After yesterday’s heartbreaking late-inning loss to Iowa, the Maryland baseball team looked to rebound with a sweep of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Hawkeyes and Ohio State.
Unable to play well on both sides of the ball, the Terps were swept in the doubleheader, losing game one to Iowa, 11-2, and falling to Ohio State, 5-4. The losses clinched a losing record on the weekend, dropping their first three games in the Columbus, Ohio pod series.
“I think it's not a coincidence, this game is made up of little moments, the game hangs in the balance of one pitch, one play, one at-bat. Who’s going to execute, us or them?” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “Right now when we’re hitting that mark, we just aren’t quite ringing the bell enough.”
Maryland struggles to keep pace with Iowa’s power surge in game one
Iowa took full advantage of a clean first inning from their starter Duncan Davitt. Third baseman Matthew Sosa lined a 2-1 offering from Maryland starter Connor Staine over the right center field wall for a solo homer, providing an unfortunately familiar position for Maryland who would have to come from behind yet again to secure a victory.
The Terps created an opportunity to strike back in the next frame, putting runners on first and second with one out for shortstop Benjamin Cowles. Devitt locked in, striking out Cowles on just three pitches.
With two outs and two on, third baseman Matt Orlando stepped to the plate in a big spot early on and drove a run-scoring single back up the middle to tie the game at one.
Iowa refused to let the Terps back into the game, scoring their second run in the bottom of the second thanks to a Brayden Frazier single to center. It would be up to Maryland to grab a run back yet again.
Even when the Terps were able to put runners in scoring position, they just couldn’t come up with clutch hits. Third baseman Tommy Gardiner doubled to the wall in the top of the fifth, but leadoff hitter Chris Alleyne harmlessly popped out to Michael Seegers at short.
Staine managed to limit the damage to just the early two runs and pitched brilliantly through the fifth, giving the Terps a chance to finally break through against Davitt.
The Terps were in a strong position to draw even again in the top of the sixth inning, with runners on second and third and freshman left fielder Logan Ott stepping up to the plate with two away.
But Ott harmlessly grounded out to first, deflating Maryland’s solid comeback opportunity and forcing the Terps to hold Iowa’s hitters off yet again.
The Hawkeyes took full advantage of the momentum swing. The first three batters the bottom of the sixth reached base, leaving Staine with working out of the bases-loaded no-outs jam.
Iowa’s lineup was ultimately just too resilient. Staine recorded the first out of the inning but surrendered a two-RBI single to left by Frazier. His afternoon was done, and lefty Tyler Blohm was called on to prevent any further damage.
A long three-run home run to right by Jason Williams highlighted a disastrous remainder of the inning as Iowa hung an eight spot up and blew the game wide open, taking a 10-1 lead into the top of the seventh.
“We have second and third, one out [in the top of the sixth] and we punch out right there,” Vaughn said on his team’s with difficulty scoring runs and how it opened the door for Iowa’s big inning. “That moment shifted momentum... and the wheels just started spinning and it turned into an eight-run inning.”
Cowles contributed his eighth home run of the season in the top of the seventh, cutting the deficit to eight, but it was merely a consolation for Maryland. Iowa went on to take home a 10-2 victory and a sweep of the weekend’s abbreviated two-game series.
Maryland fails to score runs in big spots, falls to Ohio State’s solid pitching in game two
Looking to salvage a split on the day, Maryland needed a hot start to build momentum in the second half of Sunday’s doubleheader.
Centerfielder Chris Alleyne led off the game by turning on a mid 90s fastball and driving it a long way out of Bill Davis stadium.
With a one-run lead to work with, sophomore right-hander Nick Dean looked to make the most of his season debut and keep the Buckeye lineup at bay.
The youngster was magnificent early on, matching Ohio State starter Jack Neely’s effort with a much different approach. The 6-foot-8 Neely overpowered Maryland batters after Alleyne’s solo shot, leaning on an upper 90s fastball and wipeout slider to rack up eight strikeouts after three innings.
Dean mixed in a flurry of offspeed pitches early on, working with a less overpowering fastball but incorporating a deceiving changeup and big breaking ball to keep Ohio State batters guessing. Unafraid of Ohio State batters making contact, Dean had just three strikeouts through the first third of the game.
The righty’s flawless outing evaporated in the bottom of the fourth when Buckeye shortstop Zach Dezenzo lofted a ball to centerfield that heavy wins pushed over the fence. Dean was pulled for lefty Sean Fisher.
