In the top of the ninth inning, with the game tied at five, Maryland’s pitcher David Falco replaced right-hander Connor Staine. On a 1-1 count, Falco threw a pitch to Michigan’s pinch hitter Danny Zimmerman that was sent deep over the left-field wall to give the Wolverines a one-run advantage over the Terps, which would ultimately be the deciding play.
The two offenses traded runs and hits all afternoon in a back and forth showdown, but in the end it was the Terps who succumbed to No. 25 Michigan, 6-5, to open the two-game set. The Terps and Wolverines will be back in action on Monday to close the series out.
“In a close game like that, it just comes down to everything you do throughout the game in innings one through nine,” right-fielder Randy Bednar said. “It just goes to show you that you can’t take anything for granted.”
It didn't take long for the Terps to get going at the plate on Sunday. In the bottom of the first inning, first baseman Maxwell Costes was hit by a pitch, allowing him to take first base. Third baseman Matt Shaw followed Costes in the four spot and launched a missile over the fence for a two-run homer, his second of the year, to give the Terps the early 2-0 lead.
In the second, Michigan hit a grounder past the third baseman on the left field line, putting two men on base with both in scoring position and just one out. However, pitcher Sean Fisher and the Terps defense got themselves out of a jam, recording two outs before any runs crossed home plate, holding on to a two-run lead heading to the bottom of the second.
However, Fisher pitched himself into another jam. With two walks in the inning, Michigan was able to load the bases. Head coach Rob Vaughn had seen enough, pulling Fisher in the third, which ended his return to the starting rotation in a disappointing fashion.
“[Fisher] competed for us,” Vaughn said. “Fish [has] got really good stuff, the freebies kind of just get him.”
Pitcher Connor Staine, who was originally slated to start in this game earlier in the week, replaced Fisher. Staine couldn't get out of the jam Fisher created. Michigan’s star first baseman Jimmy Oberton hit a grand slam to left-center field to clear the bases and give Michigan the 4-2 advantage.
Staine picked up where Fisher left off, walking a batter, hitting another one with a pitch and giving up a hit to load the bases with two outs for Michigan yet again. This time, however, the Terps were able to get off the field with no damage to show for it, forcing Michigan’s hitter into a fly-out.
The top of the order was up for Maryland in the fifth inning as they continued to trail. Centerfielder Chris Alleyne was walked to open the bottom of the inning. Bednar then stepped up to the plate and crushed a ball into left-center field for a two-run shot, tying the game at four apiece. Bednar’s home-run was his third this season.
In the seventh inning, Michigan took a one-run lead off an RBI bunt from shortstop Benjamin Sems that advanced a runner home from third base.
In the bottom of the inning, Bednar hit another deep ball, however, this one didn't find its way over the fence but it did hit off the warning track for a double. Bednar would advance to third on a ground out from Shaw. Following a pitching change from the Wolverines, designated hitter Luke Shliger singled down the middle to drive in Bednar and tie the game back up at five.
In the top of the ninth inning, David Falco came in to close things out at the mound for the Terps. Instead, he gave up the solo shot to Zimmerman that secured Michigan’s victory.
“I thought the energy was incredible. I thought the will to win was the highest I’ve seen it in a long time,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “Bottom line, kind of the same thing in some of our losses, same thing comes back to bite us, it’s freebies, it’s lack of clarity on a couple things early.”
Three things to know
1. Sean Fisher got the late nod but struggled on the mound. Left-handed pitcher Sean Fisher disappointed in his first few starts this season, posting an 0-3 record on the year heading into Sunday. He fell out of the starting rotation in the last few weekend series for Maryland. Earlier in the week, Staine was listed to get the start today, but that was changed before the first pitch and Fisher got the nod. Fisher was responsible for giving up two hits and three runs without recording a single strikeout. The lefty was pulled from the game in the third inning.
2. Connor Staine was solid in relief. Staine, who was originally supposed to start, came up big replacing Fisher. After giving up the grand slam, Staine settled down and had serious command on his pitches. The right-hander only gave up one run the rest of the way in 5.2 innings pitched. Staine threw 91 pitches and faced 26 batters while recording five strikeouts.
“I thought Staine threw the ball extremely well after the homer,” Vaughn said.
3. It was an even showdown between the teams at the plate. While Michigan got the win, both teams put together similar performances at the plate. The Wolverines and the Terps are considered to have some of the best hitting lineups in the conference. Both teams recorded eight hits on the afternoon. Michigan left nine runners on base, while Maryland left ten on base. Both teams also only recorded one hit with runners in scoring position.
“Moral victories aren’t a thing,” Vaughn said. “It’s still another one in the loss column and I don’t like that.”