Prior to Maryland baseball’s season opener Friday night against Charleston Southern, head coach Rob Vaughn acknowledged both teams would have to work through some first-game jitters.
“Everybody’s going to be super amped up,” Vaughn said. “It’s going to be all about getting some of those nerves kicked off … and playing a good brand of baseball.”
Those jitters were evident for both the Terps and the Buccaneers Friday night in Charleston, combining for four errors, ten walks and seven hit batters.
But Maryland took greater advantage of Charleston Southern’s miscues, riding a five-run seventh inning to an 11-2 opening night win.
The Terps wasted no time jumping on Buccaneers’ ace Jaret Bennett — center fielder Chris Alleyne roped a double down the left field line on the season’s first pitch, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Randy Bednar groundout.
Junior left-hander Sean Fisher took the mound for Maryland, making his first collegiate start after appearing in 47 games as a reliever during his first two seasons. He started strong with a clean first inning, but Maryland’s defense broke down behind him in the second.
Right fielder Kyle Horton reached on an error by second baseman Austin Chavis. Horton then scored on a two-out, two-strike single by shortstop Shane Kelleher.
Kelleher would come around to score one batter later courtesy of a Christian Maggio single and a Bednar miscue — the junior’s throw into third base sailed over Tommy Gardiner, pushing the Buccaneers ahead.
As the game progressed, though, the starters settled. Bennett was particularly dazzling, striking out seven and giving up three hits in five innings.
Connor Yoder took over for Bennett and recorded two quick outs in the top of the sixth, setting the stage for a routine 1-2-3 inning.
That’s when designated hitter Tucker Flint singled. One batter later, shortstop Benjamin Cowles walked, bringing Chavis to the plate with a chance to knot the game up — or even take the lead.
Chavis struck a grounder to third baseman Reid Hardwick, seemingly spelling the end to Maryland’s hopes of equalizing. But Hardwick’s throw sailed over first baseman Ryan Stoudemire’s head, allowing Flint to score.
One pitch later, and Maryland was ahead, courtesy of yet another Buccaneers’ mistake. Gardiner popped up behind Yoder, but the ball dropped between Kelleher and second baseman Ryan Rizk. Cowles came in to score, giving Maryland a 3-2 lead.
That was enough insurance for Fisher, who ended his night in the sixth by striking out Stoudemire. In 5.1 innings, Fisher allowed two unearned runs and three hits, and struck out five to notch his first victory as a starter.
And as the game shifted to the seventh, the Terps began to dominate, the jitters that were so omnipresent in the second inning giving way to a more confident display — one that was especially evident while batting.
Troy Schreffler led off with a walk, and soon he would be crossing home plate, as would Bednar, first baseman Maxwell Costes, Flint and catcher Justin Vought as Maryland’s advantage ballooned to six.
On the mound, right-hander Sam Bello picked up where Fisher left off. The fireballing freshman struck out seven in 3.2 innings while allowing one hit and one walk.
Schreffler’s two-run triple and Bednar’s RBI single in the top of the ninth cemented the Terps’ victory, the team looking to carry their newfound looseness into Saturday’s game against Iona.