several top-tier players like Shliger, Shaw and Brutcher, the player that performed best was undoubtedly sophomore shortstop Bobby Boser for USF. Boser went 2-for-3 with four RBIs and two homers off Savacool. Boser also had several outstanding plays in the field, stranding the bases loaded for the Terps in the seventh and making a key play in the ninth to put the game away.

3. USF out-pitched the Terps. Maryland’s pitching woes were a big issue Friday night, with its ace giving up five runs in six innings and David Falco Jr., one of its top relievers, having a poor outing. There was promise shown in sophomore Ryan Van Buren’s relief outing, pitching 1.1 innings without surrendering a hit or a walk, but the damage was already done.

On USF’s side, Hunter Mink pitched particularly well, with three 1-2-3 innings and a streak of seven straight batters retired in the middle innings. The Bulls pitching staff also pitched well when Mink left in the fourth inning, with Riley Skeen and Ethan Brown only surrendering one hit in three innings. Tanner Mink did not pitch well, surrendering four hits, four earned runs and two walks in two innings pitched, but he was still able to close out the game and prevent a comeback.