Maryland drops first game of weekend series with UCF, 4-2.

Maryland baseball dropped a tight 4-2 contest against the UCF Knights on Friday night in the first game of their weekend series, as the offense couldn’t muster up the necessary rally late to close the gap. 

Starter Jason Savacool, who was handed the loss, pitched admirably over six innings. Despite giving up three of four runs, he totaled 10 strikeouts, topping his previous season-high of nine. The offense, despite striking first, never got back on the horse following a strong start to the game as they allowed UCF to take a 1-0 series lead.

Maryland (12-9) rode a positive streak heading into its matchup against the Knights, taking care of business over the weekend in a series victory against Albany and most recently dispatching George Washington in a 9-6 win on Tuesday. The Terps took eight of their last nine, with the lone loss arriving last Saturday against the Great Danes

Though it lacked the same momentum, UCF (15-6) has commanded respect through 21 games. Though the Knights lost their last game against North Florida thanks to a ninth inning collapse, they’d won five-straight before that, including scoring at least 12 runs in three of those outings.

While the Terps placed normal Friday starter Savacool on the mound, the Knights countered with Ruddy Gomez for a showdown between the aces. While Savacool entered with a 1.00 WHIP shaking off some rust to rise to 3-1 through five starts, Gomez, no slouch himself, presented a 1.16 WHIP with no losses to drag down his three wins.

The Terps got to work immediately as they racked up three hits in four at-bats. Nick Lorusso slapped a ball into shallow right field to extend his hitting-streak to 20, and Matt Woods laid down a perfect bunt to bring Luke Shliger into home plate and legged out a single to stretch his own hitting streak to 10, third-longest on the team behind Matt Shaw (12).

Savacool, who has taken a few innings to settle in during recent outings, was excellent from the jump. He baited two swinging strikeouts in his first inning of work, and pitched another shutout in the frame that followed.

His first trouble arrived in the third inning, with Andrew Brait’s RBI double tying the game before Tom Josten drove a second runner home to take an early 2-1 lead. An inning later, the Knights struck again, this time with a convincing homer by Nick Romano to add another run. Shliger belted a home run to give Maryland a response, but the solo shot wasn’t enough to take the lead as it sat at 3-2 in the fifth.

Maryland’s starter left after six innings. Though he relented the three earned runs, he collected ten strikeouts while only giving up four hits. Gomez, his counterpart, lasted two additional innings. While he gave up eight hits, Maryland only capitalized twice. Nowhere was this exemplified more than in his last inning on the mound, one in which the Terps left three runners stranded.

Maryland couldn’t break through in the eighth inning when Ian Petrutz grounded into a double play for the third out, nor the ninth when not one batter reached base. UCF, meanwhile, added a run in the eighth to extend its lead to 4-2, which is where the final score would remain.

The amount of runners a team left on base can help tell the story of a game, and the Terps did themselves no favors in stranding eight men. An eighth inning for UCF that saw their frame end with the bases loaded padded their LOB count to seven, as it was Maryland who did so more consistently. 

Matt Woods, who deserves credit for bringing home Maryland’s first run, led his squad with five runners left aboard on the night, including a bases loaded situation in the seventh.

The Terps will get another chance to topple the Knights tomorrow at 6 p.m.