It had been a rollercoaster weekend for Maryland baseball.
After an unforgettable perfect game on Friday, Maryland dropped a disappointing follow-up bout on Saturday in the closing innings.
Sunday looked no different. The Terps controlled the entire day until a seventh inning relief-pitching collapse put Maryland behind late.
But as urgency and rain droplets filled the air, Northwestern sealed its own fate. A pair of key errors led to four runs for the Terps, and coach Rob Vaughn’s squad ran with it.
Throttling the Wildcats late, Maryland gave plenty of cushion for its bullpen to close the Wildcats out as they triumphed on a rainy day in College Park, 10-5.
New Sunday starter Nick Dean began shaky before leveling out with help from his defense in the first frame.
The junior threw four called-balls in his first eight pitches while catching a fly-out in his first at-bat and weathered a ten-pitch walk in his second. Then, Dean caught a break.
Northwestern’s Jay Beshears slapped a bouncer to Nick Lorusso at third, and the Terps went around the bases as he zipped it to second and Kevin Keister throttled the ball to first for the final out.
“[Dean] changed the way he was moving on the mound,” Vaughn said. “Some of that is getting a feel for that…he didn’t land his cutter as much.”
Dean settled down a bit in the second before finding renewed struggles in the third. After two early outs, the right-hander caught a bouncer through the right side for a single and walked two straight batters.
With the bases loaded, Dean found the right pitch. Beshears loaded up and smashed the ball high, but Troy Schreffler settled under it for the final out. Nevertheless, Dean’s pitch count already ran troublingly high as it appeared Maryland would reach into its bullpen early.
“Our starters were outstanding all weekend, 21 innings, no runs,” Vaughn said. “Dean was great today [and] he looked a little different out there and that’s why we had to make some adjustments to what he’s doing and he did.”
Meanwhile, the offense remained largely inefficient. Outside of an early Schreffler shot over the center-field wall, Maryland wouldn’t generate anything until the fifth —- Schreffler again roped a double to center. Bobby Zmarzlak shot one to right on the next at-bat to score Schreffler.
“[Today] was a big confidence boost for me,” Schreffler said, after a four-hit day from the junior. “Past few weeks I’ve been struggling a little bit and I wanted to get back in the action…working on a few things today that ended up helping me in the game.”
The game largely looked like a replay of the day before — Maryland’s starter excelled while its offense remained dormant — gifting the Wildcats a shot to comeback when the Terps reached into their bullpen.
“Thankful we got [Dean’s performance] because offensively we were scuffling a little bit early,” Vaughn said.
With Schreffler’s help, that became less likely. But as Nick Robinson took the mound in the sixth and struggled, those concerns came back to the forefront.
The graduate transfer allowed three out of his first four batters to reach base before settling down to close the inning. However, the Wildcats still managed a run off an RBI ground-out to chip into Maryland’s lead.
While the Terps added another run in the sixth off a sacrifice fly, their bullpen continued to miss the mark. Nigel Belgrave took over for Robinson, immediately allowing a single before Northwestern’s Andrew Pinkston banged an RBI double to left.
Vaughn opted to intentionally walk one of the Wildcats’ more dangerous hitters in Anthony Calarco, and Belgrave returned the sentiment by walking the next two batters organically. The latter walk rotated the bases and tied the game up before Dave Falco took over on the mound.
“It was a tough game, tough weather,” Falco said. “After a tough loss yesterday, after a crazy game on Friday, you definitely knew we had to come out today really strong and give it a full effort.”
Falco finished the inning, but the Wildcats had snatched the lead with an RBI fielder’s choice.
Rain began to fall on Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium as the Terps seemingly began to relive the day before when they gave up a late lead due to their bullpen’s shortcomings.
But Maryland’s hitters wouldn’t have it this time. After a pair of batters grabbed their base, Northwestern erred on a high throw to first off a bunt down the third-base line by Zmarzlak.
The Wildcats’ mistakes piled up further as Patrick Herrera bobbled a critical grounder to allow a pair of runs to cross for Maryland. Working the Wildcats strategically, the Terps opted for another bunt from Keister that led to two more runs.
Maryland had come back from the brink — latching onto a three-run lead as Falco pitched a clean eighth and the Terps added several insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning. With ample room, Vaughn’s club cruised to the finish.
“Today we didn’t give the game away and found a way when it really mattered to step up and get it done,” Vaughn said.