No. 13 Maryland baseball was looking to string together its third straight win to give it momentum before heading to Oxford, Mississippi, to take on Ole Miss this weekend.
Instead, in the Terps’ first midweek game of the season, they failed to contain West Virginia. The Mountaineers scored five runs in the first inning to put the Terps in a hole that they failed to climb out of, eventually falling to West Virginia, 8-6.
Maryland moves to 2-2 on the season before its second weekend series of the season begins this Friday.
Maryland sophomore starter Ryan Van Buren struggled to find the strike zone in the first inning, allowing the first three batters on base. West Virginia senior Caleb McNeely crushed a two-run double off the wall the next at-bat, followed up by a two-run single by freshman Logan Sauve to give the Mountaineers a commanding 4-0 lead in the first inning.
Van Buren was yanked after a rough first inning that culminated in a sloppy throw to first base on a double-play opportunity. Sophomore left-hander Andrew Johnson relieved him but could not find the strike zone either. He walked the only two batters he faced, which loaded the bases and allowed a run to extend West Virginia’s lead to five.
“Ryan has been so, so good. So it’s a blip on the radar, man,” Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn said of Van Buren. “We started him today for a reason, he’s earned every ounce of that. We’re gonna need him so, just ... he’s been really good at the bottom of the zone, pounding the zone for strikes. He walked some guys, and then he just got in bad counts with other guys and that’s just how you make good hitters really good hitters.”
Junior southpaw Logan Ott came in the game as the third pitcher of the inning, and it took him only one pitch to get out of the jam.
To start the second, Ott retired the first batter on strikes, but McNeely stayed hot with his second hit of the game. Freshman Ellis Garcia then singled and advanced to second on a fielding error by senior Bobby Zmarzlak, putting runners on second and third with just one out. Sauve then grounded out into a fielders choice, getting a run across for his second RBI of the game and advancing the Mountaineers’ lead to six.
The hit parade continued for the Mountaineers as freshman Sam White began the third with a no-doubter to right-center field, giving West Virginia a 7-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third, Maryland’s bats started to make some noise. Zmarzlak walked to start the inning, and junior catcher Luke Shliger got the Terps in the hit column with a blast to right-center for a single. Lorusso knocked in the first two runs for the Terps with a base-clearing double down the right-field line but was gunned out at third trying to stretch it into a triple. Sophomore Ian Petrutz got on base with a two-out single to beat the shift, but an impressive play by Mountaineers redshirt senior shortstop Tevin Tucker killed the Terps’ third-inning rally.
Despite loading the bases in the fourth, Ott tossed a much-needed scoreless inning. However, the offense could not capitalize and went down in order.
Freshman Eliakim Stowe came in relief to start the fifth, cruising to his first two outs before having a hard time finding the zone, walking three straight batters. Junior right-hander David Falco Jr. came in relief as the Terps’ fifth pitcher of the game in five inning, and was able to get Maryland out of yet another jam with the bases loaded.
With no runs by either team from the fourth to the sixth inning, junior lefty Tommy Kane came in relief for Falco in the seventh. Tucker took him deep to left field on the first pitch of the inning as the Mountaineers continued to pile it on.
Maryland still showed signs of life in the bottom half of the inning as Zmarzlak started the inning off with a lead-off single. Sophomore Elijah Lambros belted a two-run homer to dead center, which was immediately followed up by a Shliger solo shot for back-to-back homers. With the score at 8-5, Lorusso singled to right-center and advanced on a wild pitch to put a runner on second with no outs. The Terps stranded Lorusso at second but continued to chip away at the deficit.
The Terps kept knocking on the door in the eighth. A two-out single by Zmarzlak and a walk by Lambros brought Shliger up to bat as the tying run and the chance to be the hero. Shliger crushed a ball to dead center but got just a bit under it as it was caught at the warning track.
In the ninth, sophomore Eddie Hacopian roped a ball down the right-field line for a huge two-out double. Keister came up clutch knocking in Hacopian to cut the deficit to two, but the Terps were unable to complete the comeback. Sophomore Zach Martin grounded out to end the game.
“We just didn’t get it done and we end up having to use seven or eight arms today, and it’s not how you draw it up on a Tuesday, but that’s kind of where we’re at,” Vaughn said.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s pitching couldn’t get it done. The Maryland pitching staff did not look comfortable the entire afternoon. The Terps burned through three pitchers in the first inning, allowing five runs and putting Maryland in a tough spot from the get-go.
2. The Mountaineers were thieves on the base path. In addition to its 11 hits, West Virginia was able to manufacture runs with aggressive running on the base paths. West Virginia successfully stole five bases without being caught stealing once Tuesday afternoon.
3. Maryland’s offense still produced despite pitching woes. The Terps put together 13 hits with a standout performance by Shliger who went 3-for-5 with with a homer and an RBI. Senior third baseman Nick Lorusso also went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a double, and Bobby Zmarzlak who went 2-for-3 with a walk. The offense has proven that they can get it done, but now it is time for the pitching staff to show more consistency.