Maryland baseball gave reigning NCAA Champions Ole Miss the business on Friday night, as the Terps thoroughly outplayed the Rebels offensively and defensively in a 10-2 victory.
The Terps (3-2) rode starter Jason Savacool’s seven-inning, nine-strikeout start deep into the night, and offered up plenty of run support throughout. Rallies brought runners home in the early goings, and Ian Petrutz clobbered his second grand slam of the young season to give Maryland its first big lead, something it only built on in later innings.
“One thing that shows you is collective offense,” Maryland coach Rob Vaughn said. “I thought we had a pretty steady attack tonight.”
Both teams readied themselves for their biggest tests in the early goings of the Spring. While Ole Miss glided through their first week, going 4-0 against Delaware and Arkansas State, the Terps have stumbled a bit. They looked quite competent over last weekend, taking the series against USF by bringing in a combined 24 runs over a three game sample size, but Tuesday’s home opener against West Virginia saw the pitching give up a five-run first inning that Maryland couldn’t make up for in a 6-8 defeat.
For their second Friday in a row, the Terps opted to place Savacool on the mound for the series opener. Maryland’s ace started his season off last week with a loss after going 8-3 in the year prior, pitching six innings and giving up seven hits and five earned runs in the start. Most of this damage came in the first inning, and the Terps came one run shy of tying the 8-7 mishap.
Jack Dougherty headlined Ole Miss for his first outing of the season. He boasts 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings, demonstrating the versatility and deadliness of the Rebels’ pitching staff.
Both pitchers were locked in from the start, with the first inning concluding with only six total batters stepping into the batter’s box. Dougherty restricted the Terps to mere soft contact, but Savacool baited Ole Miss into two quick swinging strikeouts.
The Terps didn’t need any more time to get the offense going, loading the bases as fast as possible in the second with back-to-back singles from Ian Petrutz and Ethan Hacopian. Matt Woods drew a walk in his first Maryland at-bat after missing the season opener with back tightness, and Kevin Keister’s pop-out to the right fielder brought home Petrutz. Next at-bat, Bobby Zmarzlak barely beat out a throw to first, giving Hacopian just enough time to make it home to rise to 2-0. Just as they had last Friday, the depth of the Maryland lineup drew first blood.
Ole Miss responded, with Calvin Harris smacking a single before two wild pitches gave him an easy pathway to third. An Anthony Calarco groundout bought the Rebels their first run of the game before the inning concluded, but Savacool looked dominant, striking out four of his first six batters.
The two starters kept the game firmly in the hands of the defense in the few innings that followed. Savacool kept building up his K total, while Dougherty got back on track with a few strong frames of his own.
The next offensive outburst came in the form of a leadoff double from number nine hitter Elijah Lambros, who’s performed admirably as the set-up man to the top three batters. A Luke Shliger base hit brought the center fielder home for the Terps’ third scoring run of the night, ending Dougherty’s tenure on the mound in the top of the fifth.
Mitch Murrell entered for Ole Miss as the first reliever of the evening. He largely took care of business, but had to work hard to escape the inning without a scratch. Maryland’s ace remained in the game, finishing his half of the fifth with 73 pitches thrown.
Further run support surfaced from the top of the lineup, with hits from Shliger and Matt Shaw putting multiple runners in scoring position. Nick Lorusso received a four-pitch walk from new reliever Jordan Vera to load the bases once again, setting up the slugging Petrutz with another grand slam opportunity. The sophomore didn’t disappoint, shooting the score up to 7-1, cranking his second grand slam in five games and Maryland’s fourth.
Maryland made sure to keep their foot off the gas even after the Petrutz explosion, as Keister grabbed his second RBI of the night to bring Matt Woods home to pump the lead up to seven.
The Terps weren’t done applying the pressure, though, somehow managing to load the bases again with well placed hits. Even though Shaw popped out in his second at-bat of the frame to enter the bottom of the inning, Ole Miss only barely escaped the dishonor of relenting multiple grand slams before collecting three outs.
Savacool tossed his final frame in the seventh, as the Rebels cobbled together a rare multi-hit inning to trip the score to 8-2. The righty exited the game with seven innings pitched, nine strikeouts and zero walks.
“Jason’s worked very, very hard at the mental side of it,” Vaughn said. “Growing and continuing to weather the good and the bad and not flinch and just keep being himself, that’s been a very big focus of his. He didn’t flinch tonight. He was just cool as could be and just did his thing, and when he does that, I don’t care who you’re facing, he gives you a chance.”
Even with their sizable lead, the Terps made sure to stay active in adding to their blowout. They did what they had done best all night, placing multiple scorers on base before recording an out, setting up Eddie Hacopian for another pop-out RBI. 9-2 would stand as the final score, as Kenny Lippman closed out the game without a peep.
The Terps will get another stab at topping Ole Miss tomorrow at 2:30 for the second entry in their three-game series at Oxford-University Stadium.