By Megan Smedley
The Maryland Baseball team traveled to Champaign, Illinois for its final Big Ten away series of the season.
Maryland got off to a hot start Friday night, thanks to an offensive explosion in the first three innings of the game. With the bases loaded in the first, sophomore third baseman AJ Lee, laid down the perfect bunt unplayable for the Illini pitcher. Zach Jancarski crossed the plate, giving the Terps the first run of the game. The next batter, Kevin Smith, sliced a doubled down the third baseline scoring another pair of runs.
In the second inning, Maryland’s bats continued to get the best of Illinois starter, Ty Weber. The Terps tacked on another three runs from playing a bit of small ball. A bases-loaded walk and sacrifice fly nabbed a pair of runs. AJ Lee delivered an RBI single to left for his second RBI of the game.
Later in the third, Madison Nickens got things started with a solo shot to right for his fifth home run of the year. Maryland added another run on another bases-loaded walk. After three innings, Maryland had a comfortable 8-0 lead.
Terps’ starting pitcher Brian Shaffer had plenty of wiggle room going forward, but he delivered another strong performance just like he has all year. Shaffer pitched a solid eight innings, allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out eight. Maryland took game one 9-4.
On Saturday, Maryland’s pitching struggled heavily. Freshman Tyler Blohm was on the mound but ran into trouble early. Blohm only lasted 2.2 innings, one of his shortest outings of the year. He allowed six runs on six hits while striking out a pair. All six runs were scored in the third inning on five hits.
Maryland’s bats couldn’t come alive in the later innings as they were only to plate a pair of runners. In the sixth, Marty Costes drilled a double down the third baseline to score Brandon Gum. The next inning, Nickens hit a double down the right field line to plate Smith. Maryland dropped game two, 6-2.
For the rubber match, Maryland sent junior right-hander Taylor Bloom to the mound hoping to nab the series. Bloom ran into trouble in the fifth innings. After giving up a pair of two runs, Bloom’s day was done and was replaced by Ryan Hill. Bloom’s final line was 4.1 innings, allowing four runs on five hits while striking out four.
It looked like the Terps were on their way to another 6-2 defeat, but the team made things interesting in the top of the ninth. With two outs, Nick Dunn stepped to the plate and ripped a double to right scoring Gum and Pat Hisle. Will Watson came up to the plate next and hit the game-tying two run home run. Everything was tied up heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Andrew Miller was on the mound with the hopes of shutting down the Fighting Illini and sending this game into extras. Mark Skonieczny had other plans. With two outs and one on, Skonieczny hit a walk-off home run to left field, sealing the victory.
Maryland falls to 31-15 on the year after this weekend. The Terps return home to College Park this week for a pair of day games agains UMBC and James Madison.