“Fight like hell for one more day together,” head coach Rob Vaughn told his team following Friday night’s loss to Charlotte with an elimination game against Norfolk State looming the next day.
Maryland did just that, showing up in a major way with its backs against the wall in a 16-0 onslaught over Norfolk State to stay alive in the Greenville Regional.
“That was a good win for us,” Vaughn said. “I thought the first couple of innings we played really tight. ... When the boys let loose and let it fly, aided by a couple homers, it let everybody breathe a little bit.”
Maryland got going early and never looked back as hits and home runs came early and often for the Terps as they put up their third-highest run total this season. Seven Maryland players recorded a hit, with designated hitter Bobby Zmarzlak and first baseman Maxwell Costes leading the way.
Zmarzlak was 4-5 with two home runs and four RBIs, while Costes had a homer of his own to go along with three RBIs.
While Maryland dropped the Friday night game to Charlotte, it certainly wasn't due to a lack of runs. The strong bats continued into Saturday for the Terps as Zmarzlak hit a three-run home run in the top of the first inning to give Maryland an early 3-0 lead.
Costes and right fielder Randy Bednar both scored on the homer after reaching base thanks to a walk and a hit by a pitch, respectively.
In the bottom of the second inning, Maryland pitcher Sean Burke found himself in some trouble. Burke gave up one hit and two walks to put himself in a bases-loaded jam with one out.
However, Burke did not waver. Instead, he delivered back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the inning unscathed.
“We got the group together in about the third inning because I could feel it, there was a lot of tightness, a lot of frustration,” Vaughn said. “I told them ‘we’ve been playing elimination games since the beginning of April and I haven't seen you guys tight, so let it fly a little bit.’”
The following inning, Maryland continued to pile on runs. Second baseman Matt Shaw opened the inning with a double down the left-field line. Shortstop Benjamin Cowles was then hit by a pitch to put two on.
Later in the inning, with two on and one out, Costes stepped up to the plate. Costes took the first pitch he saw out of the ballpark for Maryland’s second three-run homer on the day and to give the Terps a comfortable 6-0 lead.
With the bases cleared, Maryland wasn't done adding insurance in the third. The next at-bat Zmarzlak singled to third and third baseman Tommy Gardiner was walked. Catcher Justin Vought also singled to drive in Zmarzlak from second base.
Center fielder Troy Schreffle then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Gardiner home. Maryland left the half-inning with an 8-0 advantage.
The onslaught didn't slow down in the fourth inning. Shaw reached base on a hit by a pitch. Cowles then did what he’s done all year delivering a ball way over the fence for his 18th home run on the year. After a pitching change from the Spartans, Bednar delivered a solo homer to extend Maryland’s lead even more.
The home run party continued with Justin Vought hitting a two-run shot for his ninth of the year. Schreffle then homered to right field on the first pitch he saw for his first long ball of the year. Maryland hit four home runs in the inning to take a 14-0 lead.
In the sixth inning, Zmarzlak hit his second home run of the day, this time a solo shot to right field.
As Maryland began to bring in some bench players in the later innings, it didn't stop the runs from coming in. In the eighth inning, Maryland loaded the bases with two outs. The Spartans walked catcher Riley Langerman, who replaced Vought, which allowed Bednar to score and give Maryland its 16th and final run of the game.
This was the second time this year that Maryland pitched a combined shutout. Zach Thompson replaced Burke after six innings and finished the job, striking out three batters while not allowing a single hit in three innings pitched.
“The motto is just to play one more day with each other and we don't want this season to end,” Zmarzlak said.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s path forward. The Terps live to see another day after eliminating Norfolk State on Saturday afternoon. Maryland will now face the loser of the East Carolina/Charlotte game taking place later today. If the Terps beat the loser of that game on Sunday, they will then face the winner of the East Carolina/Charlotte game later in the day on Sunday. If Maryland can beat both teams on Sunday, they will force a final game on Monday to decide who advances to the super regionals.
2. The Terps launched the ball all afternoon. Maryland hit seven home runs against the Spartans, the most they have hit in a game all season. Six different Terps launched one out of the park. Maryland also had 12 hits on the afternoon.
“Sixteen runs certainly feels good,” Vought said. “We kind of came out early on and didn't play our brand of baseball and made that adjustment and finished strong.”
3. Sean Burke showed his poise on Saturday. In the first three innings, Burke allowed multiple guys to reach base before an out was recorded. Despite getting himself into difficult situations early, Maryland’s ace was always able to get himself out of jams. Burke pitched six scoreless innings and threw eight punchouts. He finished the day with a 3.27 ERA.
“That’s what superstars do,” Vaughn said. “When they need to make pitches, they make them. ... I don't think it was his best outing, but he made pitches in the right spot.”