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Defensive struggles plague Maryland baseball in 6-2 loss to Nebraska

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The Terps struggled to keep themselves in it with lapses on in the field.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

In the bottom of the fifth inning, with Nebraska already leading 3-1 thanks to a two-run RBI single earlier in the inning, the Huskers had pitcher Spencer Schwellenbach on second. After a pitch got by Maryland catcher Justin Vought, Schwellenbach advanced toward third.

Vought threw to third base, but his throw wasn’t near another Maryland jersey and rolled into the outfield. Nebraska’s base runner rounded home on the throwing error, extending the Huskers lead to three.

Defensive woes crippled Maryland and allowed the Huskers to pile in runs as Nebraska took game one of the three game series, 6-2. The Terps had three fielding errors in the contest.

“There’s a huge difference in intensity and tightness and I thought we were playing tight, not intense, early,” head coach Rob Vaughn said.

To start the evening, right-handed pitcher Sean Burke gave up a leadoff double to right fielder Joe Acker. Acker was able to cross home-plate before the Terps could head back to the dug out, giving Nebraska an early 1-0 lead after the first.

Maryland’s first hit of the game came in the fourth inning from a single to left field from outfielder Randy Bednar. Third baseman Matt Shaw then reached first base on a fielder’s choice and first baseman Maxwell Costes did the same to remain the lone baserunner at first.

Designated hitter Luke Shliger hit a double to center field, advancing Costes to third. With men on second and third, the Huskers decided to intentionally walk shortstop Benjamin Cowles, who has the best batting average on the team at .379, to load the bases.

With the bases loaded, left fielder Tucker Flint drew a walk to bring the tying run home. Second baseman Justin Vought struck out the following at bat to end the inning and leave the bases filled with only one run to show for it.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Burke walked a batter to start the inning off. Acker looked as if he was going to bunt in the next at-bat, forcing Shaw to slide up the left field line at third base. Instead, Acker hit a chopper that bounced over Shaw’s head for a double.

With runners on second and third and only one out, Schwellenbach singled through the right side, advancing two runners home and giving the Huskers a 3-1 lead. The Huskers ended the inning with a three run lead after Vought’s throwing error.

Heading into the sixth inning, Sean Burke was up to 98 pitches on the day and had allowed three runs in the previous inning. Despite that, Burke remained in the game.

Burke gave up a solo homer in the sixth to extend the Huskers lead to four. Following the homer, Burke was pulled after 5.2 innings pitched and Sean Heine came in to replace him.

“I think Burke threw the ball well today,” Vaughn said. “So I don’t regret sending him back out there in the six.”

In the top of the seventh, Vought destroyed a ball with no one on base for his first homer of the season in the 7th inning to cut the Terps deficit to three runs. However, it was too little, too late as Maryland could not get any more runs on the board in the loss.

Three things to know

1. Chris Alleyne showed out for the Terps. If there was any bright spot from the loss, it was that leadoff hitter Chris Alleyne continued to be productive, tallying three hits and being hit by a pitch in Friday’s matchup. Alleyne has recorded multiple hits in three of the last four games, including a four hit day against Michigan last Monday.

“There’s not much of a mentality shift, just executing a little better than before,” Alleyne said on his recent success at the plate.

2. Maryland has struggled away from home this season. While the Terps have posted a 5-3 record at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium in College Park, Maryland is 4-8 on the road or at neutral locations. If the Terps are going to turn the season around and make a push in the Big Ten standings, they will need to start producing away from home. Maryland will have a chance to turn that trend around as it finishes up the weekend series in Lincoln with games on Saturday and Sunday.

“You got to embrace the moment, play care free, play like we do at home and enjoy,” Vought said.

3. Sean Burke went deep into the game but did not have his best outing. Maryland’s ace, who has become Vaughn’s go to Friday pitcher to open weekend series’, has been solid this season but struggled to find command on Friday. Burke threw 105 pitches and faced 26 batters in 5.2 innings pitched. While Burke struck out six, he allowed four hits and four earned runs. He finished the day with a 5.06 ERA.