When Maryland baseball third baseman Brandon Gum stepped into the batter’s box to leadoff the eighth inning, Crumbs appeared in the Terps’ on deck circle. He then climbed onto the railing of the backstop and up the net behind home plate.
Gum singled to left field, sparking a late rally that lifted coach John Szefc’s squad past Richmond, 12-11, at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium on Tuesday. But it was center fielder Zach Jancarski who spotted the light brown squirrel running around the field, and his RBI single later in the frame gave the Terps a one-run lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Since Jancarski’s freshman season, he’s spotted Crumbs numerous times lurking around Maryland’s dugout. Each time he appears, Jancarski said, something good happens. The pattern continued against the Spiders.
With the Terps trailing by three runs entering the eighth inning, Gum’s single started the team’s latest come-from-behind midweek performance.
“We look at him as a little bit of a rally squirrel,” Jancarski, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a pair of walks, said. “Every time we’ve seen him during games in my years, something good has happened, so I don’t know what’s in that squirrel.”
We had an old friend drop by right before our four-run rally!
— Maryland Baseball (@TerpsBaseball) April 5, 2017
Before Jancarski spotted the squirrel, the Terps were six outs from dropping their fourth midweek contest of the season. Until the bottom of the eighth inning, the Terps struggled.
Right-hander John Murphy — the fifth Maryland starter to pitch during the week this season — had difficulty throwing strikes in his first start. The Terps’ defense recorded five errors over the first seven innings. And a seventh-inning miscue led to a three-run Richmond rally.
Still, as they did against William & Mary and Saint Joseph’s, the Terps remained within striking distance. Even after Murphy and right-hander Ryan Hill allowed a combined nine runs, two of which were earned, through two innings, Maryland remained competitive.
When Richmond carried a three-run advantage into the fifth, Szefc said he was still confident his offense would produce. It did, as designated hitter Dan Maynard’s two-run homer to left-center field made it a one-run contest. And right-handers Jamal Wade and Mike Rescigno combined to pitch 3.1 scoreless innings in relief to keep it close.
“It was important for us to keep the spirits up. You’re going to have a game like this every once in a while,” catcher Nick Cieri said. “That showed a lot about our team. Lately, the energy has been really good in the dugout, even when things aren’t going as good on the field. The dugout gives us that boost.”
Maryland’s final miscue of the night — left-hander Andrew Miller’s errant throw on a bunt attempt in the seventh — allowed the Spiders to take a three-run advantage. But then Jancarski saw Crumbs, and the Terps started to rally.
After Cieri’s three-run bomb tied the game in the eighth frame, Gum singled and first baseman Will Watson’s walked. Two batters later, Jancarski’s single to left field gave the Terps their second lead.
“We did an awful lot to try to not win that game” Szefc said. “This team can definitely win a lot of different ways. Our bullpen did a really good job. We’re clearly a way better defensive team than we showed today.”
As Jancarski grabbed his equipment back and prepared to leave the stadium Tuesday night, he again located Crumbs, who helped Maryland win its 19th game this season.
“He gets the assist for [the win],” Jancarski said. “That’s Crumbs. We like him around here.”