No. 23 Maryland baseball defended its home field on Friday night with another series-opening win, starting its weekend series against Nebraska with a decisive 8-4 win. The victory pushed them to nine straight, lengthening an already season-high.
The Terps trailed 2-1 through the first half of the game, but a five-run fifth inning proved the difference thanks to a Luke Shliger double and a Nick Lorusso bases-clearing double. The Maryland relief crew allowed a pair of Nebraska runs to score, but two eighth-inning wild pitches brought in two Maryland runners from third to put the lead just out of reach.
Nick Dean threw a solid, albeit brief, four innings to set up four different relievers to close the game. He allowed the first two runs, but finished with three straight scoreless innings before leaving with forearm tightness. Kenny Lippman walked away with the win after pitching three middle innings and helped the Maryland pitchers record 10 strikeouts.
“I don’t think I’ve been more proud of a kid and how he’s competed than I do with Nick Dean tonight,” Maryland coach Rob Vaughn said. “There’s no secret he had some forearm tightness a couple of weeks ago, and from pitch #2 that guy did not feel good. I tried to take him out after the second, he wouldn’t come out. I tried to take him out after the third, he wouldn’t come out. What an absolute warrior for his teammates, the most unselfish act I’ve ever seen. He gave us four and allowed us to turn over to the bullpen, and those guys did their job and were outstanding.”
Maryland (33-15, 13-4 in Big Ten), entering the weekend with a 1.5-game lead on the next closest Big Ten school, is only adding to its hottest streak of the season. The Terps most recently topped Delaware in a 19-7 beating and swept former conference leader Indiana last weekend. They’d won their last seven games by at least 10 runs, a program record.
Nebraska, though, isn’t far off. The Huskers () sit in fourth place in the Big Ten, having bested Minnesota in their last matchup with a conference rival. They’ve been shaky recently, as they suffered a sweep to Iowa two weeks back and arrived in College Park coming off the heels of a 6-5 loss to North Dakota State on Wednesday.
Nick Dean, filling in for Jason Savacool after the usual Friday starter pitched last Sunday, allowed the Huskers to strike first with a two-run bomb off the bat of Max Anderson in the opening inning. The Terps came right back with an Ian Petrutz RBI to bring in Matt Shaw, but the scoring soon ceased.
Defensive highlights soon took over, as Dean worked himself into a fourth-inning jam by allowing three different baserunners, but escaped the frame unscathed to leave all three aboard. Kenny Lippman replaced Dean the very next inning, Elijah Lambros robbed what would have been a Casey Burnham home run a foot above the centerfield wall to keep the score stuck at 2-1. This wouldn’t be his last
“I thought our defense was outstanding today,” Vaughn said. “A couple, like obviously Elijah Lambros going up and over. I think when you have two tough teams matched up against each other with really really good arms, it’s gonna be a play here and a play there, and we were fortunate enough tonight to make one more than they did.”
A few minutes later, the Terps’ offense finally exploded to take a dramatic lead. Luke Shliger brought in Bobby Zmarzlak from second on a double, and Nick Lorusso drilled a triple to clear the bases after Nebraska pitcher Emmett Olson intentionally walked Shaw. Eddie Hacopian’s pop-out brought in Lorusso, enabling the Terps to complete a five-run swing to take a 6-2 command.
“We ended up stringing a couple [hits] together,” Vaughn said. “We were just really efficient offensively tonight, and they played fearless baseball.”
The Maryland relief crew did their part in continuing to collect strikeouts, but slowly allowed two more runs to put the score that much closer within reach for the Huskers. The Terps responded big in the eighth, adding two insurance runs after two separate wild pitches enabled Matt Woods and Lambros to steal home.
After Nigel Belgrave got knocked around, David Falco Jr., Maryland’s fourth reliever of the night, closed the game with a strong ninth-inning finish to seal the 8-4 win.
Maryland gets the chance to take the series tomorrow at 2 p.m.