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Maryland baseball drops rubber match to Nebraska, 14-3

The Terps were unable to escape Lincoln with a series win against the top team in the Big Ten.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After cruising through the first inning on just 11 pitches, Maryland baseball’s freshman starter Jason Savacool looked to be setting himself up for another stellar outing. He calmly maneuvered through the dangerous top of the Nebraska order, looking seasoned beyond his years and confident on the mound.

But the second inning would not be kind to Savacool, as he gave up seven hits over eight batters, punctuated by a loud two run double off of the right field wall by catcher Griffin Everitt.

The five-run frame would be more than enough of a cushion for the Huskers, as they held down Maryland’s late attempt at a comeback and served the Terps a 14-3 defeat in Lincoln on Sunday.

“The reality is, you have to play good to win on the road, and you have to play really, really good and really deserve it to win at a place like [Nebraska],” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “Bottom line, across the board we didn’t deserve it today.”

After Savacool’s rocky second inning, the freshman’s afternoon ended after just 41 pitches and an inning and two thirds with five runs charged to his stat line. Savacool, who has been a steady Sunday starter for the Terps so far, struggled with tempo and couldn’t continue his first inning rhythm.

“There’s such a fine line between having great tempo and working too fast,” Vaughn said. “If you start running through it too fast, that’s exactly how stuff can start flattening out.”

The Terps chipped away in the next frame, getting on the board thanks to a line drive home run to right from center fielder Chris Alleyne.

Aside from the Alleyne home run, Nebraska starter Shay Schanaman looked untouchable through four innings. The Husker righty worked in the mid 90s with his fastball and mixed in a sweeping slider, forcing uncomfortable-looking swings from the Maryland lineup through the first half of the game.

Right hander Connor Staine, who replaced Savacool in the second, had his own struggles. Jaxon Hallmark lined a single up the middle with one out in the fourth, driving in the second run of the inning and expanding the Husker lead to 7-1. Hallmark added his second and third stolen bases of the day to advance to third base, but Staine buckled down to limit the damage.

While relief efforts from Sean Heine and Elliot Zoellner held the Huskers at seven runs, Maryland’s offense couldn’t gather any momentum. Schanaman continued to dominate the Terps, striking out eleven batters through six innings and retiring ten batters in a row after the Alleyne homer.

“[Schanaman] didn’t do anything we didn’t expect,” Vaughn said. “To me, I felt like we kept looking like we were shocked we were getting two strike sliders when that’s what the video showed, that’s what our plan was.”

His retired batter streak ended in the seventh, as third baseman Matthew Shaw, first baseman Maxwell Costes, and catcher Luke Shliger all reached base. After six full innings, the Terps had their first runners in scoring position. Shortstop Benjamin Cowles drove in a run on a controversial full-count hit by pitch, shortening the deficit to 7-2 and chasing Schanaman.

Reliever Jake Bunz surrendered a run to the first batter he faced on a Tucker Flint RBI fielder’s choice. Second baseman Tommy Gardiner walked to reload the bases and turn the lineup over, but Alleyne grounded into a fielder’s choice to leave the bases loaded. After loading the bases with no outs, the Terps pushed just two runs across and missed an opportunity to shorten the deficit.

Nebraska’s Spencer Schwellenbach added another run on an eighth inning two-out triple, and Brice Matthews launched a grand slam to left to put the game away for good. The 14-3 Nebraska advantage would remain through the ninth as the Terps fell to 10-12 on the season.

“Coming in, we knew that they were going to be very good,” Elliot Zoellner, one of the relievers to appear in the ninth, said. “I think if we keep rolling out there and playing baseball the way we know how to I think we’ll be more successful going forward. Obviously this weekend was tough, but we can’t let this get in our way for the next few.”

Three things to know

1. Jason Savacool suffered his second consecutive shaky outing. After looking like a world-beater through his first four starts, Savacool has come back down to earth in his last two outings. The freshman went just two innings last weekend against Michigan and lasted only an inning and two thirds on Sunday, surrendering five earned runs on seven hits. A mainstay in the Maryland rotation through the first half of the season, Savacool’s ability to lock in for Sunday afternoon wins will be a must-have for head coach Rob Vaughn’s Terps down the stretch.

2. The Terps couldn’t muster any offensive rhythm after Saturday’s 10-run afternoon. One of the most prolific offenses in the Big Ten, Maryland was held to just two hits over the course of Sunday’s game. Aside from the Alleyne home run, the top four batters in the Maryland lineup went just 2-14 with nine strikeouts. The bottom five batters had a much more difficult day; the five through nine hole in the order went 0-11 with five Ks.

“We don’t have to do anything drastically different. We’re a really good hitting group,” Shliger said on adjustments for the offense. “I think it’s just getting back to the plan and overall working together to take down a pitcher.”

3. Maryland is now 10-12 at the halfway point of the season. After losing in three in a row to start the season, Maryland bounced back and 4-3 over their next two series against Rutgers and Penn State. However, the Terps continued to struggle to find their true stride. After going 1-3 in their final four matchups in March, Maryland returned home at the beginning of April and went 3-1 in the College Park Pod featuring two wins over Northwestern and one over then-No. 25 Michigan. Unable to build on that momentum, the Terps dropped their first matchup against Nebraska on Friday and although on Saturday they emerged victorious, the Huskers closed out the series with the win on Sunday.

“We gotta do the small things, all around, better,” Vaughn said. “Our starters are talented, but we cannot continue being in a hole every second or third inning for the rest of the year. You can’t be consistently successful that way.”