After a 25-10 offensive explosion on Friday, Maryland baseball was looking to clinch a series win on Saturday. But it didn’t come easy, and Maryland battled all game to take Saturday’s game, 5-4, getting its second series win this season.
The game was the polar opposite of Friday night, with the Maryland offense scoring three runs in the first inning and then falling silent until the fourth, something that was unexpected after everything went its way a game prior. After a tense top of the eighth, Ian Petrutz hit a go-ahead solo home run on a full count to give Maryland the lead.
Nigel Belgrave came in for his second inning of relief and loaded the bases with no outs. With the game on the line, Belgrave sat down three straight batters, sealing the win for the Terps.
Maine shook things up with its pitching staff, sending its Saturday starter out on Friday and giving freshman righty Gianni Gambardella his first career start for the Black Bears. He struggled in the first, with a leadoff hit by Luke Shliger and Nick Lorusso keeping his hitting streak going with a two-run shot over the center field wall. Kevin Keister then brought Matt Shaw in for the third run of the inning. Gambardella limited any further damage with two groundouts.
Maine answered in the second, getting two runs back on a home run by sophomore infielder Myles Sargen that just missed left fielder Bobby Zmarzlak’s glove. Then, back-to-back doubles by Dean O’Neil and Dylan McNary tied things up at three. With Maine threatening to take the lead, Lorusso made a diving play at third to limit any further damage and ended the top of the second.
After fireworks early on, Gambardella and Dean both bent but refused to break. Dean put runners on again in the top of the third with a walk, a hit and a sacrifice bunt. With runners on second and third, he struck out the next batter to end the top of the second. In the third, Shaw hit a single and stole two bases, threatening to score with one out. Maryland failed to bring him home, though, which prompted Dylan McNary to do the exact same thing in the fourth. Just like Maryland, the Black Bears couldn’t bring him in, keeping the game tied at three going to the bottom of the fourth.
Maryland finally capitalized with runners in scoring position in the bottom of the fourth with three hits, including an RBI single by Luke Shliger to bring Eddie Hacopian in from second, giving the Terps the lead back. Lorusso tried to extend the lead to four, hitting a ball to the warning track in right field, which was just shy of becoming his second home run of the game.
Maine looked to answer right back, starting the inning off with a hit. With Maine threatening, Keister snagged a ball off the bat of Jeremiah Jenkins and turned it into a double play. Connor Goodman hit a single right after that would have been a run if not for the Terps' defense.
The Black Bears didn’t have to wait long to get back on the board, though, Myles Sargent hit a double and was brought in after singles by Colin Plante and Dean O’Neil. Dean was then relieved by Kenny Lippman with runners on first and second and no outs. But, Lippman managed to get out of the jam and avoid further damage.
Maine’s Gianni Gambardella was relieved for Caleb Leys in the seventh. Gambardella finished having thrown six innings, allowing nine hits and four earned runs. It was an impressive outing by a freshman against a team that put up 25 runs up the game prior.
A single and an error put runners on early in the eighth, and Maryland left-handed pitcher Tommy Kane loaded the bases with two outs after hitting Jake Rainess. Kane was relieved by Belgrave with Quinn McDaniel up to the plate. Despite walking in almost half of his plate appearances, Quinn couldn’t get a favorable call against Belgrave, striking out looking and leaving all three men on base.
The very next at-bat, Petrutz hit a home run with a full count that gave Maryland the lead.
With a one-run advantage, Belgrave kept the Terps’ bats in the dugout, striking out three straight batters, giving him the save and the win.
With this win, the Terps' record stands at 7-7 with a chance to sweep the Black Bears on Sunday.
Three things to know
1. The Maryland offense cooled off. Maryland had 19 hits on Friday night along with six home runs. It seemed to be the same story early on Saturday, with a three-run first inning. But Maryland’s offense couldn't get things going to the same degree this time around, unable to get runs on the board until the fourth inning. The Terps were unable to get to freshman Gianni Gambardella in his first collegiate start.
2. Not an ideal start for Dean. Five innings pitched, 11 hits, four earned runs, one walk and four strikeouts is not a bad stat line, but definitely not ideal for a supposed ace. The Maine offense has been great all season, but this is the first team it was able to get to that was at the caliber of Maryland. Dean let plenty of runners reach base, but he was able to get out of trouble to keep the game within a run.
3. Second series win. Maryland battled until the end for this win, something it really needed after an underwhelming past two weeks. With this win, it is in position to get its first sweep of the season. A sweep on Sunday would give Maryland a winning record ahead of another stretch of winnable games.