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Photo by Sara D. Davis for theACC.com
Maryland opens ACC Championship play with four-homer power display
GREENSORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – As they compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship for the first time since 2005, the Maryland Terrapins seem intent on making up for lost time.
The sixth-seeded Terps belted four home runs – including LaMonte Wade’s first two of the season and a tie-breaking blast by No. 9 hitter Kevin Martir in the top of the seventh – to defeat third-seeded and nationally No. 1 ranked Virginia by a 7-6 score in the opening game of Thursday’s session.
“We are not a home run hitting team but obviously this ballpark plays differently than our home ballpark does,” Maryland coach John Szefc said. “We were able to take advantage of it. You don't normally go out and expect to score seven runs against Virginia.”
The power display backed a strong outing by starting pitcher Jake Stinnett, who yielded 10 hits but allowed just three earned runs and struck out 10 batters while walking none. Stinnett (7-6) needs just two more strikeouts to break the school single-season record of 124 set by Steve Schmoll in 2003.
“My goal was to go out there and put up a zero,’ ” Stinnett said. “It was more than that … but the offense continued to pick me up over and over again, and at the end of the day we came out on top.”
In addition to opening the round-robin pool play tournament with a victory, Maryland (35-19) posted its 10th straight overall victory, remained unbeaten in the month of May and further enhanced an already solid NCAA Tournament resume.
The Terps continue ACC Championship play against second-seeded Florida State at 11 a.m. on Friday, while Virginia (43-12) faces seventh-seeded North Carolina at 7 p.m. With Thursday’s result, three of this year’s ACC Championship’s top four seeds (No. 1 Miami, No. 3 Virginia and No. 4 Duke) lost their first tournament game.
Stinnett left the game with a 7-4 lead. The Cavaliers closed within one run in the bottom of the ninth on Joe McCarthy’s one-out, two-run homer off Maryland closer Kevin Mooney, and the NewBridge Bank Park crowd of 3,408 stirred in further anticipation after Nick Howard followed with a walk.
But Terp shortstop Blake Schmit made a leaping grab of Derek Fisher’s line drive for the second out, and Mooney struck out John La Prise to nail down his 10th save of the year.
“Derek Fisher hit that ball hard,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “He hit the inside part of the ball and it was a smoked line drive … nice play by their guy. Certainly if he doesn't make that play maybe it's a different ballgame, maybe if he has a chance to get to the gap. I'm not sure.”
Maryland made an opening statement when the game’s first batter, All-ACC second-team outfielder Charlie White, drove a 3-2 pitch from Cavalier starter Artie Lewicki over the wall in right for his second home run of the season.
Fisher’s two-run homer in the bottom of the second gave Virginia a 2-1 lead. That held up until the top of the fifth, when Maryland pushed across two runs to regain the lead. Schmit and Tim Lewis led off the inning with back-to-back doubles, and Anthony Papio added the go-ahead sacrifice fly.
Virginia’s Howard delivered the third hit of his four hits – a two-out RBI single – to knot the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth.
The game of point/counterpoint continued in the sixth inning. Wade’s leadoff home run off the right field scoreboard put Maryland back in front. Virginia answered with Nate Irving’s two-out RBI single tying the score again at 4-4.
But the Terps finally took the lead for keeps in the top of the seventh, when Martir connected on a 2-1 pitch from Cavalier reliever David Rosenberger (1-1) for a two-run homer and a 6-4 lead. Wade’s second homer of the game leading off the eighth inning provided what proved to be the hugest of insurance runs.
“They threw six left handed hitters up there and if you don't execute your pitches they make you pay,” O’Connor said. “That's what we've done all year long, is we've pitched really well. We didn't pitch up to our capability this afternoon.”