Maryland (7-9) received some late-inning heroics from shortstop Ben Cowles to give the Terps a much-needed home win over the Northwestern Wildcats (9-6) 4-3 in the first game of a four-game split series at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
“They are not afraid to come from behind,” head coach Rob Vaughn said.
Northwestern got on the board early as Maryland starter Sean Burke struggled with his control. Burke gave up a leadoff single to first baseman Anthony Calarco. Left fielder Stephen Hrustich walked then advanced to third on a Burke wild pitch. Burke then loaded the bases with a walk to designated hitter David Dunn. A bases-loaded walk to second baseman Vincent Bianchina scored Calarco and gave Northwestern a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Right fielder Leo Kaplan reached on an error by Matt Shaw that scored Hrustich and gave Northwestern a 2-0 lead while Burke struck out third baseman Evan Minarovic as the Wildcats scored a pair of runs in the opening inning.
Burke gave up a solo home run to shortstop Shawn Goosenberg in the top of the second inning that extended the lead to 3-0 for Northwestern. Through five innings, Burke walked five, but also struck out eight, which is an area where he’s had success this season. Northwestern starter Mike Doherty kept the Maryland lineup in check by locating his pitches and keeping the ball low in the zone.
“He doesn’t have the stuff that some of the guys in our league have from a velocity standpoint, but he can really sink the baseball,” Vaughn said.
Over seven innings, Doherty allowed three runs (two unearned) on six hits with three strikeouts. Doherty induced eight groundouts and nine flyouts.
The momentum changed in the bottom of the fourth inning for Maryland beginning with a leadoff walk by right fielder Randy Bednar. A Doherty wild pitch allowed Bednar to advance to second, which was followed up with an RBI single by first baseman Maxwell Costes that brought the score to 3-1 at the end of four innings.
“Baseball is a funny game,” Costes said. “You can go a weekend hitless and then come out the next weekend and have an RBI in your first at-bat.”
Reliever Sean Heine entered the game in the top of the sixth for Maryland and struggled with control early. After a flyout by Minarovic, Heine gave up a walk to center fielder Ethan O’Donnell on a 3-2 count, but closed out the inning with two runners left on base.
“I was trying to keep the game close,” Heine said. “For our offense, I was trying to keep us within range.”
Maryland tied the game at three with the help of two Northwestern errors. Cowles led off with a single, as designated hitter Bobby Zmarzlak reached on an error by Bianchina. Cowles was picked off at second, but catcher Justin Vought kept the rally alive with a single. Center fielder Chris Alleyne reached on a Hrustich error that scored Vought and Zmarzlak tying the game for Maryland.
In the top of the eighth, Maryland escaped a bases-loaded jam as reliever David Falco forced Goosenberg into a ground ball to Shaw at third for the out.
“A fastball into one of the best hitters in our league is not an easy pitch to execute, and Falco didn’t blink,” Vaughn said.
Northwestern went to reliever Reed Smith in the bottom of the eighth after Doherty threw 89 pitches.
Smith walked third baseman Matthew Shaw in the bottom of the eighth and he advanced to third on a single by left fielder Tucker Flint. Later in the inning, Flint scored on a sacrifice fly by Cowles, which gave Maryland a 4-3 lead.
Sam Bello closed out the game in the ninth with a save preserving the Terps win.
“He’s our guy in that spot, if we get the lead, we are going to you,” Vaughn said of Bello.
Maryland and Northwestern play Game 2 Saturday at Noon.