Maryland baseball had an up-and-down Friday in College Park, splitting a doubleheader against Illinois. The Terps fell behind early and couldn’t catch up in the first game, but returned the favor to the Illini in the nightcap.
Game 1: Illinois 10, Maryland 6
Facing one of the best offenses in the country, Taylor Bloom struggled, putting up his worst start of the season. He got into trouble immediately, as Bren Spillane, the midseason National Player of the Year who came into the game with a .494 batting average and a 1.149 slugging percentage, doubled in a run in the first. Michael Massey followed with a two-run double himself, giving Illinois a 3-0 lead before Bloom recorded an out.
After an easy second, Bloom found more trouble in the third. He walked the bases loaded, and Michael Michalak took advantage with a lined double down the left field line to score two more.
Illinois broke the game open in the fifth. Already up 5-3 entering the frame, Doran Turchin took Bloom deep to center to regain a three-run lead. Then, with the bases loaded and two outs, Rob Vaughn decided to allow Bloom to try and escape the jam. Instead, Zac Taylor smoked a grand slam to left field, blowing the game open by a score of 10-3. That ended Bloom’s day, as the righty struggled vs. a potent Illinois offense. He pitched five innings, allowing 10 runs on 10 hits with five walks and two strikeouts.
After Bloom left, the bullpen pitched well. Grant Burleson pitched first in relief, throwing two perfect innings in relief to settle things down. Alec Tuohy and Billy Phillips each pitched a scoreless inning as well.
Offensively, the Terps had a drought sandwiched in between two strong innings. In the bottom of the first, AJ Lee hit an RBI single with men on first and third. Then, Jancarski inside-outed a ball into shallow right field to get the score within one. However, after loading the bases with one out, Maryland couldn’t tie the game at three.
Between the second and eighth innings, the only time Maryland scored was in the bottom of the fourth, when Illinois starter Andy Fisher balked with men on the corners and two outs.
Finally, in the bottom of the ninth, Justin Vought launched his second homer of the year, and Randy Bednar doubled in a run as the Terps put together a late rally, getting the tying runner on deck. However, the deficit was too big for Maryland to overcome.
Illinois’ Fisher settled in after a rough first, allowing three runs on eight hits in eight innings. It was huge for Illinois to save its bullpen, as the Fighting Illini’s night-game starter was making his first career start.
Game 2: Maryland 7, Illinois 1
Maryland’s offense kept the good vibes going in the second game from the ninth inning in the first contest. In the second inning, Kevin Biondic doubled, and Zach Jancarski and Taylor Wright each singled to give Maryland a 1-0 lead. Then, with two men on, Justin Morris hit a three-run home run to cap a four-run inning. That homer marked Morris’ first home run, and first extra base hit, of the season.
In the next inning, Biondic kept the offense hot with a solo home run to left field, his fourth of the season.
In the fourth, Chris Alleyne executed a bunt single, and Morris doubled, leading to a Nick Dunn sacrifice fly to give the Terps another run. That led to Illinois starter Ryan Schmitt getting pulled after 3.2 innings pitched, allowing six runs on eight hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
The Terps picked up another run in the eighth as a Morris hit by pitch and Dunn single lead to a Marty Costes RBI groundout.
For Morris, the game was a huge step out of his season-long slump. He entered the game without an extra base hit on the year, then proceeded to hit three in the game. For Maryland’s offense to gain some consistency, it needs Morris to repeat performances like this one.
After Bloom’s rough start in the morning, Tyler Blohm picked the team up with a strong start. The lefty set down nine of the first 10 batters he face, not allowing a run through six innings. He started to run out of gas in the seventh, allowing a walk and a double before Rob Vaughn pulled him for John Murphy. Murphy allowed the man on third to score, but stopped Illinois from producing a rally.
In total, Blohm lasted 6.1 innings, allowing a run on five hits with a walk and nine strikeouts. Most notably, he struck Spillane out three times, which in turn limited the damage the Fighting Illini could do on the night.
Murphy finished the game, pitching the eighth and ninth innings in full. Despite allowing a few baserunners, and struggling with control in the ninth, he didn’t allow a run in his appearance.
After a day off Saturday due to inclement weather, Maryland and Illinois return to finish the series Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.