In the top of the fourth, center fielder Chris Alleyne singled through the right side. The Big Ten leader in steals then stole second base and later advanced to third on a ground out. With two outs and Alleyne on third, first baseman Maxwell Costes stepped up to the batter’s box.
With a chance to get the tying run home, Costes struck out looking, ending the inning. That was the story for Maryland all evening as they came up empty-handed at the plate in a 2-0 loss to Illinois.
Friday’s contest quickly turned into a pitcher’s duel between two elite throwers with hits coming few and far between for both teams.
Maryland’s high-powered offense was not what it’s been all season on Friday, as Maryland had only three hits, the second-lowest hit total of the season for the Terps. The loss snapped a six-game win streak for Maryland.
“That was a pitcher’s duel at its finest,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “The difference was they were able to string three of their five hits together and ours were spaced out throughout the game.”
Illinois starting pitcher Andrew Hoffmann was in a zone, throwing a career-high 12 strikeouts in 7.2 innings pitched.
Through two innings, Right-handed pitcher Nick Dean had not allowed a hit on the day. That changed in the third when Illinois’ Nathan Aide hit a double to get on base. The following Illini batter hit a single into right field to drive home Illinois’ first run of the game.
Later in the inning, Illinois had two runners in scoring position with just one out. However, Dean pitched himself out of the jam, leaving the inning down only one run.
Despite Alleyne getting on base and advancing to third in the fourth inning, Costes striking out looking left a bitter taste in the Terps’ mouth as the perfect chance to level the score came and went.
In the fifth inning, designated hitter Matt Orlando got a base hit. A couple of at-bats later, with one out, right fielder Troy Schreffler grounded into a double play to once again end the inning with no runs to show for it for the Terps.
“We’ve done such a good job of reducing punches the last few weeks and just punched out way too many times tonight,” Vaughn said.
Illinois’ added some insurance to their lead in the eighth inning when they found themselves with runners on first and third. Relief pitcher Elliott Zoellner through a wild pitch that got behind the catcher, allowing Illinois’ runner to advance home and extend their lead.
While both teams had a tough time getting runners on base, neither team could capitalize when they did. Maryland was 0-13 with runners on base, while Illinois was 3-12. Illinois only needed five hits to pick up the win on the back of its ace.
While the win streak has been snapped for the Terps, they will have a couple of opportunities to avenge the loss on Saturday. The final two games of the series will be played in a doubleheader on Saturday with inclement weather expected for Sunday.
Three things to know
1. Maryland struggled at the plate. Maryland’s offense has been electric at the plate in recent outings but failed to continue that in Champaign on Friday evening. Maryland recorded just 3 hits with a .100 batting average.
“To be honest, I think we just weren’t taking very competitive at bats as a team,” catcher Riley Langerman said. “It was hard to string together and that’s what you need to get runs.”
The Terps have not had a scoreless outing since the first game of the season back on March 5.
2. Illinois dominated the strike zone. Hoffman, who went 7.2 innings deep, threw a career-high 12 strikeouts, while Maryland only threw one in the game. Hoffman posted a 3.27 ERA while throwing 112 total pitches.
“His change-up is really, really good and he just gave you nothing,” Vaughn said. “It was like suffocating.”
3. Nick Dean went deep into the game for Maryland. While he did not get the win and Hoffman was certainly the star, Dean was dominant in the outing. Dean pitched 7.1 innings and allowed just 5 hits and one earned run. Dean also posted a strike percentage of 71 and got himself out of difficult jams all evening.
“I had four pitches working for me tonight,” Dean said. “This is really huge because then they can’t sit on one pitch because they really don't know what's coming at that point.”