Maryland baseball came into Saturday looking to clinch its series against Rutgers, and it did just that. Fifth-inning home runs by sophomore designated hitter Zach Martin and senior third baseman Nick Lorusso catapulted the Terps into the lead, which they held from then on.
A dominant outing by senior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean helped provide opportunities for the Maryland offense to capitalize and propel itself to a series-clinching 4-3 victory over the Scarlet Knights on Saturday. The Terps, now 19-11 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten, will have a chance to sweep Rutgers on Sunday.
The first two frames were a pitcher’s duel between Dean and Rutgers freshman Christian Coppola — neither allowed a hit in that span.
Designated hitter Maximus Martin got the offense going for Rutgers in the third with a leadoff triple. Then, first baseman Jordan Sweeney launched a ball to the warning track, but it was caught by senior left fielder Bobby Zmarzlak. Still, the sacrifice fly got the Scarlet Knights on the board.
Sophomore center fielder Elijah Lambros recorded Maryland’s first hit with a frozen rope over the shortstop for a leadoff single in bottom half of the inning, but Rutgers successfully spun a double play to kill a potential rally.
“[After the first two innings] I was focusing on my breath and just kind of clearing my mind,” Dean said. “That was the biggest thing that I was focusing on throughout the whole time,”
Dean finished the game surrendering just two runs over six innings.
Martin continued to be a nightmare for Dean in the fifth, as he hit a monster solo home run over the center field wall to extend Rutgers’ lead to two. The Scarlet Knights kept the offense going and continued to threaten with a walk and double, but Dean was able to escape the two-out jam by forcing a weak flyout to right field.
“You have to have the mindset of like [they] got lucky and just continue to have confidence with every pitch,” Dean added. “Just gotta flush it.”
Down a pair of runs, the Terps refused to quit, as sophomore designated hitter Zach Martin sent a moonshot over the right-field fence to tie the game up at two.
“I was pretty fired up,” Martin said when asked of his emotions when he hit the game-tying blast.
“I tell you what, baseball is a beautiful game” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “Martin has not really had a meaningful at-bat this year. But you have Petrutz and Woods both go down, and his number gets called.”
Then, senior third baseman Nick Lorusso joined in on the fun, as he launched his second home run in as many games to give Maryland a 3-2 lead and extend his hitting streak to an astounding 29 games.
The Terps kept the pressure on Rutgers, loading the bases with two outs. But the fifth-inning rally stopped there, as Keister couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity, grounding out to end the inning.
Dean finished his day after six innings, with a final stat line of two earned runs, four hits allowed and five strikeouts.
After two subsequent scoreless frames, Maryland had runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the eighth. Orr was able to lay down a successful sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third to set up Lambros, who successfully skied a sacrifice fly to center field to score Zmarzlak for what proved to be a necessary insurance run.
“The biggest event of the day was that sac-fly there at the end,” Vaughn said.
Down 4-2 entering the ninth inning, Rutgers made it interesting. Left fielder Evan Sleight crushed the first pitch of the inning over the fence to cut Maryland’s lead to one. Then, after right-handed pitcher David Falco Jr. entered to close the game with one out, Rutgers senior catcher Andy Axelson appeared to reach base after Hacopian was ruled off the bag scooping an off-balance throw by junior shortstop Matt Shaw.
However, after a challenge by Vaughn, the call was overturned for the second out of the inning. Rutgers head coach Steve Owens had a heated argument with the umpire, but could only watch as Lambros made an athletic over-the-shoulder catch while crashing into the center field wall to secure the Terps’ 4-3 victory.
Three things to know
1. Zach Martin stepped up again. Zach Martin has been given the chance to fill in as Maryland’s designated hitter with both Ian Petrutz and Matt Woods out, and he’s seized the opportunity thus far.
“It’s about mentally preparing, even if I’m not playing,” he said.
In game one of the series, Martin laid down a successful sacrifice bunt and roped a single, and Saturday he launched a game-tying two-run home run.
2. Nick Dean had his second straight strong performance. Dean struggled in nonconference play, but of recent, he’s been the pitcher the Terps expected him to be entering the year. He finished his sixth and final inning having allowed only two earned runs.
“I thought in general that was that Nick Dean was unbelievable today,” Vaughn said. “That was really good. He keeps getting better.”
3. The Terps won their second straight Big Ten series. Maryland clinched its second consecutive Big Ten series by winning its first two games against Rutgers. The Terps took down Iowa in last week’s conference-opening series, and they’ll go for the series sweep against the Scarlet Knights Sunday at noon.