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Maryland baseball drops first game of series at UCF, 4-2

Maryland had more hits than UCF but could only muster two runs.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Twitter @TerpsBaseball

Friday presented a pitchers’ duel between Maryland baseball junior right-hander Jason Savacool and UCF redshirt senior right-hander Ruddy Gomez.

Maryland got out to an early lead in the first inning, and UCF took the lead in the third. Both teams failed to do much offensively, as Savacool racked up 10 strikeouts in his six innings of work and Gomez held Maryland to two runs in eight innings pitched.

In the eighth, with UCF leading 3-2, Maryland redshirt junior Nigel Belgrave came in for his second inning of relief. Belgrave plunked redshirt senior second baseman Tom Josten to lead off the inning, and a misplayed pickoff attempt moved him to second. Sophomore designated hitter Andrew Sundean ended his hitless day with a single up the middle that scored Josten, adding a critical insurance run for the Knights.

That proved to be too much for the Terps to overcome, as they dropped the first contest of the three-game series, 4-2.

Despite an underwhelming offensive performance, the Terps jumped on the ball early. Junior catcher Luke Shliger and senior third baseman Nick Lorusso hit back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with no one out in the first inning. Junior shortstop Matt Shaw then hit a grounder to third base that was almost a double play, but he narrowly beat it out to keep runners at the corners. Maryland cashed in when fifth-year outfielder Matt Woods squared a bunt single that brought Shliger home, giving the Terps an early lead.

In the bottom of the third, fifth-year outfielder John Rhys Plumlee was hit by Savacool and stole second on a passed ball. Third baseman Andrew Brait won a long battle against Savacool and scored Plumlee with a double, tying the game at one. The next at-bat, Josten hit a rocket to junior second baseman Kevin Keister that he wasn’t able to handle, giving UCF a one-run lead.

Maryland had no immediate answer. Keister grounded out after a nice play by Brait, and a single by sophomore first baseman Eddie Hacopian didn’t amount to anything in the top of the fourth.

Both teams traded homers in the middle innings. Redshirt senior first baseman Nick Romano hit a lead-off homer in the fourth to extend the lead to two for UCF, but Savacool settled in to sit down the next three batters. Shliger answered a half inning later with an opposite-field blast to bring Maryland within a run.

Savacool and Gomez kept things relatively quiet after that; Gomez collected his sixth strikeout in the top of the fifth, and Savacool collected his eighth strikeout to end the fifth.

Savacool ended the night with a season-high 10 strikeouts and only surrendered two earned runs in six innings pitched.

In the seventh, senior outfielder Bobby Zmarzlak hit a leadoff double to try to get a rally going for Maryland, and head coach Rob Vaughn pinch hit Jacob Orr in place of Elijah Lambros. A ground ball to third took Zmarzlak off the base paths, but Maryland loaded the bases with a Lorusso single and walk by Shaw. Even the bases loaded, though, the Terps couldn’t muster another run, as Matt Woods flew out to kill the rally.

Belgrave came in for Savacool in the seventh and sat UCF down in order. Gomez came in for his eighth and final inning of work, shutting Maryland down again. He finished with 111 total pitches and seven strikeouts — Maryland couldn’t get to him all game.

In the bottom of the eighth, Belgrave hit Josten and gave up an RBI single to Sundean, extending UCF’s lead. Belgrave surrendered another hit to Romano, and was taken out for junior left-handed pitcher Tommy Kane with runners at the corners and one out. Kane struck out and walked a batter to load the bases, but an impressive catch by Woods ended the inning and the rally.

Maryland tried to get a rally going in the ninth, but Kyle Kramer shut the door on the Terps, sealing the 4-2 final score.

Maryland will face UCF again at 6 p.m on Saturday to try to even the series.

Three things to know

1. Savacool shut down UCF’s best hitters. Josten, fifth-year catcher Ben McCabe and Sundean all went hitless in Savacool’s six innings of work, cooling off the hottest hitters in UCF’s lineup. Savacool’s final line was two earned runs, four hits, one walk and 10 strikeouts, an all-around impressive start for him.

2. Maryland’s offense fell silent. Maryland has shown it has the potential to hit well, but it has struggled to put together consistent offensive showings recently. Lambros, Ian Petrutz and Shaw all went hitless on Friday, and Maryland couldn’t capitalize on leadoff hits and runners in scoring position. Maryland was 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, unable to capitalize after the first inning.

3. An impressive outing by Ruddy Gomez. It was expected that Gomez would pitch well on Friday, but the length of his outing was special. Eight innings and 111 pitches is impressive for a collegiate outing, and despite allowing eight hits, he stranded eight Terps on base and struck out seven.