Maryland baseball shortstop Kevin Smith took four straight balls from UMBC right-hander Matt Chanin in the third inning Saturday afternoon, a sign that the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year was maintaining a patient approach at the plate.
It was Smith’s first plate appearance against the Retrievers starter that seemingly sparked the Terps offense, as Chanin lost control of the strike zone and never regained it in Maryland’s 16-2 win in the NCAA tournament elimination matchup. A night after stranding 10 runners in a loss to West Virginia, the Terps set a program NCAA tournament record for scoring.
Catcher Justin Morris followed Smith’s four-pitch walk — the first of 13 for the Terps — with a two-run home run into the shrubs in deep right field in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Chanin walked two of the next four batters he faced, but after he escaped the frame without giving up another run, it seemed the Retrievers might keep the game close.
That didn’t prove to be the case, as Maryland scored six times in the fourth, an inning that required three UMBC pitchers to complete. With runners on first and second, left fielder Dan Maynard hit a ground ball to third baseman Christian Torres, who overthrew second base and allowed second baseman Nick Dunn to score.
The error pushed the Terps’ lead to two before Smith’s next at-bat, perhaps his biggest this season. Smith fouled off a series of pitches but worked the count full. Then, he hit a three-run home run to center field. The blast made it a 6-1 contest and ended Chanin’s day.
After the offensive outburst, Maryland continued adding to its lead. Third baseman AJ Lee doubled in a run in the fifth, extending his on-base streak to a season-long 23 games. First baseman Brandon Gum added a two-RBI single in the same frame, which put the Terps into double digits for the seventh time this year. And right fielder Marty Costes smacked a two-out, two-run home run to left-center field in the seventh.
It was all the insurance right-hander Taylor Bloom would require as he pitched with Maryland’s season on the line. He followed his five-inning outing against Purdue with an extended start versus the Retrievers, enabling the Terps to move forward in the regional with a rested bullpen. Over eight innings, Bloom allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks.
Smith added another long ball in the eighth, a hit that pushed Maryland’s lead to 15 runs. Throughout the day Saturday, the shortstop led Maryland rallies, propelling the Terps to another elimination game Sunday against the winner of Saturday night’s Wake Forest/West Virginia game.