The Maryland offense meant business on Friday night, scoring early and often to defeat Illinois (19-24, 5-11 Big Ten) 9-4 in the first game of their weekend series.
Offensively, Will Watson, A.J. Lee and Kevin Smith were the standout stars. Watson walked three times, and drove in two with an RBI walk and sacrifice fly. Lee went 2-for-5 with two RBI singles. Smith also went 2-for-5 with three RBIs off a double and triple.
As the Maryland offense continued to produce, Brian Shaffer protected the lead on the mound, allowing two earned runs in eight innings with eight strikeouts.
After retaining the Ripken Cup in a close 6-5 win over Towson in Aberdeen, Maryland went on the road for their second straight away weekend series. The Terps entered Friday with a 7-10 away record, but jumped out to a big lead early.
In the first, Zach Jancarski started the game off with a double. The Terps would soon load the bases after a Marty Costes hit-by-pitch and a Nick Dunn walk, before Lee drove in Jancarski on a bunt single, giving the Terps the early lead. Kevin Smith followed next with a two-run double down the third base line, extending Maryland’s lead to 3-0.
In the second inning, the Terps doubled their lead to 6-0. After loading the bases for the second straight inning, three straight Maryland batters drove home runs. Dunn and Lee both drove home runners with RBI singles, and Will Watson followed with a sacrifice fly.
To round off the Maryland attack in the third inning, Madison Nickens started it off with a no-doubt home run to right field, his fifth of the season. The Terps loaded the bases for the third straight inning, and Watson drove home his second run of the day with a bases-loaded walk, giving Maryland an 8-0 lead. The Terps chased Illinois starter Ty Weber after only 2.1 innings.
Illinois cut into the Terps’ lead to 8-3 in the bottom of the third, with an RBI double by Pat Mclnerney and a fielding error by Dunn on a routine ground ball, which allowed two Illini runners to score.
The Fighting Illini added on another run to make it 8-4 in the bottom of the fifth, as Jack Yalowitz hit a solo home run just over the right center field fence, his 11th of the season. But Maryland extended the lead back to five in the top of the sixth, thanks to a Smith RBI triple to center field, his third RBI of the game.
Shaffer cruised from there, and Ryan Hill finished the game with a scoreless ninth.
The Terps (31-13, 14-5 Big Ten) look to take the weekend series on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on the Big Ten Network and heard on the Maryland Baseball Network.