WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — After being dealt a difficult draw in the Winston-Salem Regional, Maryland baseball did not let any of the outside noise affect its momentum after winning the Big Ten Tournament.
The Terps opened up the NCAA Tournament with a rematch against Northeastern, who served Maryland an ugly loss in early May. Maryland put together one of its most complete performances of the season, led by junior ace right-handed pitcher Jason Savacool, who chucked six stellar innings to lead the Terps to a 7-2 victory in the first game of the Winston-Salam regional.
Senior third baseman Nick Lorusso kept his bat hot in the bottom of the first inning, cranking the first pitch of his at-bat over the left-center field fence to give Maryland a 1-0 lead. The solo shot was his 100th run batted in of the season — the first Division I player to accomplish the feat in 20 years.
“He’s been there [in] moments of failure ... he’s walked through it,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “And that’s what allows him to step in there and be free and run off with the claim.”
The Terps’ power display continued in the bottom of the second, as sophomore third baseman Eddie Hacopian smashed a no-doubt solo homer over the bushes behind the left field wall.
Northeastern responded to the Maryland long-balls by putting together a two-out rally in the top of the third. Graduate first baseman Tyler MacGregor poked an RBI single to left field to cut the Maryland lead to one.
Shortly after, Savacool was hit in the knee by a one-hop comebacker in the bottom of the fourth. He collapsed to the ground in pain, but managed to stay in the game, however he then gave up an RBI single to junior catcher Gregory Bozzo to knot the score at two.
In the bottom of the fourth, Lorusso nearly hit his second homer of the game, but the ball bounced off the 400-foot marking on the center field wall for a leadoff triple, bringing him halfway to the cycle.
Next, sophomore designated hitter Ian Petrutz sent a ball to deep left-center to score Lorusso with a sacrifice fly.
Savacool’s outing ended after the sixth inning, and he allowed just two earned runs and five hits along and punched out seven Huskies. The Maryland ace did a phenomenal job forcing weak contact, with 11 of his 18 induced outs being groundouts.
“Mixing through the fastball has been a huge change for me through this year,” Savacool said. “Beginning of the year I was predominately all two-seams, but I’ve been able to implement the four seam and cutter just to provide a different look on the fastball.”
Maryland got the bats going again in the bottom of the sixth by putting runners on first and third for Lorusso. The third baseman continued his stellar afternoon with an RBI single through the left side of the infield to give Maryland a 4-2 lead.
Hacopian also earned his second RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly to right field to score junior shortstop Matt Shaw from third.
Maryland’s bullpen continued its stellar play Friday, with fifth-year righty Kenny Lippman and sophomore southpaw Andrew Johnson combining for three scoreless innings. The Terps also stranded nine Northeastern baserunners.
“All [Johnson] has done is work his tail off,” Vaughn said. “He’s had some failures, had some ups, had some downs ... but that kid goes about his business.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Maryland added insurance runs with an RBI single by Petrutz and Shaw taking home on a wild pitch which provided extra cushion in what resulted as a five-run victory for Maryland.
Three things to know
1. The Maryland pitching staff showed out again. Tabbed as Maryland’s game one starter for the NCAA Tournament, Savacool put together his second straight stellar start. As a whole, Maryland did a fantastic job forcing weak contact all afternoon and holding back the Northeastern offense.
2. Lorusso raked. The third baseman had a dominant performance Friday, going 3-for-4 with two runs batted in. Lorusso’s first-inning home run gave him his 100th RBI of the season and tied the Maryland single-season home run record with 24.
3. What’s next for Maryland? Maryland has kept itself on the winner’s side of the regional bracket and will face the winner of Friday night’s game between Wake Forest and George Mason on Saturday at 6 p.m. As the top seed in the tournament, the Demon Deacons are heavy favorites against the Patriots.