Coming off of nine straight wins at home and two in a row against Purdue, Maryland baseball looked to sweep the Boilermakers with a win on Sunday in College Park.
Purdue struck first for the second day in a row, but Maryland ace Sean Burke refused to let the early disadvantage rattle him. He buckled down through the fifth inning, holding the Boilermakers to just three more hits and forcing weak contact consistently.
Behind Burke’s arm and a solid day at the plate, Maryland baseball defeated Purdue, 7-2, to complete the sweep and come away with its 19th win in its last 24 games.
The Boilermakers struck first in the top of the opening inning after an error by left fielder Bobby Zmarzlak put two runners in scoring position with one out. Burke surrendered a run on a fielder’s choice to shortstop but limited the damage to just one.
The Terps bounced right back in the bottom of the same inning. Second baseman Matt Shaw sent a fastball from Purdue starter Cory Brooks over the batter’s eye in dead center field to put Maryland on the board and tie the game up at one. Third baseman Tommy Gardiner followed up with a two-run triple to center and DH Luke Shliger added an opposite-field RBI single to put the Terps up 4-1.
However, Maryland struggled to add on after its explosion of runs. The second and third innings each saw Maryland baserunners stranded in scoring position as Purdue’s pitching managed to maneuver through the red-hot Terp lineup.
After three innings of chipping away at Purdue’s bullpen, Maryland finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth. Gardiner lined a double to left, advancing Matt Orlando to third and setting the Terps up with a chance to start putting the game out of reach.
Right fielder Troy Schreffler followed up with a hard grounder down the third base line that skipped over Purdue third baseman Ryan Howe’s glove for a two-run double. The Terps finally forced reliever Jett Jackson out of the game and increased their lead to 6-1.
On the other side of the ball, Burke was working on one of his most dominant performances of the season. After surrendering a lone unearned run in the top of the first, he turned in an additional five innings of one-run baseball, giving up just four hits and striking out four batters on the afternoon with two dozen scouts sitting in the bleachers behind home plate.
Purdue added a run in the top of the sixth on a double off the wall from left fielder Ben Nisle, but Burke limited the damage and got his offense back in the batter’s box.
The Terps took advantage of Burke’s rebound effort. Shaw tallied his third hit of the afternoon on a single to center, and small ball and an RBI single from Matt Orlando increased the Maryland lead to 7-2.
Burke was relived by sidearmer Elliot Zoellner, who was lights out from the bullpen. The righty retired six Boilermaker batters in a row in the seventh and eighth, striking out four along the way and whittling away at Purdue’s chances of a comeback.
Zoellner came back out for the ninth and worked a clean frame, closing the door on Maryland’s 7-2 victory.
Three things to know
1. Shaw continues to be the hottest hitter in Maryland’s lineup. The freshman turned in a 3-for-5 day on Sunday with a single, double and a long homer to center field in the Terps’ sweep clinching victory. He entered the contest batting a team-best .333 with a .903 OPS, providing quality at-bats from the top of the Maryland order in every game. Shaw’s ability to play at such a high level is surely a good sign for the program in the coming years, and has been a critical part of this year’s playoff push through the second half of the season.
2. Maryland’s pitchers have been playing at their best. The Terps’ stable of arms gave up just three runs to the Boilermakers all weekend long, shutting down their conference foe and giving their offense a chance to play from ahead. Starters Nick Dean, Jason Savacool were all lights out in their outings, and the bullpen was equally as stingy, refusing to allow Purdue to claw its way back into games late. Solid pitching performance will be of the utmost importance in the coming weeks as the Terps will play two of the conference’s best offenses, Michigan and Indiana, to round out the regular season.
3. The Terps continue to push towards an NCAA Tournament bid. Maryland has won 10 straight home games dating back to their pod series win over Michigan on April 5, and have improved its season record to 24-14. Once near the basement in the Big Ten standings, the Terps now have sole possession of fourth place and are just one game behind Michigan in third. Their remaining six games are all against teams above them in the standings, and the Terps have a quality chance to cement themselves into a playoff spot with good play over the last two weekends of the regular season.