By Ethan Cadeaux (@Ethan_301)
After scoring just one run in four of their first five games, the Terps bats came alive on Sunday – tallying 13 runs on 12 hits and bringing home their first series victory of the 2016 season as they defeated Rhode Island 13-10 in the rubber match.
Maryland scored seven of its 13 runs via the long ball. Today marked the first time Maryland hit four homeruns in a game since May 22, 2014, when they did it against Virginia in the ACC tournament.
However, as they have done in five of their six games this season, the Terps fell down early. After allowing four earned runs, starting pitcher Brian Shaffer was chased after just two and a third innings pitched.
But today, the Terps offense had an answer for every punch Rhode Island threw. After the Rams put together a four-run third inning, Terps catcher Justin Morris hit a two-run shot over the center field wall to trim the Rhode Island lead in half.
Once Rhode Island tacked on three more runs in the fifth to widen their lead to 7-2, the Terps offense responded immediately. Maryland completely changed the outlook of the game with an eight run fifth inning, highlighted by a Kevin Biondic two-run homerun and a Nick Cieri grand slam.
“I knew I was going to get a fastball to hit,” said Cieri, who launched a 3-0 fastball over the right field wall to give the Terps their first lead of the afternoon. “I saw a fastball that I liked and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
The junior designated hitter would go 2-4 at the plate with five RBI’s Sunday, raising his average to .333, a team high.
Centerfielder Madison Nickens hit a solo homerun in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving the Terps a four run cushion at the time. The Rams would score three more runs in the top of the eighth to make it a one-run game, but the Terps would add two more in the bottom half of the same inning to rebuild their lead to three.
Senior Robert Galligan would get a six-out save for the Terps, as they put their first series win under their belts before they travel to Delaware Tuesday.
“It’s rare to give up three big innings like we did and still win a game,” said manager John Szefc, on the craziness of this afternoon’s game. “That rarely happens. We put an eight spot up ourselves, but that usually doesn’t happen [either].”
Szefc has been shuffling around his lineup a lot through the first week of the season; trying to find the lineup he will use going forward after losing five everyday starters from last year due to graduation or the MLB draft.
After pulling Kevin Biondic out of the starting lineup for the first time all season Saturday, Biondic responded heavily when put back in the starting lineup today. The sophomore, who was hitting .077 entering today’s game, went 3-3 at the plate, reached base four times, and hit a two-run homerun.
“It is a pretty good feeling,” said Biondic, on having a big day at the plate today. “[Szefc] took me out of the lineup yesterday, which is fine, it’s his vision. I was ready to play today, and I got my number called.”
After the Terps pitching had been carrying them for the first week of the season, the bats carried the Terps today on a day that neither team pitched particularly well.
“The pitchers have done an outstanding job this season, and we needed to pick them up a little bit today,” said Biondic. “That’s what good teams do. When hitters are struggling, pitchers pick us up. When pitchers are struggling, we pick up the pitchers.”
“If you’re going to be good, you’re veteran players have to be good,” said Szefc. “Our veteran guys were good today. We have good hitters, it is just a matter of time before we get those guys going.”
Szefc said he was frustrated that the team is just 3-3, but pointed out that they have been playing good teams and facing solid pitching.
But Szefc should not be disappointed in his team after today, coming back from a five run deficit to pick up a big win and regain the teams confidence moving forward.
“We have been struggling the last few days, even the last weekend we were struggling a little bit,” said Biondic on the Terps offense this season. “It’s good to finally get the bats going, and we feel pretty good about ourselves going into this week.”
The Terps next game is on the road Tuesday, as they travel to University of Delaware. First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 P.M.