With the Terrapins baseball team trailing by three runs in the seventh inning of its game at Delaware on Tuesday, catcher Nick Cieri stepped up to the plate.
Coach John Szefc’s squad had already scored three runs in the inning, and Cieri had a chance to tie the contest with two runners on base if he could replicate his magic from Sunday when he belted a grand slam that gave the Terps a one-run lead.
There would be no long ball Tuesday, though. Cieri ground out, and right fielder Anthony Papio grounded into fielder’s choice to end the inning. The Terps, who couldn’t string together a comeback victory like they had Sunday, lost 12-7 to the Blue Hens.
“It’s just one of those days,” first baseman Kevin Biondic said. “Just a few unlucky bounces and a few hits that got down. We just weren’t able to pick up [the pitchers] today.”
Right-hander John Murphy, who made his first career start, allowed five runs on six hits in the loss. The Terps allowed a season-high 16 hits after allowing 11 hits against Rhode Island on Sunday.
Murphy didn’t pitch as well as he can, Szefc said, but gaining his first game experience will help him moving forward.
The Terps (3-4) entered the match with some offensive momentum after recording season highs in runs, hits, RBIs and home runs in a 13-10 victory over the Rams on Sunday. And early on, the offense looked like it was going to continue that streak.
The Terps recorded seven hits in the first three innings to take a 4-2 lead. But they didn’t score again until the seventh frame.
Murphy surrendered his second home run of the contest in the bottom of the third, which allowed the Blue Hens to cut their deficit to 4-3. And from there, Delaware (4-3) continued to pile on runs the rest of the game.
After scoring one run in the fourth and fifth innings, the Blue Hens tallied five runs in the sixth inning with the help of two fielding errors as they batted around.
The Blue Hens’ game-changing frame came against two pitchers, freshman left-hander Zach Guth sc and sophomore right-hander Andrew Green. Four freshmen pitched Tuesday for the Terps, combining to allow 12 hits.
“You don’t really know who you can utilize in certain situations until you see them pitch,” Szefc said. “The only way you’re going to get those guys prepared is to play them.”
After the Terps’ seventh-inning rally came up short, the Blue Hens added two insurance runs in the eighth inning to seal the victory.
Szefc tinkered with the lineup Tuesday; left fielder Marty Costes earned his second start, and second baseman AJ Lee made his starting debut. Lee replaced designated hitter Nick Dunn, who started at second up until Tuesday.
To put the best defensive lineup on the field moving forward, Szefc said he wants to see which players thrive in certain roles.
“You just have to make sure you always stay focused in the game,” Dunn said of starting at designated hitter instead of at second, “and be ready for every at-bat even though you’re not in the game every inning.”
The freshman is one of the many newcomers expected to helped fill the losses from this past offseason.
But as Szefc emphasized early this season, it’ll take time for the Terps to become a College World Series contender like last year.
“We’re not really ready right now to be successful,” Szefc said. “At some point, we will be. With a lot of the young guys we have, it’s just not really our time.”