Whether it was the seemingly thinner southern air, magnified emotions or just pure luck, Maryland baseball rocketed everything off their aluminum bats. Coming into today, the Terps just needed to survive another game.
And in their first NCAA tournament elimination game—they thrived. With the help of seven home-runs banged over the wall, Maryland baseball steamrolled Norfolk State 16-0, living at least one more day in the postseason.
Less than 24 hours after a freak accident sidelined Chris Alleyne, derailing Maryland’s chances against Charlotte, the Terps season was on the line. Coach Rob Vaughn’s squad needed an inspired effort to stay in the NCAA tourney.
With the help of Sean Burke, they did just that.
Norfolk St., a first-time NCAA tournament team, wasn’t going out easily though. They scratched and clawed away at every opportunity the Terps presented them with. But as the game wore on, Maryland’s hits carried further and further.
“I thought the first couple of innings we played really, really tight,” coach Rob Vaughn said. “We felt that [it] was the pressure cooker we’ve been under that we had to win today.”
Starting with a high-flying two-out three run homer to left by Bobby Zmarzlak, the Terps made a clear statement. They weren’t done yet, not by a long shot.
“When the boys let loose and let it fly, aided by a couple of homers, I think let everybody breathe a little bit,” Vaughn said.
Burke backed Maryland’s offense with a consistent malleable pitching style, able to get the Terps out of jams when he needed to. That style allowed zero earned runs through five frames in Greenville.
“Burke didn’t have awesome command early, he had thrown quite a few pitches through two [innings],” Vaughn said. “But him and [Justin Vought] did a good job of being efficient in the third through sixth.”
Another three-run homer by Max Costes put a clear exclamation point on Maryland’s third-inning lead and a consistent offensive approach scored another pair.
The quintuple-run third frame defined a dominant outing at the plate by Vaughn’s hitters. Troy Schreffler, who hadn’t hit a homer all season, managed to carry one over the fence later in the fourth inning.
Following up that dominant inning was an even more explosive performance at the plate. Four homers from four different hitters made it 14-0 and each ball that rocketed over the wall drove their point home. The Terps were making it to the next game.
Zmarzlak notched a second homer in the sixth inning in what ended up as a four-hit day for the sophomore. The game picked up pace as the Spartans retired six straight Maryland batters, but with Burke and reliever Zach Thompson holding strong, the Terps kept their shutout alive.
Maryland nabbed one more run in the eighth, turning a double from Randy Bednar into a 16-0 lead as Norfolk St.’s Justin Walton loaded the bases before walking Riley Langerman on four pitches.
From there, Maryland baseball had more than wrapped it up. A dominant 16-0 performance gives them a chance to play tomorrow against tonight’s loser of No. 13 East Carolina-Charlotte.
“We’ve faced a little bit of adversity all year,” Vought said. “We’re just gonna keep taking it a game at a time and we’re gonna let the rest take care of itself.”