Tension gathered and lapped up at the feet of Chris Alleyne, awaiting an 0-2 pitch that would change the fabric of the match either way.
What happened next stood less than traditional.
The pitch spiraled in, and lopped off of Alleyne’s elbow pad. He acknowledged, starting his jog toward first.
The umpires didn’t agree. Calling Alleyne out on strikes, Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium blew up with frustration as most players stood around in confusion.
After a gathering of officials, they confirmed their call. Penn State left the field of play and Maryland baseball never looked the same.
“It’s one of those situations where if you’re deemed to have leaned into the pitch, no matter where the pitch is, it’s a strike. He had two strikes on him so that becomes strike three” coach Rob Vaughn said, then pausing and pursing his lips. “I should probably stop there.”
Dumbfounded by a late call, the Terps fell to the Nittany Lions in extras, 6-4.
Maryland had a golden opportunity to clinch its first conference series of the season as it battled the Nittany Lions. Early, little stood in its way.
Ryan Ramsey, one of the best pitchers in the Terps’ powerful rotation, starred. The junior utilized his usual punch-out style to the tune of eight strikeouts on the day.
“He deserved to win today,” Vaughn said. “He was great today and unfortunately just didn’t do quite enough for him.”
Blowing through Penn State’s first six batters, Ramsey gave Maryland’s batting lineup plenty of time to breathe.
There was little hesitation. Luke Shliger smashed a line-drive to center in the opening at-bat of the first and Chris Alleyne cracked a roller that gave Shliger enough time to reach home.
Later, the Terps found further success via follies by the Nittany Lions. Spraying pitches out of control, Penn State starter Kellan Tulio got yanked early from the game after walking a pair, hitting one and allowing two more runs to score.
Steven Miller took over for Tulio after a Nick Lorusso RBI-single capitalized on his predecessor’s mistakes. And he fared well.
While stuck with a high-flying sacrifice fly to right that scored another, Miller blocked Maryland’s lineup from there.
The Nittany Lions finally broke through in the sixth. Cranking the first pitch he saw in the sixth over the left-field fence, Johnny Piacentino’s two-RBI slug transformed a stagnant game for Penn State.
After a scoreless seventh, the eighth stretched long.
Nittany Lions’ catcher Matt Wood took the initiative with a circle-tying RBI wack, and then another runner went aboard.
Nerves wracked as Jay Harry graced the plate. But his 1-1 swipe flew-high and came down into leather for the final out.
The Terps had a chance to force a do-or-die frame for Penn State. With two out, Max Costes and Matt Shaw occupied the corners. Earlier, normal Friday starter Travis Luensmann took the mound as the Nittany Lions made a significant effort to close out.
“That guy [Luensmann] at the end has been their Friday guy all year,” Vaughn said. “They kinda sold out to win a game, that’s how they went about it.”
Troy Schreffler Jr. had a chance, but he watched a third-strike pitch fly over the outside-corner of the plate. Schreffler appeared unhappy with the call.
“When it comes down to those innings, you try to work your butt off to get on base,” Shaw said. “That’s what we tried to do. We got on base and we did what we needed to do and just didn’t end up finishing.”
Sean Heine and Maryland’s defense would have to step up.
In short order, they did. Heine struck out two and caught a dramatic last out as Penn State’s Ben Kailher couldn’t avoid the tag on a steal of second. Penn State coach Rob Cooper appeared to argue the call and was ejected.
A walk-off opportunity took fruition for Maryland.
And Alleyne was called out on strikes due to a rule that prevents batters from leaning into pitches so they can get free bases.
Vaughn fumed as he began an argument with the umpires.. Alleyne stood in confusion, and the home crowd reciprocated. After Maryland’s coach took a screaming stint in which he was held back, likely preventing his ejection, the Terps were tasked with pulling themselves together.
A vanilla ball-game had taken a weird turn as Nick Robinson grabbed the mound from Heine.
The damage had been done. The deflated Terps lost their footing as the Nittany Lions piled on a trio of runs and their dugout frenzied on the last.
Maryland managed to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the 10th. But, all the Terps could manage was bringing home one run before a strikeout and a diving catch from Kailher ended the afternoon.