It was a pitcher’s duel through seven innings at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, but a pair of two-run home runs in the eighth inning shifted the tide for Maryland baseball as the Terps won their Big Ten tournament opener, defeating No. 3-seed Illinois 6-2 Wednesday morning.
Senior righty Hunter Parsons, in what could be his last start for the Terps, delivered a dominant 7.1 innings, allowing one run on four hits. Maryland’s offense had its chances throughout, but it was Maxwell Costes and Justin Vought who delivered the big blows against Illinois’ bullpen.
Illinois lefty ace Andy Fisher was dealing as well. While Parsons set down the first 10 Illinois batters of the game, Fisher kept the Terps in check. Through the first six innings, Fisher and Parsons induced 21 groundouts and gave up seven combined hits. Fisher threw 6.1 innings of one run, five hit ball on 84 pitches. Parsons threw 7.1 innings of one-run, four-hit baseball on 123 pitches, his 10th straight start of 105 pitches or more.
Leadoff batters reaching base was at a premium in this game. Four Maryland innings started with a baserunner, and the Terps scored in three of those frames, which accounted for all six runs. Illinois went 1-for-2 in scoring leadoff runners.
There wasn’t much to talk about in the first two innings, but in the third, Maryland took the early lead. Chris Alleyne walked to lead off the inning, moving over to second as Josh Maguire singled off the tip of Fisher’s glove. Ben Cowles advanced them to second and third with a sacrifice bunt and AJ Lee walked to load the bases. Randy Bednar reached on a fielder’s choice that was dropped by Massey on the transfer to first, allowing Alleyne to score and give Maryland a 1-0 lead.
Parsons worked his way into a jam in the fourth, loading the bases after giving up his first hit of the game and walking the next two batters, including an 11-pitch walk to Cam McDonald. However he induced a ground ball to Cowles to end the threat.
He wasn’t as lucky in the fifth, though, as Illinois tied it up. Grant Van Scoy singled to lead off the inning, moving to second on a Branden Comia walk. Michael Massey then hit a ground ball that ate up Cowles and Van Scoy kept running, scoring from second as the throw was mishandled by catcher Justin Vought at home.
Momentum had seemingly shifted to the Fighting Illini, and after Fisher gave up a leadoff double to Josh Maguire and departed with one out in the seventh Sean Leland kept Maryland off the board. However, Parsons retired the last seven batters he faced through the seventh.
Everything changed in the eighth after Taylor Wright singled to lead off the inning. Costes, the 2019 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and All-Big Ten First Team selection, with one swing of the bat, deposited a ball into the seats in left field to give Maryland a 3-1 lead. Michael Pineiro was hit for the second time in the game, bringing up Vought, who joined the home run party with a two-run shot to left-center field as Maryland went up 5-1. It was just the seventh time in TD Ameritrade Park history that a team hit two home runs in the same inning.
Wright singled and Costes doubled to start the ninth, and after two outs, Alleyne bunted a run home with a single, making it 6-1. Maryland loaded the bases in the inning but couldn’t add on.
Mark DiLuia came in to relieve Parsons and pitched through the eighth into the ninth, where he allowed two runners to reach base before coach Rob Vaughn pulled him with one out for John Murphy. The closer looked to be out of the game after just two pitches when he induced a comeback to the mound for a potential game-ending double play, but he threw the ball into center field, allowing Jack Yalowitz to score to make it 6-2. Murphy bounced back and struck out the last two batters to finish the game.
Maryland will face the winner of No. 2-seed Michigan and No. 7-seed Ohio State on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.