Terps drop game one to Illinois, in danger of losing fifth straight series

Jack Crowder fired in the 2-2 offering past Freshman Brayden Martin who could only watch as the home plate umpire went into his strike three call. Crowder, staring in intently, yelled out a big “Yeah” as he stepped off the mound and walked back toward his dugout. The sound of his excitement and emotion echoed through the quiet ballpark. 

Crowder was fired up after recording his fifth strikeout of the game as Illinois (25-13, 11-2 Big Ten) beat Maryland (26-17, 6-10 Big Ten), 7-4, Friday evening. 

Crowder ended the game with those five strikeouts compared to three walks. The senior right-hander threw 93 pitches across six innings giving up only two hits and two earned runs to the Maryland offense. 

The two hits were both extra base hits. The first was a lead-off double by Alex Calarco in the bottom of the third that led to him scoring Maryland’s first run of the game. The second came in the sixth off the bat of second baseman Sam Hojnar. Hojnar connected on a high and away fastball, rocketing the pitch toward the left field foul pole. The ball squeaked just to the right of the pole being called fair for his tenth home run of the season. 

Maryland had chances down the stretch to work its “Cardiac Terps” magic, but a pair of good defensive plays in the eighth by Illinois ended the chance. Maryland scored two in the ninth but an odd 1-6-3 ground out off the bat of Martin ended the Terps rally short of the magic number.   

“I thought we did a good job punching back late there and also had a chance in the eighth as well, but like I said, in those situations you just got to find a way to punch through or find a way to come back,” Maryland head coach Matt Swope said. 

The Terps offense finished the game with six hits and four walks while striking out seven times. Half of the Terps’ hits came in the bottom of the ninth.  

Koester turned in an ok outing for the Terps, pitching four innings allowing five runs, three of them earned. Koester threw 92 pitches in his abbreviated outing with 32 of them coming in the first inning. Koester allowed only one run in that inning, but pitched into four full counts, laboring for all three outs.

Illinois’ big inning came in the fourth when the Illini scored three runs against the redshirt senior. Two of the first three batters reached safely — one on an error by Chris Hacopian at third — putting a couple of runners on for catcher Camden Janik. A double steal put the two runners in scoring position for Janik who drove them in with a line drive to center field. 

Janik finished the game with two hits and three RBI. The junior catcher also scored a run in the fourth on a wild pitch that gave the Illini a 5-1 lead. 

The Illini offense hit well against Maryland pitching, notching ten hits throughout the game, three for extra bases. Illinois also ran a lot on the Terps defense and Calarco. The Illini swiped four bases without a caught stealing. 

The win is Illinois’ 19th in their last 22 games and keeps them atop the Big Ten standings. The loss is Maryland’s fourth straight Friday loss and Koester’s sixth loss in as many starts against conference opponents.

“I don’t think there was one phase that we necessarily you would say that we played well on tonight,” Swope said postgame.  

Maryland and Illinois play again on Saturday with the Illini looking for their fifth Big Ten series win of the season.