By: Sarah Meklir
In a tightly contested pitchers’ duel that came after a momentary rain delay, Maryland baseball clinched an away series victory over Ohio State Saturday.
The Terps took down the Buckeyes, 3-2, in Columbus, Ohio. It’s Maryland’s ninth straight win over the Buckeyes and its third consecutive series victory to open its Big Ten slate.
Luke Shliger, who homered in the first at bat of Friday’s win, again led off with an extra base hit. But from there, the Terps bats went silent until a fifth inning Zach Martin homer. Singles from lan Petrutz and Eddie Hacopian drove in the Terps’ final two runs in the eighth inning.
Nick Dean escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth inning via a pair of strikeouts. He found himself in a similar situation in the sixth when he walked the bases loaded. Unlike two innings prior, a run scored before Dean could end the threat.
The right hander allowed six hits with five strikeouts and an earned run when Rob Vaughn removed him in the sixth.
“It hasn’t come easy this year,” Vaughn said. “It’s been a grind. We’ve had injuries. … We weren’t elite the past two days, but we’ve won in some different ways.”
Vaughn stressed the importance of defense in the days leading up to the weekend series, the coach said. That focus showed in a run-saving relay throw from Matt Shaw in the seventh inning. Left fielder Jacob Orr corralled a liner off the wall before sending it to Shaw, who turned and fired to Shliger.
The tag prevented Ohio State from taking a late-inning lead, instead maintaining a tie.
“Our focus for complete games has not been good enough,” Vaughn said. “You never know when the play to win the game, save the game, whatever that may be is gonna happen. In that moment, we arrived, we were present, we made the play. … We haven’t been elite at that most of the year but we did a really good job when it mattered today.”
A brief delay followed Maryland’s two-run eighth inning. Consecutive Petrutz and Hacopian singles drove in a pair to give the Terps their first lead since the fifth.
Ohio State halved its deficit after the break. A solo homer off Kenny Lippman, his second consecutive appearance with a long ball allowed, made it a 3-2 Maryland advantage.
David Falco Jr. entered to finish the eighth inning after the home run and also handle the ninth. Three quick outs in the final inning halted a Buckeyes comeback effort and gave the right-hander his team-leading fifth save of the season.
Three-game series sweeps have mostly eluded Maryland through its non-conference and early Big Ten schedule. The Terps have twice won the opening two contests of a series before dropping the finale.
Vaughn will be tasked with finding a victory without typical Game 3 starter Kyle McCoy, instead planning to rely on a multitude of pitchers to cover nine innings. The coach knows keeping his team focused will be key in finally achieving a sweep.
“We’ve set ourselves up for an opportunity we’ve had the last three weeks and haven’t been able to finish,” Vaughn said. “We gotta finish out the weekend tomorrow.”