In the series finale between two top-15 teams, both No. 13 Maryland baseball and No. 4 Ole Miss were looking for a statement series win.
Maryland was looking to take an away series at a top-five SEC team, and Ole Miss was trying to pass its first true test of the season. Despite hitting four homers and keeping the game within three runs heading into the seventh, a monster seventh inning ended in a walk-off grand slam, giving Ole Miss the 18-8 win over Maryland via the mercy rule.
Game three did not disappoint entertainment-wise, with plenty of home runs, celebrations, loud boos and long silences. Fans also saw the first ejection of a Maryland player this season and lots of chirping from both teams to keep the stakes high.
Ole Miss put righty transfer Xavier Rivas on the mound Sunday. He started off with three straight strikeouts, including one on Nick Lorusso due to a pitch clock violation.
Maryland righty Nate Haberthier got his second start of the season, looking to go 2-0. Jacob Gonzalez welcomed Haberthier to Swazye Field with a homer in the first at-bat of the game. Gonzalez’s shot would be the first of ten combined homers, but the Rebels only scored one run in the first.
After leaving the bases loaded in the second, Maryland got its offense going in the third inning. Shliger single and Lorusso drilled a two-run homer to give the Terps a 2-1 lead.
The first pitch of the bottom of the inning was launched by senior infielder Peyton Chatagnier to even the score at two. Haberthier walked and hit the next batter, putting two runners on with no outs. Junior catcher Calvin Harris hit a ball to left field that was almost caught by Zmarzlak but left the yard taking three runs with him. After two more men reached base for the Rebels, Haberthier was finally taken out for Kenny Lippman, ending his tough outing.
Lippman gave up a shallow line drive that Zmarzlak secured with a run-saving diving catch. The very next at-bat, right fielder TJ McCants took a long look at a ball he sent out of the yard, which caused a heated exchange between him and Shliger as the Rebels took an 8-2 lead.
The Terps wouldn’t go down without a fight in the fourth inning. Second baseman Kevin Keister walked, and center fielder Elijah Lambros launched a two-run homer to cut the deficit to four. Shliger was unintentionally hit by a pitch, and Lorusso hit his second dinger of the game to cut the lead to two. Petrutz also hit a double in the inning to extend his hitting streak to seven.
Maryland continued to cycle through their pitching staff, as right-hander Ryan Van Buren was brought in for Lippman and immediately surrendered a single and a RBI double. Vaughn pulled him for southpaw Tommy Kane after seven pitches.
Kane gave up an RBI single that left fielder Kemp Alderman tried to extend for a double, but he was tagged out. Kane was able to putout the next two batters, but the Rebels led by four.
Maryland left fielder Bobby Zmarzlak hit a single in the top of the fifth and moved to second on a wild pitch. Shliger walked up to the plate greeted by a shower of boos, which he silenced with a two-run shot to right to cut the lead to two. That was the eighth homer of the game and the fourth by the Terps.
At this point the Rebels’ lead was only 10-8, and Kane started to settle in, Maryland looked like it was going to make a serious comeback.
But the Maryland offense finally cooled down in the top of the sixth. Fifth-year outfielder Matt Woods struck out to end the inning on a questionable strike call, and was ejected after an argument with the umpire.
In the bottom of the sixth, Alderman hit the game’s ninth home run to extend the Rebels’ lead to 11-8.
In the top of the seventh, freshman righty Brayden Jones came in to pitch, quickly giving up a hit to Zmarzlak and walking Shaw and Shliger. With the bases loaded, two outs and a full count, Lorusso hit a ball to the right-field warning track that was a few feet from being Maryland’s fifth grand slam of the year, but it was tracked down to end the inning.
After three solid innings by Kane, he loaded the bases to start the seventh, which ended his day. After that, Maryland didn’t have the arms in order to deal with the Ole Miss offense.
Freshman right-hander Eliakim Stowe walked three straight batters to bring in three runs, which quickly ended his day. Sophomore left-hander Andrew Johnson came up to pitch with the deficit at 14-8.
As the broadcast announcers mentioned the SEC mercy rule, Harris launched a ball to left field, ending the game via the 10-run mercy rule. In one inning, Maryland walked four batters, hit one batter and gave up a grand slam for its second straight late-inning collapse.
In a game where Maryland fought back to cut a 8-2 deficit to two runs, it was a surprise that the game ended after only seven innings. Maryland ultimately lost the weekend series 2-1, falling to 1-3 on the week after losing to West Virginia last Tuesday.
Maryland will face Delaware at home on Tuesday, and will face Ole Miss again in Minnesota on Friday in the Cambria College Classic.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s pitching was poor. It goes without saying that a pitching staff is really struggling if a team scores eight runs and is still mercy-ruled. Haberthier’s first three innings were a disaster, failing to get an out in the third and allowing seven earned runs and three homers. The rest of the pitching staff wasn’t good either, as Lippman, Kane and Johnson all surrendered home runs to make a Maryland comeback impossible. Stowe struggled mightily, issuing four walks and a hit by pitch, all with the bases loaded. It was a day to forget for Maryland’s pitching staff, with two seven-run, meltdown innings.
2. Oxford was a launch pad. Maryland and Ole Miss showcased lots of power in the game, with ten total homers. Ole Miss broke the game open in a seven-run inning where they hit three home runs, and Maryland fought back with three homers to bring its deficit to two. Ole Miss hit six homers total, including the walk-off grand slam to trigger the mercy rule.
3. Maryland continues to leave men on base. While not as bad as yesterday, Maryland still left 10 men on base compared to three by Ole Miss. Maryland went 5-for-15 with runners on, and 0-for-2 with the bases loaded. After being heralded as a team that makes pitchers pay after loading the bases, the Terps continue to throw away opportunities of scoring runs.