Following five straight scoreless innings offensively, Maryland baseball’s first real opportunity finally came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Austin Chavis reached first to begin the inning following another error from Dukes shortstop Nick Zona, eventually working his way to third base following a groundout and a wild pitch.
After the next two batters were issued walks, designated hitter Bobby Zmarzlak stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded, two outs and an opportunity to give the Terps the lead for the first time since the second inning. With the count knotted at 2-2, Zmarzlak lifted one deep into left field, getting every the 473 spectators —the last fans to attend a Maryland sporting event until at least April 10 — at Bob Turtle Stadium on their feet.
But James Madison left fielder Chase DeLauter drifted to his left and made the catch just in front of the warning track, ending the inning and Maryland’s strongest chance at scoring for the rest of Wednesday’s game, as the Terps (10-5) went on to lose 4-2 to the Dukes (10-6) Wednesday.
In the Terps’ single-game against the Dukes, Maryland managed to get to Liam McDonnell in the bottom of the game’s first inning. After striking out the first batter of Wednesday’s contest, Randy Bednar and Max Costes lifted a pair of line drives into the left field gap — with Costes’ single bringing Bednar home to help the Terps strike first.
A subsequent double from Troy Schreffler and a walk issued to Matt Orlando loaded the bases, drawing a mound visit from James Madison head coach Martin Ikenberry as Benjamin Cowles stepped up to the plate. McDonnell tagged Cowles on the leg to bring another runner home, but managed to get out of the inning thanks to some strong infield play from Duke third baseman Josh Jones.
James Madison’s offense wasted no time responding, taking the lead on consecutive pitches. Maryland starter Zach Thompson, who allowed five earned runs in his last start on March 4, walked the the first batter of the top of the second, before giving up back-to-back home runs to Jones and Fox Semones to grab the lead for the Dukes.
A wild pitch from Thompson with a runner on third made it four, as the visitors managed to double-up the Terps in the inning, giving James Madison a 4-2 lead after two innings.
Maryland struggled to get a baserunner in its next two innings at the plate, with each of its two baserunners in the second and third coming as a result of errors from the Dukes infield. Yet as Cowles stepped into the box for his second at-bat with a runner on first, he hit a hard ground ball into the hole between first and second base.
But James Madison’s second baseman Semones was up to the task, making a diving stop before whipping it to first to end the inning.
McDonnell and Thompson’s days were finished by the top of the fifth inning, throwing 51 and 72 pitches, respectively, before being relieved.
For the Terps, it was freshman right-hander Connor Staine, making his sixth relief appearance of the 2020 season Wednesday. Having not allowed more than two hits in an appearance since his debut, he held the Dukes in check for the third consecutive inning, allowing only one hit as Maryland entered the bottom of the fifth still back two runs.
Maryland showed its first signs of life offensively in that bottom half of the fifth, as Bednar lined another one into the gap to begin the inning. But as he tried to extend it into a double, he slammed on the brakes in the middle of first and second base, triggering a run down that he eventually managed to leg out into a double, getting his teammates off their feet in the dugout.
The Dukes went on to squash that momentum, though, as righty reliever Grayson Jones picked off Bednar at second, catching the junior in between bases once again to put him in a pickle he could not escape a second time.
Staine’s control began to slip after just 1.2 innings pitched, getting two outs in the top of the sixth before walking consecutive batters to force head coach Rob Vaughn to make a change on the mound. Opting to hand the ball over to another freshman right-hander in Sam Bello with two runners already on base, he struck out the first batter he faced to hold the Dukes scoreless for the fourth straight inning.
But Maryland’s offense was just as stagnant to that point, going scoreless through the next five innings after a potent start to the game.
Bello’s time on the mound Wednesday lasted just 0.1 innings, as the top of the seventh inning began with senior reliever Elliot Zoellner pitching to the top of James Madison’s order. He kept things rolling just as Bello and Staine had prior, putting away the Dukes 1-2-3 as both offenses continued to struggle.
Zmarzlak’s missed opportunity put a damper on Maryland’s hitting effort, as it eventually went down in order in the eighth and ninth innings, getting shut out for the final eight innings of Wednesday’s loss.
Three Things to Know
1. Maryland’s winning streak ends at four games. Dating back to its win over Delaware a week ago and a series sweep of Bryant this past weekend, Maryland had won four straight games coming into Wednesday’s contest against the Dukes. The streak was looking like it was going to be the longest run of consecutive wins for the team this season, but the loss put an end to it and handed Maryland its fifth loss of the season.
2. Thompson struggled at first, but settled in. Although 2-0 through two starts this season, the right-hander has been a bit up-and-down on the mound so far this year for Vaughn. He struggled with his control in that second inning, but was much more comfortable from that point on. Boasting a 3-6 record last season with a 5.08 ERA, the Terps will need more of the composed Thompson they saw in the first, third and fourth innings.
3. It was a tough day at the plate for Chris Alleyne. The Terps leadoff hitter struggled to make solid contact with the ball on Wednesday, going 1-for-5 on the afternoon with a strikeout. The junior outfielder had hits in four of the team’s last five games, but didn’t get on base until the ninth in this one as the Dukes managed to keep the speedy switch hitter in check.