Maryland Baseball loses the first game of the series at UCF 4-2

On Friday, a pitcher duel took place between Maryland Baseball junior right-hander Jason Savacool and UCF Redshirt senior right-hander Ruddy Gomez.

Maryland took an early lead in the first inning, and UCF took the lead in the third. Both teams didn’t do much offensively, as Savacool hit 10 strikeouts in his six innings and Gomez held Maryland on two runs in eight innings.

In the eighth round, with UCF leading 3-2, redshirt junior Nigel Belgrave of Maryland came in for his second inning of relief. Belgrave dropped redshirt senior second baseman Tom Josten to lead the inning and a misplayed pickoff attempt put him in second place. Designated sophomore hitter Andrew Sundean ended his batless day with a lone hit down center that earned Josten and added a crucial insurance run for the Knights.

That proved too much for the Terps as they lost the first fight of the three-game streak 4-2.

Despite a stunning offensive display, the Terps jumped the ball early. Junior catcher Luke Shliger and senior third baseman Nick Lorusso hit back-to-back singles to put runners into the corners without anyone going down in the first inning. Junior shortstop Matt Shaw then hit a grounder to third base in what was almost a double play, but he narrowly hit it to keep runners in the corners. Maryland conceded when fifth-year outfielder Matt Woods played a bad single that brought Shliger home and gave the Terps an early lead.

In the bottom third of the third, fifth year, outfielder John Rhys Plumlee was hit by Savacool and stole second place on a pass ball. Third baseman Andrew Brait won a long fight against Savacool and scored Plumlee with a double, leveling the game at one. On the next shot, Josten hit junior second baseman Kevin Keister with a rocket he couldn’t handle, giving UCF a one-run lead.

Maryland did not have an immediate response. Keister landed after a nice play from Brait, and a single from first baseman sophomore Eddie Hacopian did nothing at the top of fourth place.

Both teams traded homers in the middle innings. Redshirt senior first baseman Nick Romano hit a lead off homer in the fourth to extend the lead for UCF to two, but Savacool settled to seed the next three batters. Shliger responded with a blast on opposite field a half-inning later to put Maryland on a run.

Savacool and Gomez kept things relatively quiet after that; Gomez collected his sixth strikeout on top of the fifth and Savacool collected his eighth strikeout to finish the fifth.

Savacool finished the night with a season-high 10 strikeouts, giving up just two earned runs in six innings.

In the seventh round, senior outfielder Bobby Zmarzlak hit a leadoff double to try to get a rally going for Maryland, and head coach Rob Vaughn hit Jacob Orr in place of Elijah Lambros. A ground ball into third put Zmarzlak off the base paths, but Maryland loaded the bases with a Lorusso single and went past Shaw. Although the bases were loaded, the Terps couldn’t muster another run as Matt Woods flew out to end the rally.

Belgrave came in for Savacool in the seventh and put UCF in order. Gomez came in for his eighth and final inning of work, closing out Maryland again. He finished with 111 total pitches and seven strikeouts – Maryland couldn’t match him the entire game.

At the end of the round of 16, Belgrave beat Josten and dropped an RBI single to Sundean, extending UCF’s lead. Belgrave handed another hit to Romano and was taken out for junior left-hander Tommy Kane with runners on the corners and an out. Kane hit out and went a batter to load the bases, but an impressive catch from Woods ended the inning and the rally.

Maryland tried to start a rally in the ninth game, but Kyle Kramer shut the door on the terps, sealing the 4-2 final score.

Maryland meets UCF again at 6 p.m. Saturday in an attempt to even the series.

Three things to know

1. Savacool knocked out UCF’s best hitters. Josten, fifth-year catcher Ben McCabe and Sundean were unsuccessful in Savacool’s six innings, chilling the hottest players in the UCF lineup. Savacool’s final line consisted of two earned runs, four hits, a walk and 10 strikeouts, an all-around impressive start for him.

2. Maryland’s offense fell silent. Maryland has shown it has the potential to score well, but has struggled to put together consistent offensive performances lately. Lambros, Ian Petrutz and Shaw all went clean on Friday, and Maryland failed to capitalize on the leadoff hits and runners in goal position. Maryland was 1-for-8 with runners in goal position unable to capitalize after the first inning.

3. An impressive performance by Ruddy Gomez. Gomez was expected to do well on Friday, but the length of his outing was something special. Eight innings and 111 pitches is impressive for a collegiate performance, and though he conceded eight hits, he landed eight terps on base and hit out seven.

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