Maryland baseball wins two out of three against Illinois

Maryland senior catcher Justin Vought hit 3 home runs in Game 3 versus Illinois Saturday (Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

Maryland (21-14) won two out of 3 against Illinois (16-18 B1G) in Champaign this weekend for it’s fourth straight weekend series victory.

Game 1 saw a dominant pitching performance from Illinois starter Andrew Hoffmann. Hoffmann (2-0) shutout Maryland over 7.2 innings, allowing only three hits and striking out 12.

Maryland starter Nick Dean (2-1) pitched well over his 7.2 innings. Dean allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits with only one strikeout. Dean forced Illinois into 13 flyouts and nine groundouts.

“That was a pitcher’s duel at its finest,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “You had Hoffmann was elite tonight, and Dean had awesome stuff, had four pitches working, and was electric.”

Illinois scored its first run in the bottom of the third after a double by left fielder Nathan Aide. An RBI single from the second baseman Cal Hejza scored Aide that gave Illinois a 1-0 lead.

Dean walked shortstop Branden Comia with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Reliever Elliot Zoellner entered in relief of Dean. Zoellner allowed a single to designated hitter Justin Janas that advanced Comiia to third. Comia scored on a passed ball by Maryland catcher Riley Langerman.

Reliever Cole Kirschsieper closed out Maryland over the 1.1 innings for the save to give Illinois the 2-0 victory.

“The difference is [Illinois] was able to string three of their five hits together,” Vaughn said. “We just punched out way too many times tonight.”

The Terps bounced back in game 2 with a 5-3 victory. Maryland starter Jason Savacool (6-1) returned to form with a stellar 8.1 innings. Savacool allowed three runs on four hits with seven strikeouts.

“I was trying to go for the complete game,” Savacool said. “Thankfully, I didn’t have to throw too many high-stress pitches during the game.

“It was a crazy day,” Vaughn added. “[Savacool] was unbelievable and set the tone for the day.”

Chris Alleyne had another phenomenal game. The center fielder went 2-4 with three RBIs, a run scored, and a stolen base. In the third, designated hitter Bobby Zmarzlak scored on a single from Alleyne, while a double from infielder Matthew Shaw scored Alleyne giving the Terps a 2-0 lead.

The Illini bounced back with a run in the fifth, but Maryland tacked on runs in the fifth and sixth innings giving them a 4-1 lead after six. Alleyne scored Zmarzlak on a sac fly for the third run, while third baseman Tommy Gardiner scored on an RBI single in the sixth.

Illinois pulled starter Nathan Lavender (5-2) for reliever Ty Rybarcsyk in the top of the sixth after allowing four runs on nine hits over five innings. The Terps tacked on an insurance run in the eighth as right field Troy Schreffler scored on an RBI single from Alleyne, extending Maryland’s lead to 5-1.

Illinois attempted a comeback in the bottom of the ninth. Maryland reliever Sam Bello entered the game with two on after Savacool hit Janas and allowed a single by catcher Ryan Hampe. A two-run double by catcher Conor Campbell inched the Illini closer to make a comeback. However, Bello struck out pinch hitter outfielder Tom Jurack leaving two runners on base to preserve the 5-3 victory for Maryland.

In game three the Terps cruised to a 12-4 victory behind the explosive power of catch Justin Vought. Vought homered three times becoming the first Terp with a three-home run game since 2009.

“I’ve been struggling a lot this year,” Vought said. “I felt like I am letting the team down when I’m struggling at the plate. So today, it felt really good to know that I played a pivotal role in us getting the win.”

Illinois starter Riley Gowens lasted only 3 2/3 innings when Maryland exploded for four runs in the fourth. After Maxwell Costes and Gardiner reached base, left fielder Tucker Flint jacked a three-run homer, Maryland’s first of six home runs on the day. Vought promptly followed that with his first home run of the game, giving the Terps a 4-1 lead after four innings.

Maryland added two runs in the top of the sixth after Vought lead off with his second homer of the game. Alleyne followed with a home run off Alex Vera to put Maryland up 6-1.

Illinois tacked on a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth and seventh bringing Maryland’s lead to 6-3 at the end of seven innings. However, Maryland responded in the eighth as Vought and shortstop Ben Cowles both homered pushing Maryland’s lead to 8-3.

“It was awesome,” Savacool said of Vought. “It was cool to see him break out today. He is a really good hitter, and he was looking to find his stride.

Continuing their explosive bats, Maryland scored four more runs in the top of the ninth. The highlight of the inning was a two-RBI single from Shaw that pushed Maryland’s lead to a commanding 12-3 scoring Vought and Flint.

“I am really happy for [Vought],” Vaughn said. “I was joking in his second-to-last at-bat, and he had already hit two. I said, you might as well hit another one, and goodness gracious did he ever.”

Illinois added another run in the bottom of the ninth, but it was not enough to overcome Maryland’s impressive display of power.

Maryland returns to Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium next weekend for a three-game series versus Purdue (11-20, B1G).