By Matt Germack
Jason Savacool was at his best when Maryland baseball (12-9) took on UCF (16-6) Friday night in Orlando. He allowed just four hits in six innings while striking out a season-high ten batters.
But he allowed three runs — a high number in a pitchers duel, one that was won by UCF’s Ruddy Gomez. He was masterful, holding the Terps to just two extra-base hits and as many runs in his eight innings of work.
Nigel Belgrave came in for the seventh and eighth inning, allowing one more run in the latter. Maryland’s offense went down in order to end the game, and it left the field with a 4-2 loss to begin the weekend on Friday in Orlando.
Coach Rob Vaughn’s squad got the evening started with back-to-back singles from Luke Shliger and Nick Lorusso. The pair dominated at the top of the lineup, finishing a combined 5-for-8 while Shliger scored both the team’s runs.
A Matt Woods bunt single two batters later got the Terps on the board in the opening inning.
After that, they struggled to build anything offensively. Gomez kept them off-balance with a healthy dose of offspeed pitches throughout at-bats.
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Gomez allowed a one-out walk to Bobby Zmarzlak in the second, but promptly ended the inning with a double play. An inning later, he struck out three more Terps and stranded a runner put on base by an error.
In the bottom of the third, the Knights finally caught up to Savacool — abetted by some command issues early. He plunked their ninth hitter, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Andrew Brait hit a long double to score him, then scored himself when Kevin Keister couldn’t field a ball cleanly at second base.
The Terps made solid contact on every at-bat at the top of the next inning, but got nothing to show for it. UCF first baseman Nick Romano did produce a result, however, cranking a hanging curveball well over the left field wall to extend the Knights’ lead to 3-1. It was a rare slip-up for Savacool, who was surgical with his offspeed throughout the night.
Maryland wouldn’t roll over easily. Gomez attacked the zone more and more later in the game and the Terps initially took advantage. Shliger opened the top of the fifth by going opposite field for his fourth homer of the year, cutting the deficit in half.
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An uneventful sixth gave way to the Terps’ best opportunity to blow the game open. Woods came to the plate with the bases loaded, trying to build on an already-solid outing to that point. On a 2-2 count, he caught a high curveball and barreled it into the left-center gap.
But John Rhys Plumlee drifted to his right and caught it in front of the track, taking away the potential momentum swing.
Belgrave relieved Savacool and sent the Knights down in order in the seventh frame. Gomez entered the eighth already at 103 pitches, and appeared to get in some trouble, walking Eddie Hacopian in four pitches with one out. But he reaped the benefit of a routine double play that ended the inning.
Belgrave hit the first batter in the bottom of the eighth, and a bad pickoff move advanced him to second. Andrew Sundean singled the runner home to double UCF’s lead late. Tommy Kane came in to escape the jam and minimize the damage done to the Terps.
But Kyle Kramer closed things out for the Knights. He continued Gomez’s work, forcing two fly outs before striking out Shliger to seal UCF’s victory.
The Terps will look to even the series Saturday night.