Maryland’s bullpen, a collection of experienced pitchers who have been adjusting to new roles in the season’s opening weeks, has been tested often as the team’s rotation worked through struggles pitching deep into games. They were relied upon again Saturday, when Nick Dean was removed after allowing four runs in three innings.
The group stopped a UCF comeback attempt when the Knights began to threaten. While Maryland’s offense piled on runs, three pitchers covered the final six innings in a 16-6 road victory, giving the Terps a win despite another shaky Dean start.
The senior gave up a pair of two-run homers, one each in the third and fourth innings. Maryland coach Rob Vaughn yearns for more length and consistency from Dean, but he’s yet to deliver.
“I didn’t think [Dean’s] breaking ball was great tonight,” Vaughn said. “His fastball [velocity] was down just a tick, but Nicky is working hard. That guy cares a lot and it’s really important to him.”
The pitcher entered Saturday having allowed 18 earned runs in his last four outings, an 8.48 ERA over that stretch. The Terps lost three of those four contests.
Reliever Kenny Lippman, the first entrant, came on shortly after the second UCF long ball. He used 60 pitches to subdue the UCF order in three innings on the mound, giving up just one run.
Tommy Kane pitched the seventh while Ryan Van Buren pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings with four strikeouts.
“[Lippman] made pitches in big spots and was outstanding,” Vaughn said. “… [Van Buren] was sinking the baseball, threw a lot of strikes and did a good job of being able to save [Nigel Belgrave] … and [David Falco Jr.] for tomorrow.”
Twelve extra-base hits propelled Maryland to its third-largest run output of the season as its relievers halted the opposition. The Terps’ lineup slugged seven doubles and four home runs to score 16 runs, highlighted by a three-run, 418-foot blast from Matt Shaw.
Ian Petrutz, who had just three hits in his previous 10 games, logged four hits Saturday — including his first home run in two weeks. Nick Lorusso also smashed his team-high ninth homer and extended his hitting streak to 21 games.
Elijah Lambros, who didn’t start the game but entered when Bobby Zmarzlak exited after being hit in the head by a pitch, homered immediately after Shaw to put Maryland up 14-5. Every Terp who started and finished the game had at least one hit and six collected at least two hits in one of the group’s most complete efforts of the season.
“That’s what the pack is supposed to look like,” Vaughn said. “First time in 2023 I think the pack showed up the way it should … Today’s really the first day I felt like it was a really complete offensive effort.”
Saturday did little to dispel the questions surrounding Dean’s shortcomings, which became overshadowed by an avalanche of runs. Three innings is not the length Vaughn desires and the pitcher’s high earned run totals are far from what the coach needs.
This time, a shutdown bullpen coupled with an explosive offensive output was enough to overcome another lackluster Dean outing. Maryland will need more of that if the pitcher’s struggles don’t subside.
“Outside of his first start, I don’t think we’ve had the best version of Nick Dean yet,” he said, “which is dangerous for the Big Ten as we roll into those places next week.