For the second straight inning to open Sunday’s game against Indiana, Maryland baseball right-hander Trevor LaBonte found himself facing two runners on and no outs.
The Hoosiers plated two runs in the first inning before shortstop AJ Lee cut the Terps’ deficit in half with a solo homer in the bottom half of the frame. But LaBonte, with his pitch count rising and in a similar bind in the second, served up a three-run homer to second baseman Drew Ashley. Then, with the next pitch, designated hitter Matt Lloyd jacked a solo shot to left-center.
The onslaught was on once again.
After right-hander Hunter Parsons hurled a two-hit, eight-inning gem in Friday’s series-opening win, Maryland’s pitching staff dissolved. LaBonte managed just 2 ⅓, giving up seven hits, nine runs and four walks as Indiana eviscerated Maryland in a 19-4 rubber match win. The Terps allowed 39 runs this weekend, the most in a three-game set since Virginia posted 43 in 2010.
“Obviously, to be on a skid like this at home is frustrating,” third baseman Taylor Wright said. “And to lose two games like that is frustrating. We’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and work on some things and try to pick each other up as best we can.”
Fueled by last year’s season-ending sweep to the Hoosiers, which held the Terps out of the Big Ten tournament for the first time, Parsons shut out the highest-scoring team in the conference. A squeeze bunt and sacrifice fly scraped across two runs — enough to earn a 2-0 win to open Big Ten play.
But right-hander Zach Thompson’s pitch count ballooned to 78 through three innings Saturday after giving up eight hits and seven runs, as Indiana pummeled the Terps with 20 runs on 18 hits. Right-hander Mark DiLuia provided 3 ⅔ innings in relief, preserving plenty of arms for a similarly disastrous finale.
LaBonte was chased in the third after Indiana loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. Right-hander Elliot Zoellner struck out his first batter but walked a run in and gave up a three-run double to Lloyd, who finished 3-for-5 with seven RBIs.
“That dude didn’t miss a barrel for three days,” coach Rob Vaughn said. “It’s kind of indicative of their team. … When they’re swinging the bat well, those guys are running to the plate ready to hit.”
Zoellner held Indiana scoreless in the fourth, but the floodgates opened again in the fifth. Right-hander Nick Turnbull loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter, and a fielder’s choice brought one run home. Then, on a dribbler, Turnbull misplayed the pickup and couldn’t flip to first in time, plating a second run that caused Vaughn to call to the bullpen.
On right-hander Will Glock’s second pitch in relief, first baseman Scotty Bradley hammered a three-run shot to right, continuing another power display after the Hoosiers blasted nine during Saturday’s shellacking.
“They just put some good swings on some balls,” Lee said. “That’s just how baseball goes sometimes.”
Maryland’s offense didn’t cause too many issues for left-hander Andrew Saalfrank in his six innings, either. After Lee’s homer, Wright blooped a double just inside the left-field line in the third to score right fielder Randy Bednar all the way from first — but it was all the Terps would muster on the junior, and they struck out 17 times total Sunday.
“I’m not really sure why that happened,” Wright said. “They had some good arms and we just didn’t have great at-bats.”
On Thursday, pitching coach Corey Muscara gave an impassioned speech to the Terps after practice, highlighting both the good and bad while emphasizing that Maryland needed just a few plays to go its way to turn its .500 record into something more convincing. The start of the Big Ten slate seemed to be a good time for such a message.
Parsons remarked how conference play marks the start of a new season. But after the senior carried his team to a 2-0 win Friday, the bad predominantly shined through.
And there was hardly a cheer from Indiana’s dugout when Lloyd hit a three-run shot in the eighth. It was an unneeded exclamation point on a series long over by that point.
“You’ve got to own bad days,” Vaughn said. “It’s easy to be excited when things are good. Sometimes you have really tough weekends, tough days, and we’ve had some this year. We can either make it part of our story moving forward or we can make it part of our excuse and what we don’t like about this group. But I believe in these guys and still really love these guys.”