Jason Savacool collected two strikeouts in the first inning, both batters going down swinging on his looping curveball. The vaunted secondary pitch was largely ineffective in the pitcher’s season-opening start. Its resurgence was the main reason why his second start contrasted so much from his first.
The junior added two more punchouts with the curveball in the second inning and finished with nine strikeouts over seven innings in Maryland baseball’s 9-2 win Friday over Ole Miss (4-1). The Terps (3-2) took the first game of their biggest regular season series of 2023.
Facing a lineup that scored 46 runs in its first four games, Savacool won his first game of the season with a mostly untouchable breaking pitch. Almost all of his strikeouts came on it, while his fastball kept hitters off balance and induced several weak groundouts.
“He didn’t flinch tonight,” Rob Vaughn said. “When he does that, I don’t care who you’re facing, he gives you a chance.”
Savacool’s first outing of the season didn’t go as he hoped. He gave up five earned runs on seven hits over six innings against USF in a Maryland loss.
[Rob Vaughn, Maryland baseball are using their series against Ole Miss as a measuring stick]
Vaughn credited the lackluster outing to getting behind in too many counts, which allowed opposing hitters to ignore Savacool’s breaking pitches and hone in on his fastball.
Friday’s start was essentially the opposite. The pitcher frequently got ahead of batters and kept hitters guessing what was coming next, helping his breaking pitches.
The dangerous fastball-curveball combination resulted in the first start in Savacool’s career with at least nine strikeouts and no walks.
Maryland paired that strong pitching with a fast start for its offense. Vaughn urged his offense to get going earlier in games and get more leadoff hitters on base. The Terps lagged behind in the early innings in both of its losses this season, rendering late-inning rallies meaningless.
They did what Vaughn clamored for Friday night, taking an early 2-0 lead and adding to it throughout. Leadoff hitters reached base safely in four innings.
“If you just compare the two offenses … we controlled the strike zone a little bit better,” Vaughn said.”
[Early pitching struggles doom No. 13 Maryland baseball in 8-6 loss to West Virginia]
After a three up, three down first inning, Ian Petrutz and Eddie Hacopian opened the second with a pair of singles. Matt Woods, making his season debut, walked to load the bases.
Kevin Keister hit a sacrifice fly that scored Petrutz and Bobby Zmarzlak beat out a potentially inning-ending double play to let Hacopian to trot home.
Luke Shliger provided Maryland its third run in the fifth inning by scoring Elijah Lambros — who led off the frame with a double.
Then, Petrutz widened his team’s advantage even further.
He crushed a grand slam — Maryland’s fourth grand of the year and his second — in the exclamation point on a statement victory.
“Up until tonight, I thought we had good moments, but we didn’t really play collective offense,” Vaughn said. “We had a pretty steady attack tonight.”
Vaughn defined success for Maryland this weekend as winning all three games and nothing less. Through one game, they’re on track to meet his high expectations against the defending national champions.