When Maryland baseball first baseman Brandon Gum noticed Penn State third baseman Logan Goodnight playing farther back than usual in the ninth inning Friday, he considered pushing a bunt down the third base line in Goodnight’s direction. However, instead of bunting right-hander Sal Biasi’s first pitch, Gum waited.
Center fielder Zach Jancarski’s home run to deep left field on a 1-2 pitch moments prior tied the game at one in the bottom of the ninth, easing the pressure on Gum. The Terps struggled to make contact with Biasi’s fastball, recording just one hit entering the final frame.
But Biasi’s first pitch to Gum was a hanging fastball, and the George Mason transfer took advantage. Gum deposited the ball over the left field wall, giving Maryland a 2-1 win over Penn State to open the three-game weekend series at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
“It just shows a lot of fight,” Gum said. “Coming from behind in baseball is not easy to do. We had a starter out there, and he’s a little more tired than a closer would be. We have a lot of dramatics going on this year.”
Maryland’s latest come-from-behind win came after coach John Szefc’s squad was unable to come back from a 7-0 deficit Wednesday against George Mason and after Biasi dominated the Terps’ lineup Friday.
Though he entered Friday’s matchup with a 4.15 ERA, the Nittany Lions’ ace used his fastball to make quick work of Maryland’s order over the first eight innings. Gum said it took time to adjust because Biasi threw about seven miles per hour faster than the opposing starters in the Terps’ midweek contests against West Virginia and the Patriots.
Maryland’s leadoff man reached base just twice over the first eight innings, and it seemed the Terps wouldn’t score a run for the first time since Feb. 25.
“[Biasi] was throwing fastballs pretty much the whole game, which is normally what we succeed on,” Jancarski said. “He did a good job of being effectively wild.”
Until the top of the fifth, Terps right-hander Brian Shaffer, who entered Friday’s start with a 1.94 ERA, matched Biasi’s dominance. He worked around shortstop Kevin Smith’s one-out error in the first and a one-out single in the third.
But Shaffer hung a fastball on a 2-1 pitch to Nittany Lions catcher Ryan Sloniger in the fifth, one of his lone miscues on the night, and Sloniger deposited the ball over the right-field wall to give Penn State a 1-0 advantage. At that point, it seemed it was all the offense Biasi would need.
“We didn’t do a good job catching up with [the fastball],” Szefc said. “But you’ve got to get all 27 outs. That’s the way the game goes.”
When assistant coach Ryan Fecteau took the ball from Shaffer with an out in the ninth, Terps thought they had to win to support Shaffer, who allowed one run over 8 ⅓ innings while striking out 11.
After left-hander Andrew Miller struck out Sloniger and catcher Nick Cieri caught right fielder Braxton Giavedoni stealing on the same pitch, Miller left the mound and clenched his fist. Trailing by a run, the Terps turned to a familiar mentality.
“Not if, but when,” Jancarski said. Shaffer echoed the same.
So with Biasi entering the ninth at 99 pitches, Maryland’s offense rallied. Jancarski jumped on a 2-2 fastball, and after contemplating a bunt, Gum propelled the Terps to their first walk off win of the season. Maryland’s bench greeted Gum at the plate by jumping and screaming simultaneously.
“Obviously, we had a pretty bad game overall before that last inning,” Jancarski said. “In the ninth inning, we could feel it. It’s going to happen and it’s going to happen right now. There was no fear, no worry. No one was surprised it happened either.”