Freshman pitcher Jason Savacool’s unbeaten streak looked to be in serious jeopardy after No. 25 Michigan hung four runs on him in the top of the second inning.
Taking a small lead into the sixth inning, the Terps needed considerably more than a two-run advantage to hold off the resilient Wolverine lineup.
After creating some breathing room and expanding the lead to five, first baseman Maxwell Costes dug into the batter’s box in a key spot in the sixth. He deposited a fly ball between the first baseman and right fielder that careened to the right, clearing the bases that were previously loaded with Terrapins and opening up an eight-run lead.
That would be more than enough for the Terps, as they took home a 17-7 win over No. 25 Michigan to secure a 3-1 record over a challenging weekend pod series.
“When we show up and we get a good start, play clean defense and execute offensively, I think we can play with anybody,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “I’m very, very proud of the effort ... I think that this is something we can build on.”
Maryland’s 17 runs are the second most it scored this season and the 10-run victory margin is the largest win differential the Terps have had this year. The last time the Terps won by 10 runs was against Bryant on March 8, 2020.
The Terps continued their early game momentum from Sunday’s loss, scoring a run that was largely manufactured by leadoff hitter Chris Alleyne. Maryland’s centerfielder singled through the middle, advanced to second on a wild pitch, stole third and was driven home on a sac fly by Costes as Maryland took a 1-0 lead in the first.
Michigan evened things up in the second thanks to cleanup hitter Jimmy Obertop, who drove a long fly ball over the right-field fence to immediately eliminate the Terps’ advantage.
The Wolverines weren’t prepared to settle for just the one run. They loaded the bases in consecutive fashion after Obertop’s home run, scoring three more in the frame on a sloppy play, two hit batters from Savacool, and an RBI single from centerfielder Jordan Rogers. Michigan, disciplined as always, managed to flip Maryland’s momentum around and take a three-run lead in the second.
The Terps were keen on repeating yesterday’s back-and-forth affair, beginning in the bottom of the frame. Shortstop Benjamin Cowles walked to lead off the inning and after Michigan starter Blake Beers recorded two consecutive outs, second baseman Tommy Gardiner drove a long home run over the batter’s eye in centerfield, scoring Cowles and reducing Maryland’s deficit to 4-3.
Savacool’s shakiest outing of the year came to an end in the top of the third after a leadoff walk of Obertop. The freshman completed just two full innings, and all four runs surrendered were earned. Right-hander Sean Heine came in in relief but was unable to hold the Wolverine lineup down for long.
“[Savacool’s] a young pup. He’s a young guy who’s continuing to get better, and days like this are good for him. It shows that he needs us, but it also shows him that we can take care of him,” Vaughn said. “That’s a huge lesson for a young arm to learn because Jason is going to win an absurd amount of games in a Maryland uniform.”
In the top of the fourth, Rogers walked and advanced to second, and third baseman Christian Molfetta lined a two-run homer over the wall in left-center to expand Michigan’s lead to 6-3.
Cowles led the bottom of the fourth off with his ninth home run of the season, a long solo shot that looked almost identical to the one hit by Molfetta the inning before. With the Wolverine lead cut to 6-4, Beers was pulled in favor of left-hander Jack White.
White was greeted by a loud double to left-center off the bat of left fielder Tucker Flint, and Alleyne and Bednar reached base behind him to load the bases with two outs for Costes. Maryland’s first baseman battled but eventually struck out, leaving an opportunity to tie the game on the field.
The Terps put the leadoff man on in the next inning, giving the middle of the lineup a chance to come away with runs. White’s pickoff attempt to first sailed towards the Michigan bullpen, allowing third baseman Matt Shaw to advance to third with no outs. Catcher Luke Shliger reached on an error by Jack Marty at first, pushing Shaw across and bringing Maryland within one.
Right-hander Isaiah Paige replaced White with no outs and a runner on first in the frame, and the Terps’ offense took over, scoring three runs and taking the lead on a two-run single from Alleyne.
“We knew, and that was a message that [the coaching staff] preached, that we cannot get comfortable because those guys don’t quit,” Vaughn said. “Eric Bakich teams don’t quit.”
Right-hander Will Proctor took over for Paige and retired the side, but Maryland took an 8-6 lead into the sixth inning.
The Terps blew the game wide open in the bottom of the sixth. The aggressive Maryland lineup tallied seven runs credited to five different batters, going through four Michigan pitchers and extending their lead to nine over the nationally-ranked Wolverines.
Alleyne would add another two runs on a triple off the batter’s eye in center, part of a breakout 4-5 day at the plate for the Terps’ centerfielder.
Righty Sam Bello replaced reliever Tyler Blohm in the sixth and surrendered just one run on one hit over 3.2 innings of brilliant relief to secure the win for Maryland.
“They just kept pouring it on for me,” Bello said on his offense’s support while he was pitching. “That’s the relentlessness this team can show, once we keep that going we’re definitely going to be a scary team to face.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s offense was as productive as it's been all year on Monday. The Terps tallied a season-second 17 runs on 15 hits against a nationally ranked Michigan team that had not given up more than eight runs all season. Eight of the nine batters in the lineup recorded at least one hit, and all nine reached base. Seven Terps drove in runs, and five of those seven drove in two or more in Monday’s blowout win.
“[Gardiner’s] home run was huge for us ... that put us right back in the game,” Flint said. “We know as an offense that we’re capable of doing what we did today, so four runs aren't going to stop us from having a chance in the game. So when the bullpen comes on and does its job and Tommy hits that home run, we were rolling from there.”
2. The Terps have won four of their last five games. After losing to Iowa twice and Ohio State once at the end of March, Maryland has since turned things around. In the second game of the series against the Buckeyes, the Terps defeated Ohio State, 9-3. Maryland then had back-to-back victories against Northwestern. On April 5, the Terps lost a close game to No. 25 Michigan, 6-5 but today bounced back in a dominant fashion to split the series with the Wolverines and finish the College Park Pod with a 3-1 record.
“There isn’t a pushover in this league right now. We’re playing more league games than anyone in the country, in 44,” Vaughn said. “You get bruised and bloodied up in this league. Everybody wants to talk about the SEC, ACC, PAC-12 ... you look around our league and there’s some dang good baseball being played.”
3. Center fielder Chris Alleyne broke out with a fantastic performance at the plate. Alleyne entered Monday’s game batting .224 with nine RBI over the course of the season’s first 18 games. Maryland’s outfield captain recorded four hits in five at-bats on Monday, adding four RBI to his total and stealing two bases as well. It was a much-needed breakout performance for Alleyne, who is an integral table-setter for Maryland at the top of the lineup.
“We’re going to lose some really good players next year, be it to pro ball, be it to graduation. I think [Alleyne is] going to be the hardest guy to replace,” Vaughn said. “He’s been very, very vocal this last week or so about the mentality, about the togetherness ... about coming out as a unit and trying to take down somebody. He’s really been leading that charge with that.”