Omar Melendez glanced toward second base and exhaled before turning to home plate and winding into his throwing motion.

Nebraska’s Will Walsh furiously whiffed at the 64 mph changeup as the throw glided into Devin Russell’s mitt. Melendez stomped his white cleats on the mound and marched back toward the Maryland dugout, smacking his teammates’ high-fives after securing the final out of the sixth inning.

The strike was the left-hander’s 99th pitch thrown against Nebraska, the final of his start in Maryland’s 11-2 victory on Saturday — the Terps’ lone win of the past weekend. In his first weekend start for Maryland, the junior tossed six strikeouts in six innings and limited the Cornhuskers to two runs, the fewest of the Terps’ weekend starters.

“He’s a seasoned veteran, he has a lot of experience starting and he gave us the spark that we needed,” coach Matt Swope said.

The junior transitioned into the Saturday starter slot after Kenny Lippman, a previous starter, moved back into the bullpen following recent struggles. Lippman tossed three scoreless outings in relief of Melendez, the lone arm used from the bullpen in the win.

[4-run fifth inning pushes Maryland baseball past James Madison, 6-4]

Long starts have been an emphasis of Maryland’s to limit the amount of relievers used, pitching coach Jimmy Jackson said. Melendez’s start was the longest of the weekend for the Terps. The two arms used were the fewest.

“He did exactly what our team needed,” Jackson said.

Melendez previously started just one midweek game for Maryland this season, making his other eight appearances in relief.

The left-hander noted postgame that having a set up routine and thorough pregame warmup as a starter made him more comfortable.

“It’s an adjustment from the [bullpen],” Melendez said. “You gotta be ready. Sometimes they call your name and you gotta warm up real quick and get ready.”

The Puerto Rico native transferred from Alabama State last summer after compiling a 12-0 record as a starter in 2023. He threw four complete games last season and finished with a 2.52 ERA, the best among the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

[Maryland baseball drops fourth straight weekend set with 16-4 mercy rule loss to Nebraska]

Melendez visited College Park in July, meeting with Swope and Jackson. He committed in the same month. The Terps targeted his starting experience at the Division I level as a left-hander, Jackson said.

The junior’s changeup highlights his pitching arsenal, which rests in the upper-70s. It complements his curveball, which the Terps use sparingly, and a fastball that averages in the mid-80s. Jackson also helped incorporate a “cutter-slider” this past offseason.

The coaching staff hopes to increase Melendez’s velocity going into next season by tweaking his delivery and adding strength in the weight room.

“Omar is completely different than all three starters who were pitching on the weekend,” Jackson said. “Omar [is] a good change of pace to give a completely different look. … He just earned his way into those starts.”

The Terps’ starting pitching has crumbled in conference play, combining for a 7.74 ERA against the Big Ten. Maryland has suffered as a result, falling in four of five series. Melendez’s start provided optimism amidst those recent struggles — what Swope characterized as a needed “spark.”