Kevin Keister never thought Maryland baseball’s season would end on Monday.
Sitting up with his eyes shaded a sorrowful pink, the sophomore second baseman proclaimed his unwavering confidence in his squad. The previous events were devastating. Hours earlier, the Terps were right in it.
UConn had jumped on Maryland early, leaving the Terps in an eight-run hole in the fifth inning.
Maryland rallied, all the way to within two scores in the seventh frame with Keister on third and one out. The Terps kept hope, maintaining unwavering confidence as they cut into the Huskies’ lead.
“There was never a point where this team thought we were gonna lose,” Keister said.
Then it happened. Chris Alleyne tapped a ground-ball and sprinted down the first-base line, colliding with UConn first baseman Ben Huber.
Huber collapsed. Keister crossed home, and Alleyne was suddenly called out on interference.
Anyone affiliated with Maryland voiced every bit of displeasure they could muster in the utter chaos and confusion. Alleyne — along with assistant coaches Anthony Papio and Matt Swope — joined in. The play was reviewed, but the call stood.
“I didn’t see it the same way, but there’s a reason I don’t umpire,” coach Rob Vaughn said. “The rule is the rule, and the way the rule was enforced is right whether I like it or not, and it’s unfortunate it was a big spot.”
After the blow, the Terps never came closer.
A run came off the board. Maryland lost a base-runner in Alleyne and gained an out, a massive swing in a two-run game. This wasn’t Alleyne’s first time wrapped up in a controversial call — he was called out on strikes against Penn State after being plunked in the elbow pad — and Vaughn’s squad had spiraled. They wouldn’t recover against the Huskies either.
UConn finished the game out, adding another run before defeating the Terps 11-8. Maryland’s historic season came to an end.
However, Keister found comfort in the Terps’ relentless will to stay alive. While Maryland’s dreams of championship banners were killed, hope never died for Keister.
“The game just ended before we could come back,” Keister said, eyes now dry. “So we didn’t really lose.”
After the Terps lost to the Huskies earlier in the regional, hope appeared dim for the team, maybe even lost entirely. They needed two straight wins just to get to a winner-take-all game against UConn.
Maryland did it — coming back from a late deficit to overcome Wake Forest and walking off the Huskies on Sunday just to get there. Alleyne said many players endured fatigue after the valiant and draining games. Their motivation remained.
But an empty bullpen, wrecked bodies, and an equally relentless UConn team superseded full hearts. Those hearts had already pumped two wins out of games that the Terps could’ve easily dropped.
Maryland came so close, but came up short. Gold-jerseyed bodies embraced as tears flowed, collected, and dried. The feeling of emptiness and common silence when the last out was claimed against them may never leave, a solemn end to an impressive season.
The Terps finished 48-14, amassing a collection of accolades, but didn’t have it in them to muster a trip to a Super Regional. No one could accuse them of lacking heart.
Vaughn, like Keister, said the team remained silently confident things would work out throughout the matchup. Maryland didn’t have a heroic, last-second homer in them, but the Terps squeezed every last drop of love and will into staying together.
It just wasn’t their day.
“We laid it all out there today,” Alleyne said. “It just didn’t work out. But [I] wouldn’t change anything and I’m really proud of these guys.”