More than a month ago, Maryland baseball was 10-12 and floundering in the middle of the Big Ten with an unknown direction to its season. The NCAA tournament was a long thought that sat lonely as the season progressed.
Not anymore. Against No. 24 Michigan, that thought screamed closer for the Terps with a massive season series win over the Wolverines, 7-3. With the victory, Maryland tied Michigan for second place in the Big Ten.
The game carried heavy stakes for the Terps and the Wolverines. Both teams focused on capturing the overall season series, a win that could give either side a major advantage in the chase for the postseason.
Both the Terps and Wolverines clawed away at the scoreboard early.
Ben Cowles — the Big Ten’s home run leader — slugged a two-run homer in his first at-bat for Maryland. Following him up, Randy Bednar hit a solo shot to help put three on Michigan in the first. After only tallying six hits in its last matchup, coach Rob Vaughn’s squad had nearly equaled that in the inning.
“When [Chris Alleyne’s] on base, our offense works,” Vaughn said. “[He] gets on base to lead off the game, and guys behind him get pitches because of the amount of attention they have to pay him.”
Despite the stellar start by the Terps, the Wolverines weren’t laying down early. Tito Flores smashed a hung fastball over the left field fence to score a trio for Michigan in the second. It seemed any sort of a lead that Maryland took throughout the series stood paper thin.
But with Sean Burke hitting his stride on the mound following that second-inning blip, Vaughn’s squad stood rock solid. Burke struck out eight in 6.1 innings, allowing only one hit after the three-run shot.
“Sean Burke, absolutely outstanding,” Vaughn said. “First time all year where he has really just taken control of that game. That was his game from the jump.”
Offensively, the Terps picked it up again in the fourth. Leading 4-3 after an RBI groundout, Troy Schreffler kicked off the inning with a single directly over the mound into center. Shortly after, the speedy Schreffler dove home on a wild pitch to extend Maryland’s advantage. Matt Shaw then sent another run home with a long double bouncing to right field.
Though Alleyne was tagged out at home, the Terps continued adding to their lead. The newly returned Max Costes walked to gift Maryland one more run before his team left a trio of runners stranded after a double play.
But Burke dealt on the mound to preserve the Terps’ 7-3 lead, retiring 10 straight batters from the third until a leadoff walk in the seventh broke his streak. Despite that, he struck out the next batter and retired from the mound with a stellar performance under his belt.
“When [Burke] throws his fastball like that, he’s really good,” Vaughn said. “All in all, an unbelievable job by our pitching staff having a big time bounceback day.”
Elliot Zoellner followed Burke by finishing the inning with a double play. In the eighth, he got out of a jam by striking out the powerful Jimmy Obertop.
And in the ninth, Ryan Ramsey secured the critical series victory by inducing another double play, propelling Maryland into its final regular season weekend — and maybe beyond.
“This team is [an NCAA] regional team, there’s not a doubt in my mind,” Vaughn said.