Maryland trailed Vanderbilt 5-1 entering the fifth inning. It was beginning to look like a repeat of the Terps’ loss on Friday in which a struggling offense couldn’t find an answer against stellar Ole Miss pitching.

A five-run explosion flipped the momentum and put No. 18 Maryland (4-6) ahead for the first time since the top of the first inning. When No. 7 Vanderbilt (7-4) tied the game an inning later, Nick Lorusso crushed a solo homer that appeared to put the Terps ahead for good.

But two Commodores’ runs in the bottom of the ninth, capped by a walk-off sacrifice fly, spoiled an impressive showing from the Terps’ offense, giving them a 8-7 loss and second straight defeat.

Coach Rob Vaughn went to freshman Kyle McCoy in the ninth with the winning run at the plate after Nigel Belgrave walked the first batter of the inning. McCoy found just one out, after a bunt single and liner up the middle tied it. The winning run reached third, and scored on the next at bat.

“That loss is really on me,” Vaughn said. “As good as Nigel was, there’s no way I should have sent him back out. … He was just exhausted and that’s my mistake for even letting him go out there. … It’s not a mistake going to Kyle there, the mistake is not letting Kyle start the inning.”

[No. 18 Maryland baseball’s offense held to season-worst one run in 5-1 loss to No. 4 Ole Miss]

Maryland fought back from its four-run deficit earlier in the game with an explosion in the fifth inning. It entered the frame down four and left it up one.

Kevin Keister, one of two Maryland everyday starters who had yet to homer this season, found his first of the year to cap off the game-changing inning. His three-run shot to straightaway center scored three, putting the Terps up 6-5 after Ian Petrutz and Eddie Hacopian run-scoring grounders.

Elijah Lambros grounded into an inning-ending double play the inning prior. Despite the unfavorable result, it showed Vaughn what was soon to come.

“I pulled our team in afterward … and I was like ‘That’s what we’ve been waiting for,’” Vaughn said. “It’s jab, jab, haymaker. I think we’ve been in haymaker mode a little bit more, trying to get it all back and trying to do a little bit too much in that situation. We did a good job of just jabbing them early then Kevin gave us the big swing.”

Maryland’s bullpen’s struggles through the first nine games of the season have been evident. The group has surrendered 35 runs as Vaughn continues to adjust and toy with various pitchers’ roles in the late innings.

They were called on after Nick Dean gave up six runs in five innings, including three homers. Vaughn went to Belgrave to maintain the one-run lead.

[Maryland baseball loses rubber match against Ole Miss, 18-8]

The reliever tossed three scoreless innings to halt the Vanderbilt offense at six runs. He notched new season highs with three innings and 46 pitches, but was pulled after a leadoff walk in the ninth with the Terps still trying to hang on to a one-run lead.

Maryland’s offense went down in order over the previous two innings, unable to extend the slim advantage. The one-run lead was quickly overcome by Vanderbilt, which hadn’t scored previously since the fifth inning.

The Terps flashed their promise in the narrow loss over the top 10 foe. The rally to lift Maryland to a lead proved the offense can change a game in minutes, and Belgrave dominating proved the bullpen’s potential.

However, the Terps’ late-game struggles showed that while they’ve been able to compete with some of college baseball’s top programs, they’ve lacked an ability to put them away in the end.

“What it shows you, and this is what our guys need to learn early, it shows you the margin between winning and losing with two really good teams is a play here or a play there,” Vaughn said. “If you go out and play a soft schedule early, you can make those mistakes and still overcome it.”

“It’s my job as a coach to have our guys prepared for that play here and there and I didn’t do a good enough job … We played good enough to win today.”