Maryland baseball’s offense came into Saturday looking to respond ,as it was shut down in the first game of its series against UCF in a 4-2 loss.
The offense did more than just respond, exploding for 16 runs with 12 extra-base hits.
The explosion was led by senior third baseman Nick Lorusso, who went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs. Sophomore designated hitter Ian Petrutz also broke out of his slump with a 4-for-5 performance, which included a double, a home run and two RBIs.
The Terps’ offense was able to secure a 16-6 victory, knotting the weekend series at one apiece and forcing a rubber match on Sunday.
“I thought it was just a really complete effort by the offense. I thought they were elite. I didn’t think they took one at-bat off the entire game,” Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn said.
The game began with junior catcher Luke Shliger and Lorusso drawing back-to-back walks. Junior shortstop Matt Shaw then poked a fly ball to center field that was caught but advanced Shliger to third, giving Maryland runners on the corners. The Terps took advantage and struck first blood, as fifth-year right fielder Matt Woods ripped an RBI single through the infield into right.
The Maryland offense stayed hot in the second, with back-to-back doubles by sophomore designated hitter Ian Petrutz and sophomore Eddie Hacopian, which extended Maryland’s lead to two. Sophomore Jacob Orr — who got the start in center field Saturday, giving sophomore Elijah Lambros a day off — laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Hacopian to third, but the Terps couldn’t drive him in.
As the bats were rolling, senior righty Nick Dean looked strong through two, retiring six straight Knights.
Dean’s strong start was squashed in the third, though, as freshman right fielder Brady Shannon hit a ball up the middle just past Dean’s glove for a single. The next at-bat, redshirt senior John Rhys Plumee sent a fast ball to the moon with no-doubt, 406-foot home run to left-center, knotting the game at two. Talking some smack to the Terps infielders, Plumlee showed some swagger during his home-run trot.
Dean, who was also called for a questionable balk in the third, was able to escape only allowing the home run.
Maryland had an immediate response, putting together a four-run fourth inning. Keister started things with a double to left-center, and Petrutz did his job by moving Keister over to third with a ground out to second. But, Hacopian lined out, keeping Keister at third with two outs.
With two outs, doubles became a common theme in the fourth. Orr and Shliger hit back-to-back RBI doubles to give Maryland its two-run lead back, 4-2. Lorusso capped off the inning by launching his ninth home run of the year, showing his strength with a two-run shot to dead center.
Both offenses found their legs, as UCF quickly cut the Terps’ 6-2 lead in half in the bottom of the fourth. Freshman shortstop Drew Faurot sent a two-run homer over the left-center field wall before the Terps could record an out.
The homer led to Vaughn removing Dean from the game for fifth-year right-hander Kenny Lippman. Lippman was able to halt the Knights’ momentum, forcing three straight flyouts to get out of the inning.
“I think the good news for us is that outside of his first start, I don’t think we’ve, you know, had the best version of Nick Dean yet,” Vaughn said. “Which is dangerous for the Big Ten as we roll into those places next week.”
Woods picked up his second hit of the game with a leadoff double in the fifth, the fourth time the Terps started an inning with a base runner. Keister followed up the double by showing off his jets with an RBI triple off the right-field wall to give Maryland a 7-4 lead. Hacopian kept the inning going with a two-run single, making it 9-4.
UCF would not go away, however, as it put together back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the fifth inning. It briefly appeared that Lippman had balked while facing his third batter of the inning, but Vaughn was able to get the umpires to talk it over and they overturned the call.
The Terps then turned a huge 6-4-3 double play, which wouldn’t have been possible if the balk call was upheld. Still, UCF redshirt senior first baseman Nick Romano drove in a two-out RBI double to chip away at Maryland’s lead.
Maryland continued to scrape together base runners, as Woods walked and senior left fielder Bobby Zmarzlak was beamed in the head by a pitch in the top of the sixth. Following the hit-by-pitch, Lambros entered the game as a pinch runner for Zmarzlak, who walked off the field.
“Bob’s good ... it was more precautionary than anything but we’ll kind of evaluate it tonight. Evaluate him tomorrow if he’s able to go out and take BP and kind of go from there,” Vaughn said.
The Terps had runners on the corners with two outs, and Petrutz was able to provide another big RBI single by smoking a ground ball between the shortstop and third baseman for his third hit of the game, giving Maryland a 10-5 lead.
The offensive masterclass continued for the Terps in the top of the seventh, with another four runs. The Terps’ top three hitters were mashing; Shliger got things going with a double to right-center, and Lorusso then hit a frozen rope up the middle to score Shliger and bring up Shaw.
Shaw got in on the action, as he obliterated a fastball back to College Park over the left-field wall — a two-run home run that left his bat with an exit velocity of 111.4 miles per hour. Lambros stayed in the game for Zmarzlak and went back-to-back with Shaw, pimping a solo shot to left to extend Maryland’s lead to nine.
Maryland couldn’t stop scoring if it tried. After UCF scored one run in the bottom of the seventh inning, Petrutz started the eighth with a solo pull-side home run over the right field fence.
“[Petrutz’s] preparation has been awesome. If you watch his [batting practice] every day, man its really, really good,” Vaughn said.
Orr reached base on a hit-by-pitch, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then was moved over to third on a ground ball by Shliger. And finally, Lorusso continued to look like a professional hitter at the plate with another RBI single up the middle for the Terps’ 16th and final run of the game, punctuating their 16-6 victory.
Three things to know
1. Maryland exploded after being shut down in game one. The Maryland offense put up double-digit runs for the fifth time this season. After only manufacturing two runs Friday night, it multiplied that total by eight. The Terps had seven doubles, one triple and four home runs.
2. Nick Dean struggled again. Dean had a solid first two innings, retiring six straight batters, but everything began to unravel for him thereafter. Dean began the fourth but gave up a two-run home run that ended his night; He allowed four earned runs off six hits. Despite the rocky start from Dean, Maryland’s bullpen looked sharp.
3. Ian Petrutz broke out of his slump. Petrutz started the season in the cleanup spot, but his struggles at the plate led to Vaughn sliding him down in the lineup. Petrutz had a hot bat Saturday and was productive in every single one of his at-bats, going 4-for-5 with a home run.