Down 0-3 in a series against Michigan State, Maryland baseball needed a catalyst for change.
Against a freshman pitcher who had never seen a start in collegiate baseball before, Michigan State needed just one run in the bottom of the 9th to seal it. Jason Savacool, on the other hand, needed seven pitches to slam the door on the Spartans sweep. And he managed it, getting the final out and ensuring a Maryland win.
Savacool had a dominant performance in his debut, pitching a complete game and surrendering just one earned run in Maryland’s 3-2 victory.
“That was about as dominating, unbelievable of a freshman performance that I’ve ever seen,” coach Rob Vaughn said.
So far this season, Savacool is the only Division I freshman to pitch a nine-inning complete game. And for a Maryland team that was 0-3 before he took the mound, his big game couldn’t have come at a better time.
Savacool delivered against a prolific Michigan State lineup. The Spartans ranked second in the Big Ten in batting average last year. The freshman pitcher held a largely unchanged lineup to a .200 batting average in his debut. That ranks second to only Sean Burke among Terps for pitchers with six or more innings of work.
Vaughn emphasized the value of leaving Greenville, South Carolina, with a victory as opposed to going 0-4, calling the outing a “must-win game.” Savacool’s stellar performance could set the tone for this week’s series against Rutgers.
The series finale also salvaged what was an otherwise lackluster performance on the weekend by the Terps’ defense. Other than fellow underclassman Connor Staine, no Terp pitchers managed an ERA under four for the weekend.
With his performance, Savacool cemented his place as a starter for the coming weeks and could inch his way to becoming a secondary pitcher to Burke. If the Terps keep struggling sans Savacool or Burke, he could find his way into that role sooner than later.
Vaughn has talked about how much Savacool has matured over the short time he’s been in College Park, opting for a simplified pitching arsenal. On Sunday, Vaughn said Savacool pitched like a four-year starter. The fact that Savacool’s performance came after an extended offseason in which the Terps were robbed of playing summer ball only adds to his growing reputation among teammates and the coaching staff.
Savacool’s ambitions for the MLB could also find their start here.
The New York native was reportedly bypassed in the MLB draft after posting a lofty signing bonus that he would require to skip college. The MLB draft was reduced to five rounds from 40 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, he said he’d rather play at Maryland for three more years to increase his chances of being drafted higher.
For now, Savacool has the chance to play the role of the Terps’ Sunday savior. And over time, that could make the difference for them.