With Maryland baseball hanging onto a one-run lead in the eighth inning Sunday, right fielder Randy Bednar continued his breakout weekend.
The sophomore had driven center fielder Chris Alleyne in with an RBI single in the sixth, giving the Terps the lead back against VCU. Then, after catcher Sebastian Holte-Mancera led off the eighth with an infield single and Alleyne bunted him into scoring position, Bednar’s two-out base knock through the left side provided Maryland an insurance run.
In a largely new-look outfield after the departures of Marty Costes, Zach Jancarski and Will Watson, Bednar has the most experience, having played 43 games as a rookie. And as a de facto elder statesman in an otherwise unproven lineup, Bednar came through in the clutch Sunday, helping Maryland earn its first win of the season, 5-3, over VCU.
The tournament-closing victory prevented the Terps from suffering their first season-opening sweep since 2013.
“Randy’s just flipped the script,” coach Rob Vaughn said. “The way that kid’s transformed himself as a person and the way he’s transformed the way he attacks games and his complete absence of a fear of failure is what’s allowing him to really operate and play with some freedom.”
Through the two losses earlier in the weekend, Bednar was one of the few bright spots for Maryland. He had a run and hit against Campbell on Friday and added two RBIs against No. 21 Coastal Carolina on Saturday.
But initially, third baseman Taylor Wright provided the Terps with their initial spark Sunday.
Wright laid down a sacrifice bunt in the first inning to push Bednar and left fielder Caleb Walls to second and third base. Then, designated hitter Maxwell Costes plated Walls with a sacrifice fly, giving Maryland a 1-0 lead in the first.
Wright then reached on another bunt single in the third inning, scoring Alleyne from third in the process.
“When you start putting pressure on yourself, that’s when bad things start to happen,” Bednar said. “So you just go up there loose [and] confident, good things will happen and I think the team as a whole showed that more today.”
And while its offense came up big at crucial moments, sporadic pitching opened the door for VCU in the first and fourth innings. With bases loaded in the opening frame, starter Tyler Blohm plunked designated hitter Jack Schroeder, allowing Zac Ching to score from third base.
In a similar situation in the fourth, right-hander Trevor LaBonte uncorked a wild pitch and catcher Josh Simon took advantage, running home from third to tie the game at 2.
Another defensive blunder cost Maryland its lead later in the fourth. With left-hander Sean Fisher on the mound, Ching advanced to second on a throwing error at first base and right fielder Alex Taylor scampered home, putting VCU up by one.
“Obviously we want to limit the freebies,” Vaughn said. “Hit by pitches don’t much bother me. I mean we’re going to pitch in, we’re going to attack in with the fastball and when you do that you’re going to hit some guys every now and then.”
Blohm exited after 2 ⅓ innings, allowing two hits, two walks and one run during his 40-pitch outing, cut short as the Terps manage the junior left-hander after a shoulder injury sidetracked the end of his 2018 campaign.
With seven pitchers used, Maryland sidestepped out of danger with regularity, stranding 15 runners on base. With bases loaded in the fifth, right-hander Nick Turnbull struck out Taylor — his first punchout as a Terp after transferring from Harford Community College — to close the door on VCU’s best chance to recover the lead.
With Sean Heine, Will Glock and John Murphy all in the mix, the Terps managed to hold VCU scoreless through the final five innings. And behind Bednar’s 2-RBI performance, Maryland recovered with a win to end its season-opening weekend.
“This season we’re going to play a lot of tight games like this where it’s coming down to the last couple innings,” Friday starter Hunter Parsons said. “We need the bullpen guys to go out there and give us zeroes or get us back into the dugout as quick as we can to get the offense back going.”