Maryland baseball junior shortstop Matt Shaw stepped up to the plate in the eighth inning already having hit a home run, but that didn’t mean that his work was done.
With senior third baseman Nick Lorusso on first base due to an error, Shaw eyed up a pitch from UCF junior right-handed pitcher Chase Centala and smashed it deep to center field for his second two-run homer of the day, extending Maryland’s lead to 5-0.
Shaw’s two homers made it arduous for the Knights to have a chance, as freshman left-handed pitcher Kyle McCoy’s nine strikeouts in eight shutout innings silenced the home team’s bats. Despite their relievers struggling to put UCF away, the Terps (14-9) rode McCoy and Shaw’s performances to an 8-6 win on Sunday to claim the weekend series against UCF (16-8).
It was a great day for Maryland’s hitters, and Shaw led the way with five RBIs. Freshman outfielder Jacob Orr, fifth-year outfielder Matt Woods and Lorusso each had multiple hits to provide support.
Head coach Rob Vaughn was impressed by the group’s effort in the batter’s box, and felt like it was one of the best hitting performances the team has had all season. “That was really the first time I thought as a unit I really liked the lineup we threw out there,” Vaughn said.
The pitching ended up being a wild ride for the Terps, as the Knights nearly mounted a miraculous comeback in the ninth. While McCoy shut UCF out through eight innings, the duo of redshirt junior right-handed pitcher David Falco Jr. and redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Nigel Belgrave gave up six runs in the ninth, including a grand slam from freshman infielder Drew Faurot.
But eventually, Belgrave forced two outs to end the ninth — despite letting the tying run come to the plate — to save Maryland from what would’ve been a shocking loss.
On a blazing hot Sunday in Orlando, both pitchers started out the game impressively, making a battle between two end-of-the-weekend freshman starters interesting.
McCoy was throwing the game of his life to start the afternoon. Through the first three innings, he had four strikeouts and allowed no hits, as the Knights just couldn’t process what he was dealing.
Vaughn thought that McCoy mixed pitches well and attacked great during his performance. “I mean you couldn’t ask for a better start from a young pup on a Sunday in a big game for us,” he said.
Knights freshman pitcher Jacob Marlowe only had one strikeout through the first three innings, but he only gave up one hit, as the Terps went through the order the first time without scoring.
As Maryland’s batting order reset in the fourth, the big hitters came back to the plate and the team started to catch on to what Marlowe was throwing.
Junior catcher Luke Shliger walked to start, followed by a single from Shaw which gave the Terps runners on first and second with one out. Then, Woods stepped up and hit an RBI single to bring Shliger home and get Maryland on the board first. Marlowe cleaned up the rest of the inning with a strikeout and a groundout.
McCoy kept on dealing, closing out the inning without giving up a hit and tallying his fifth strikeout of the day.
After an uneventful fifth, the top of the sixth was when Maryland started to pull away from the Knights. Following a Lorusso single, Shaw stepped up to the plate and launched a deep fly ball beyond the left-center field wall to give the Terps their first multiple-run lead of the afternoon, going up 3-0.
When Maryland’s offense started to click, the defense did too, with McCoy still pitching at a high level. In the sixth and the seventh innings, the starting pitcher added two more strikeouts and allowed just two hits.
The closest that UCF got to scoring off McCoy was when redshirt senior outfielder John Rhys Plumlee advanced to third on a steal and a sacrifice bunt in the sixth, but McCoy forced a flyout to end the inning.
In the top of the eighth inning, Maryland’s offense exploded against UCF’s relievers to seemingly put the game away. Shaw’s two-run shot got things started, and then Woods scored from third on a wild pitch and Orr hit an RBI single to center field to make it 7-0.
McCoy kept it going in the bottom of the eighth, adding two more strikeouts and a flyout to cap off a phenomenal showing.
Shaw added an RBI double in the ninth which closed the scoring for Maryland. The Knights refused to go away and added six runs in the bottom half of the inning off Maryland’s bullpen, but couldn’t bring the tying run home.
The Terps will be back at it on Tuesday to take on local rival Georgetown before beginning Big Ten play against Iowa next weekend.
“If this team just will go play one game at a time, and try to play the best brand of baseball they can, they’ll look up in a month in a half and all that’ll take care of itself,” Vaughn said.
Three things to know
1. McCoy’s breakout performance was the highlight. Maryland’s Sunday starter spot hasn’t been pinned down this season, with the departure of Ryan Ramsey leaving a void in the starting rotation. But on Sunday, McCoy looked like a more-than-viable replacement. He threw a career-high eight innings and had nine strikeouts for the Terps, only allowing three hits and no runs. He could help Maryland tremendously heading into conference play.
2. Shaw kept his recent form going. Coming into this season as one of the highest-touted players on the team, the junior shortstop has had periods this season where he’s struggled, going seven games without an RBI toward the start of this year. But recently, this hasn’t been the case; Shaw has a combined 13 RBIs and five homers in his last seven games. It’s important for Maryland to get him hot to have success.
3. Maryland won another series. Given its success last season, it was a letdown when Maryland lost seven of its first 11 games this season. But recently, the team’s good form has been bringing hope back to Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium. This win marked the Terps’ third straight series win, a much-needed rebound now that conference play is set to start next weekend. With Iowa coming up on the schedule, it’s time for head coach Rob Vaughn’s squad to show what it’s made of.