It was déjà vu for Maryland baseball on Sunday, as a big third inning helped the Terps sweep Rutgers. The 8-6 win in the series finale puts them ahead of Michigan State for eighth place the Big Ten.
Justin Morris was the big difference in Maryland’s victory, with a bases-clearing triple in the Terps’ five-run third inning. Will Watson continued his stellar weekend, going 2-for-3 with an RBI after tying a school record with eight RBIs Saturday. In the series, Watson went 7-for-12 with 10 RBIs and two home runs. The two seniors were among seven Terps playing their final home games on senior day, and they made the most of it.
Freshman Mark DiLuia took the mound on Sunday. In arguably DiLuia’s best start of the season, he gave up two earned runs in six innings, striking out four. Maryland’s bullpen made things interesting, but the Terps held on.
Rutgers started out the scoring in the second, as Jawuan Harris took DiLuia deep to left field for his second home run of the season, a solo shot that put Rutgers up 1-0 early.
Maryland tied the game in the bottom half. Watson and fellow senior Zach Jancarski reached base to start the inning, moving into scoring position on a Morris sacrifice bunt. Taylor Wright scored Jancarski on a squeeze bunt. Wright beat the throw to first, but turned left into the baseline and was tagged out after a rundown.
Maryland then continued its trend of big third innings, after putting up 11 on Saturday in their 17-2 rout of the Scarlet Knights. AJ Lee walked to lead off the inning. He advanced to second on a Marty Costes single and scored on a Watson RBI single. Watson and Costes advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. Jancarski followed, walking to load the bases.
Morris took care of the rest, clearing the bases with a triple that right fielder Kevin Blum misjudged, slipping and falling right before the ball landed, giving Maryland a 5-1 lead at that point. Morris scored on Wright’s second RBI of the day, a single into right field, putting Maryland up 6-1.
Maryland extended its lead to 7-1 in the fourth. Similar to the third inning, Costes and Watson both reached base and advanced into scoring position from a wild pitch. Jancarski followed, hitting a ball that ate up Kevin Welsh at second and scored Costes, but Watson was thrown out at home trying to score behind him.
Rutgers cut into the lead in the sixth. Mike Nyisztor singled to lead off, advancing to third on two wild pitches. Chris Folinusz singled home Nyisztor to cut Maryland’s lead to 7-2 with no outs in the inning. A mound visit from Corey Muscara settled down DiLuia, who retired the next three batters in order, ending the threat and his outing.
In the eighth, a costly error at first gave Rutgers life. Morris, in just his fourth start at first for the Terps this season, dropped the third out of the inning in foul territory with runners at first and second. Morris started in place of regular first baseman Kevin Biondic, who’s been inactive in the field lately due to a bruised left foot. Milo Freeman took advantage, hitting a two-run double down the third base line, cutting the Maryland lead to 7-4.
Nick Dunn got one a run back for the Terps in the bottom half, doubling to right center field, scoring Justin Vought, who walked earlier in the inning. Dunn advanced to third on an overthrow of the catcher.
Grant Burleson, who entered in the seventh for the Terps, threw two innings of relief, giving up the two runs in the eighth. Ryan Hill came in the ninth for the save, but that save wasn’t easy. Jake Bowerbank and Nick Matera both singled, putting two on for Rutgers (24-23, 7-14 Big Ten) with two outs. Hill then struck out Folinusz, but Vought couldn’t handle the pitch as it went to the backstop. Vought overthrew first, allowing Bowerbank to score. Harris followed, lining a grounder to Wright that he caught but bobbled, allowing Harris to reach and Matera to score, bringing Maryland’s lead down to 8-6.
Hill departed and John Murphy entered, hitting the first batter he faced on the first pitch, loading up the bases for Freeman, who got into one to right field, but it landed short and Costes caught it to secure the victory for the Terps (24-27, 9-11).
Maryland hits the road for their last and most important series of the season at Indiana next weekend. Game one on Thursday starts at 7 p.m. ET.
This story has been updated to reflect Michigan State losing to Minnesota, moving the Terps into eighth place.