By Luke Gentile
The Maryland baseball team (15-17, 3-3 Big Ten) could not surmount a late two run deficit and wobbly bullpen Sunday in its game against the University of Illinois (19-8, 6-3 Big Ten) losing 4-2.
Maryland looked to close out the three game series with a win, as the Terrapins and Fighting Illini split the previous two contests.
Junior Hunter Parsons took the mound for the Terrapins, coming into the game sporting a 3-1 record and a 3.33 ERA.
In what can be best be described as a pitching battle between Parsons and the Illinois’ Ty Weber, the first five innings went by quickly, as both pitchers had shut down performances allowing seven hits in all.
The Terps scored both their runs off walks and took a 2-1 lead in the sixth, but it was short lived.
Parsons, who struck out out seven Illini, suffered an apparent hamstring injury and was forced from the game early.
“It obviously wasn’t ideal,” said Maryland coach Rob Vaughn. “But, that’s the hand you’re dealt, and the big thing is making sure he’s good moving forward.”
Looking to his bullpen, Vaughn had plenty of options to close out the final 3 innings. All four of his relievers were rested thanks to a Saturday off, but Vaughn couldn’t seem to find the right answer to counter a strong Illini lineup.
In the seventh, catcher and senior Justin Morris mishandled a drop-third strike from freshman Sean Fisher, allowing Illinois to tie the game. From then on things went from bad to worse.
The next three Maryland relievers issued three straight walks, loading the bases. Junior John Murphy only saw one batter before getting the hook..
“It was just one of those days,” Vaughn said. “As a guy that’s been a hitting coach his whole life, it’s easy for me to yell at pitcher to throw strikes, but when you got Bren Spillane standing in the box it isn’t as easy to just line up and attack the zone.”
With three runners on, senior Kevin Biondic, the Terps most trusted closer, surrendered back-to-back runs in the eighth, and the Terrapin offense had no reply.
“Unfortunately, we put three guys on in a row, and they cashed in,” Vaughn said. “We come back the next inning, put the first two guys on, and just can’t execute. Really, that’s the story of the game right there.”
The Terrapins were 0-13 with runners on base, and the bottom of the order continued to be of no help.
With no five through nine hitters in the Maryland lineup batting over .200, it appears time for a change.
Junior AJ Lee said someone needs to provide a spark in the batter’s box.
“We struggle at the plate,” he said. “Anybody who contributes is going to be huge. We need everyone on board pulling in the same direction.”
The team will head off on an away stretch in the coming week, making a stop at James Madison University before a three game stint with Big Ten foe Michigan.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys in the line up right now,” Vaughn said. “They are experiencing a little bit of growing pains, but, I’m telling you, it’s going to make them stronger.”