Adding shutdown pitching and timely offense to their usual dosage aggressive baserunning, Maryland was able to dispatch the Delaware State Hornets easily Tuesday night, defeating the visitors 8-0.
Eric Potter started the game for the Terps, and pitched five scoreless innings en route to his third win of the season. He struggled early, walking five batters, but struck out four and lowered his season ERA to 4.57 (from 5.20). Blair Delean and Jeff Crosswhite came in to pitch in relief for Maryland, and each pitched two scoreless innings to close it out.
Potter got out of two separate early jams in the first inning. Shortstop Keith Hernandez led off the game with a walk, and second baseman Scott Davis reached first on a throwing error by Tomo Delp. After designated hitter Ryan Haas grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, it looked like Maryland would get out of the inning. However, Potter walked Cameron Cecil and hit Aaron Nardone with a pitch, loading the bases for the Hornets. The lefty was able to strike out right fielder Joey Babuca on a slow breaking ball after a long battle, and the Terps got out of the inning.
In the bottom half of the inning, Delaware State starter Elliot Gardner got out of a jam of his own. Charlie White led off the inning with a stand-up double over the right fielder’s head, and Alfredo Rodriguez popped a ball up to center, which Troy Drummond promptly dropped. With runners on second and third and no outs, Ryan Holland and Michael Montville both struck out. Austin Kilbourne walked, but Tim Kiene grounded back to Gardner to end the inning.
In the bottom of the second, Maryland took the lead. Tomo Delp led off the inning with a single, and scored all the way from first on a single to right by Curtis Lazar that Delaware State took their sweet time to field.
The Terps were able to extend their lead in the bottom of the third. Alfredo Rodriguez led off the inning with a single, stole second, and took third on a throwing error by catcher Cecil. Holland walked and Montville was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with none out. Kilbourne walked, scoring a run, and Holland scored on a sac fly by Kiene. Another run scored on a Curtis Lazar sac fly, and Maryland finished the inning with a 4-0 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Maryland manufactured another run on some great baserunning. With Rodriguez on second and two outs, Holland hit a slow roller to short. Holland raced down the baseline, forcing a quick throw in the dirt from shortstop Hernandez, and the second baseman dove headfirst into first base to beat the throw. A-Rod was able to round third and score without a throw, scoring from second on an infield single. Holland later scored on an single to right by Michael Montville, and the score was 6-0 Terps.
The Terps scored two more runs in the bottom of the eighth on a bases-loaded White walk and a sac fly from A-Rod.
Maryland travels to Virginia tomorrow to play James Madison. They play Miami in a big home series this weekend.
Some quotes from Coach Bakich:
“Their mentality they brought into Sunday has carried over. They’re playing fearless right now, which is how you have to play. In regards to the ACC games, you can’t try to clinch a berth to the ACC Tournament with every single win and I think we were trying a little bit too hard at times and putting a little too much pressure on ourselves at times and I think now these guys are just taking more of a mentality of being fearless and playing the game as hard as they can every pitch of every inning for nine straight innings, and that’s just what they have to do.”
“Pressure is self-inflicted, it’s something that can be overwhelming if you let it be, but hopefully these guys won’t let that [happen]. I mean, who cares about what our record was last year, I don’t think anyone’s thinking about that, I certainly am not. I’m certainly not thinking about being .500, because that, to me, is not good. As far as the pressure of being a postseason team, that’s where guys are maybe trying too hard to focus on things they shouldn’t be focused on, like winning, when they need to just be focused on playing as hard as they can.”
On Eric Potter’s performance:
“I thought he was struggling through the first couple of innings, he had a few walks, but he found ways to get out of jams, which is a good sign. You could tell that he wasn’t quite totally comfortable, maybe he didn’t have his A-game out there for the first couple of innings, but then we got a four-run lead and he maybe relaxed a little bit, settled down a little bit, and then there was a noticeable difference in his command and his feel for the strike zone after the third inning, which was good.
On whether Potter is back to being a weekend pitcher:
“It’s not about that, I think it’s about just being the best pitcher he can be, he’s making progress towards getting back to that early season form.”