In the bottom of the sixth inning, Michigan State’s Mitch Jebb hit the ball down the first base line. The ball took a high bounce in the dirt over the glove of outfielder Randy Bednar and towards the bleachers. Jebb advanced to third on the play.
The following play, Michigan State’s Bryce Kelley hit a fly ball deep into left field. Maryland handled this one for an out, but not without Jebb tagging third and advancing home to extend Michigan State’s lead to 3-0.
While the Spartans did not have a ton of chances, they made the most of them. The same couldn’t be said for Maryland as the team dropped the season opener, 6-0, Friday night.
“We didn’t have a ton of opportunities,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “I was very, very impressed with their dude. He threw the ball extremely well.”
After struggling in the first inning, starting pitcher Sean Burke put on a pitching clinic. The Spartans loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, coming away with two runs, one off a wild pitch by Burke, and the other from an RBI fly out. But from then on, Burke was absolutely lights out. Ten of the first 12 outs recorded for the Terps came from the the redshirt sophomore’s strikeouts. Burke finished the night with a career best 13 strikeouts.
“I got more simple, more specific, just trying to make a pitch at a time as opposed to trying to attack a batter or trying to get an out in one pitch. Just trying to stay simple with the pitch plan,” Burke said.
The runs began to pile on for the Spartans after Burke left the game. Sophomore Ryan Ramsey relieved Burke out of the bullpen after six innings. Ramsey pitched just 1.2 innings before getting pulled after giving up three runs in his short stint on the mound. Tyler Blohm, a left-handed grad student, closed the game for the Terps.
Despite strong pitching from Burke for most of the night, Maryland’s offense could not get anything going. The Terps struggled to capitalize with runners in scoring positions, a huge difference between the two teams.
Randy Bednar kicked off the fourth inning with a leadoff single. Bednar advanced to third with help from a wild pitch. The Terps, however, couldn’t flip the scoreboard as they ended the inning empty handed with men on first and third.
Two innings later, Bobby Zmarzlak singled and Tucker Flint walked on the next at bat. With two outs and men on first and second, Matt Orlando stepped up to the plate. He hit a grounder to third which was scooped up by the Spartans third baseman and thrown to first. Orlando was called out, ending the inning and another opportunity for the Terps to produce runs.
Another opportunity came in the eighth inning, when Maryland had men on first and second. With one out, first baseman Maxwell Costes stepped up to the plate. Costes made contact and hit a grounder right down the middle. The Spartans’ shortstop scooped it up and flipped it to second baseman Bailey Peterson, who then threw it to first for a double play, ending the inning. Costes, named to the Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list, struggled at the box in the season opener. Costes went 0-for-3 at the plate to start his junior year.
“When you have two guys going toe to toe, it’s going to be who leaves less guys on, who cashes in on their couple of opportunities they get,” Vaughn said. “And they just did a better job of that tonight than we did.”
Ramsey started the eighth inning by walking Jebb, then Kelley bunted and advanced Jebb on a throwing error. The Terps ended up allowing three runs to be driven in during the inning, putting the game all but out of reach.
With one more inning to put runs on the board, Maryland fell short again. Flint was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning. However, the next two Terp batters struck out swinging, the team failing to produce with runners on base once again in a lackluster offensive showing for Maryland in its first game back on the field in 359 days.
Three things to know
1. Maryland had chances at the plate but could not capitalize. The Terps outhit the Spartans 5-4, but could not drive in runs. Maryland had nine runners left on base by batters, were 0-for-15 with runners on base and 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. On the other side, Michigan State had only four base runners left on base by batters.
2. Burke wasn’t the only starting pitcher who impressed. It wasn't just Burke who put on a show on the mound. Friday night’s season opener was a pitching clinic between two of the top aces in the conference. For the Spartans, Sam Benschoter pitched a shutout and recorded 10 strikeouts. He faced 32 batters and threw 120 total pitches in eight innings.
3. Maryland will have a quick turnaround. This was the first of a four-game series against Michigan State. The Terps won't have much time to think about this one as they have a double header on Saturday, with the first starting at 4:30 p.m. The left-handed senior Sean Fisher will take the mound in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday.
“Sometime you run into games like this where we just don’t execute at a high level and when things just don’t go our way,” Flint said. “But I think a lot of guys are still excited to come back tomorrow and show that we should be winning these games.”