Maryland baseball shuts out Rhode Island, 3-0, in series-clinching win

For Maryland baseball, Sunday’s weekend series finale was set up for a pitcher’s duel as a pair of right-handed starters took the mound. 

The Terps started Sean Burke, who struck out eight in his college debut last weekend. The Rams sent Vitaly Jangols to the bump, an experienced senior. The game lived up to expectations for about five innings, but Jangols couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning. 

Meanwhile, Burke kept the Rams’ bats at bay, striking out eight over 5.2 scoreless innings as he and the Terps shut out Rhode Island 3-0, sealing a series win.

“He was tremendous,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “His fastball’s got ride. It’s got everything that every coach wants on it. He threw a lot of strikes today. On Sunday, you gotta set the tone and it starts on the mound.”

The Terps needed a good performance on the mound after Saturday’s starter Nick Dean gave up six runs in 4.2 innings, leading to an 11-8 slugfest in favor of Rhode Island. 

While not supplying the offensive fireworks of the game prior, Maryland got what it needed from Burke. 

“Primarily, attacking with fastball, curveball has worked out, so I’m just going to kind of stick with it,” Burke said. 

However, he got himself into a jam in the sixth and wasn’t able to finish the inning, forcing senior Elliot Zoellner to come in to face Mark Coley with two outs and runners on the corners. Coley worked a full count, but Zoellner induced a second-straight fly out to Chris Alleyne to end the inning.

“I thought it was just a really well-pitched game all the way around,” Vaughn said. “[Burke] was awesome. Passed it off to [Zoellner], he came in and did his job. Staine was great and let DiLuia close it. That’s about as good as we could line up.”

Maryland jumped on Rhode Island early after Alleyne led off the game with a double over the head of Rhode Island center fielder Austin White. He then advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Tucker Flint RBI groundout to first, putting the Terps up 1-0.

It took until Saturday for the Terps to hit a home run. When they came, though, they were plentiful, as the Terps sent three over the fence Saturday. Maxwell Costes, the team’s home run leader in 2019, added his name to this year’s list Sunday with a solo home run to left-center field, doubling Maryland’s lead.

Costes wasn’t done, as he produced another big hit as a crucial time. Sean Sposato, who came in relief for Jangols in the fifth, had thrown 2.2 no-hit innings for the Rams. Costes ended that brief spell, hitting his second home run of the day over the batting tunnel in left field, standing to admire it before flipping his bat toward the Maryland dugout. 

“Today, we needed it in a couple of big spots and it came together for us,” Costes said. “ think this is huge for us.”

That insurance run was plenty for freshman relief pitcher Connor Staine, who came in to start the seventh inning after Zoellner departed.

Staine nearly finished the job for Maryland on the mound, throwing 2.2 scoreless innings of two-hit baseball, but encountered some trouble after recording the first two outs in the ninth.

He allowed a single and walked Sonny Ulliana to put two men on with two down and the potential tying run at the plate in pinch hitter Thomas Summers.

Mark DiLuia was called on to get that crucial final out for the series win. And he obliged, striking out Summers to end the Rams’ threat — and the weekend with it.

“You’re not going to go undefeated in a baseball season, so to see our guys come out here and bounce back after a tough loss yesterday, that shows what type of character this team has,” Costes said.