Neely appeared to lose his command in the fifth, walking two runners to set Alleyne up with a run-scoring chance with two outs.
Neely fell behind 3-1 on Alleyne but battled back to strike him out swinging on a slider, spinning and yelling to his teammates as he stomped back to his dugout.
Maryland once again struggled to hold opposing lineups down after playing a close game through the first few innings. The Buckeyes added two more runs on a sac-fly from second baseman Colton Bauer and another RBI hit from Dezenzo to open up a 3-1 advantage.
Ohio State reliever Bayden Root replaced Neely in the top of the sixth. Shliger was hit by a pitch and Ott reached on an error to bring in a run and reduce the deficit to one.
Cowles, who was 0-2 on the afternoon with two strikeouts, put down a safety squeeze up the first baseline, scoring the tying run and reaching base .
With the game tied at three, it would be up to Maryland’s bullpen to hold their opponent down as their offense fought to grab the lead back.
The opportunity to hold off the Buckeyes would come in the next inning, as Ohio State chased Fisher and loaded the bases off of his replacement David Falco.
Falco focused up, retiring two Buckeyes in order to give Maryland a glimmer of hope to escape the inning.
Centerfielder Kade Kern chopped a groundball to second baseman Kevin Keister’s left at second, but the ball bounced off of the freshman’s glove, eliminating his chance to throw the speedy Kern out at first. Two Buckeyes scored, and Ohio State opened up a 5-3 advantage.
“Tough play, not an easy play by any means,” Vaughn said on Keister’s misplay at second. “But it’s just one we have to make, and we just don’t quite get it done.”
Root ran into trouble again in the eighth. Ott doubled down the line in left and was driven in on another RBI knock from Cowles, shortening the deficit to one run and forcing Ohio State to bring in right-hander TJ Brock.
Brock loaded the bases with two outs, setting up Bednar with a game-defining moment. But after battling with the OSU reliever for six pitches, Bednar struck out on a slider low and away, crushing Maryland's hopes of a tie ballgame .
“[Our guys] aren’t swinging at it because they think they can hit it, they’re swinging at it because they think it’s a fastball and it disappears,” Vaughn said on Brock’s mix of a wipeout slider and mid-90s fastball. “Brock’s elite. Brock’s really, really good... he’s going to make a lot of money pitching one day.”
Maryland put the tying run in scoring position again in the ninth, but Cowles fell victim to another low and away slider from Brock, ending the game and clinching the Terps’ losing record on the weekend.
“Our goal just has to be to get better and better and better,” Vaughn said. Maryland’s skipper also mentioned facing Iowa and Ohio State later in the season, saying “[We want] for them to say ‘Holy cow, that is not the same team we played three weeks ago.’ And that’s on us.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s bullpen struggled in both of Sunday’s games. The bullpen wasn’t involved until the sixth inning of game one, replacing Staine after his gusty two-run performance and coming in with runners on base. Ohio State went on to put up eight runs in the frame, pulling away from the Terps and putting the game away before the later innings.
Vaughn’s stable of arms was certainly improved in game two but just couldn’t hold the Buckeyes down after Dean’s solid start. Ohio State scored two runs each in the fifth and seventh, creating too much breathing room for a talented bullpen to quiet Maryland’s bats.
“I think you just start figuring out who can get it done when the lights are on. I tell our hitters this all the time, but [baseball] is a game of opportunity,” Vaughn said. “I think, number one, you keep pumping guys... at times they’ve been lights out, at times they’ve scuffled a little bit, but they’ve just got to keep coming.”
2.The Terps struggled to come up with the big hit in clutch spots. Maryland left 11 runners on base in game two, including leaving the bases loaded on multiple occasions. In a closely contested game like Sunday’s matinee, scoring those runners is crucial to both the offense’s confidence at the plate and the bullpen’s ability to work with breathing room. While Ohio State left runners on as well, the Buckeyes were simply more effective at driving in runners in scoring position and creating winning chances in Sunday’s matchup.
“We’re still confident, we’re playing good baseball,” Cowles said. “We’re just one hit away from winning.”
3. Sophomore righty Nick Dean was as advertised in his season debut. After missing the first three weekends of the season with a non-Covid related illness, Dean spun a solid three innings in his first appearance since last season. He only allowed three hits and one earned run and was only pulled as a precaution as he returns to full strength. The youngster will be a key piece of Maryland’s staff going forward as the Terps still look for consistency from their starting rotation.