In the seventh inning of the second game of the doubleheader with Michigan State, the Terps were up three up three runs. But that wouldn’t last for long.
The first domino fell when Spartan center fielder Peter Ahn hit the ball down the first base line. Costes couldn’t locate the ball, allowing it to get past him as two runners crossed home plate.
Later in the inning, on a 1-0 count and a man on second, a ball was hit to Cowles at second base. He bobbled the scoop and didn’t even attempt a throw at the first base bag. Later on in the inning, Walker singled to shortstop, advancing the runner at third home. After allowing four runs in the inning, completely shifting the game in shocking fashion, the Terps entered the eighth trailing by one.
“Credit Michigan State, we let them hang around and didn’t put them away,” head coach Rob Vaughn said.
Avoidable fielding mistakes were a problem all Saturday for the Terps as they dropped both games of the doubleheader to fall to 0-3 on the season, certainly not the start they were hoping for.
Maryland falls behind quickly, can’t battle back in game one
In game one of the doubleheader, Maryland’s defensive errors allowed Michigan State to build up a lead too big for it to overcome. Similar to the first game of the weekend series on Friday night, the Spartans came out in the first inning ready to make some noise.
Sean Fisher was on the mound in the Saturday afternoon contest. The left-handed senior became a starting pitcher last year for the Terps and he posted a 3-1 record before the season got cut short. However, On Saturday afternoon, Fisher struggled to contain batters at the plate.
In the first inning, shortstop Mitch Jebb singled off an off-speed pitch from Fisher. Fisher then walked the next batter. With two outs and two men on, right fielderZaid Walker drove the ball to right field, allowing two runners to cross home plate.
Later in the inning, with two outs, a Spartan batter hit a ball right to Fisher at the mound. What should have been a routine throw to first was somehow off-target, allowing the runner to take the base. The following at bat, Luke Shliger, the Terps’ catcher, could not control the ball on a pitch, which brought in another run. After just one inning, the Spartans had jumped out to another early 3-0 lead.
“We didn't get a great start, didn't execute offensively very consistently going up against a good arm,” Vaughn said. “We were just sloppy, we didn't deserve to win game one.”
Maryland started to find a groove at the plate in the fourth inning, scoring two runs. Third baseman Matthew Shaw started off the inning with a single down the left side infield hole. Right fielder Randy Bednar then recorded a hit down the left field line to put two men on. The following at bat, designated hitter Bobby Zmarzlak got walked.
First baseman Maxwell Costes was up next with the bases loaded. The standout junior hit it deep to right field for a sacrifice fly, with Shaw tagging third and crossing home plate for the Terps first run of the season. Maryland was able to put another run on the board to end the inning down 4-2, despite leaving two men.
With Fisher struggling, The Terps’ coaching staff decided to pull him after three and a half innings pitched. The right-hander Sean Heine came in for relief. In over two innings pitched, Heine faced 13 batters and gave up four hits and three runs.
In the seventh, the final inning of the first game of the doubleheader, shortstop Benjamin Cowles hit a solo home run for the Terps’ first homer this season. However, it was too little, too late as no other Terp could get anything going in the final at bats as Maryland fell in the first game.
The Terps squander a four-run lead in game two
Maryland seemed to be on the cusp of its first victory of the season heading into the seventh inning of the second contest of the day. Though the Terps went on to allow five consecutive runs to the Spartans en route to the loss, they had a strong start to the evening.
After avoidable fielding errors in the earlier game, it looked like Maryland’s defense had stepped up in the latter of the two games. In the bottom half of the second inning, a Spartan base runner attempted to steal second base with two outs. Instead, the Terps tagged him out to end the inning and leave their opponent empty handed.
Sophomore Connor Staine got the nod for Maryland at the mound in the latter game of the doubleheader. This was Staine’s first career start as he served as a relief pitcher in his shortened freshman season.
Offensive success continued in the fourth inning for the Terps. For the second time in the game, Maryland loaded the bases. James Heffley stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and drew a walk, letting Costes cross the plate. However, that was all the runs the Terps would get out of that inning, leaving men on bases to end the inning.
Michigan State’s starting pitcher Adam Berghorst was replaced in the fourth inning for the Spartans after giving up fourth runs on just two hits.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Spartans’ Zach Iverson was at the plate with two outs and two on for Michigan State. Iverson hits it down the middle to drive in a run and pick up an RBI single. Staine remained poised, despite being in a jam with runners on base, and struck out the next batter to end the inning and weather the storm.
That strong defense the Terps displayed early on disappeared as the night went on. Maryland started to unravel in the seventh inning, giving up four runs and reverting back to the unforced fielding errors that dug them a deficit in the previous game. Starting pitcher Connor Staine was pulled before the seventh inning and replaced by Elliot Zoellner, who gave up three runs in a disastrous performance before he was taken out in the same inning he came in.
“I take the blame for that,” Vaughn said. “My job is putting guys in the right situations to excel and I felt like in that situation going straight to Bello [instead of Zoellner] was probably the call.”
In the seventh inning of the second game, a Spartan batter hit the ball down the first base line. Costes couldn't locate the ball, allowing it to get past him as two runners crossed home plate. Later in the inning, a ball was hit to Cowles at second base, he bobbled the scoop and didn't even attempt a throw at the first base bag. Entering the inning up by three runs, the Terp left the inning trailing by one.
In the eighth, Schreffle hit a double with two outs to put runners on second and third for the Terps. Cowles stepped up to the plate the following at bat, but struck out, leaving the Terps empty handed despite a perfect spot to retake the lead. They had chances in a late desperation attempt in the ninth, but instead ended the doubleheader winless.
“We just didn’t make enough plays there at the end,” Vaughn said. “Obviously a very frustrating day, not the start we wanted but this is where we’re at. No point in sucking our thumbs, feeling bad for each other, we got to get better and we got to get back to work.”
Three things to know
1. Maxwell Costes showed what all the preseason hype was about. Costes was named to the Golden Spikes preseason award watch list and showed why on Saturday. In game one, Costes only recorded one hit, but made the most of his chances by also added a sac-fly for the Terps’ first run of the afternoon. Costes came alive in game two, going 2-for-3 and scoring twice as part of Maryland’s early explosion.
2. Connor Staine impressed in starting pitching debut. As a freshman, Staine was only used as a reliever and never got the starting nod in a shortened 2020 season. Staine appeared in six games last season, the second most on the team. On Saturday night, Staine got the call and delivered, pitching a shutout through six innings and striking out nine batters. Although his teammates relief pitching could not finish the job, Staine had a promising debut.
“For me it was really just staying ahead, trusting my catcher, trusting my coach with pitch calls and just letting loose, not trying to be too perfect, not trying to do anything special, just breathe, execute and repeat,” Staine said.
3. Relief pitching struggled for Maryland. In game one, Sean Heine came in to replace a struggling Sean Fisher. However, Heine wasn't much better as he allowed four hits and three runs to go along with two errors in two and two-thirds innings pitched.
The relief pitching was only worse in the second game. After a dominant performance from Staine, Elliot Zoellner came in to finish the job. However, instead of securing the win for Staine, he squandered it. Zoellner only threw four total pitches, but allowed three runs before he was pulled. Sam Bello came in to replace Zoellner. Bello gave up two hits and one run in two innings pitched.