Knowing his team has a thin bullpen and had to play a doubleheader Sunday, Maryland baseball coach Rob Vaughn gave left-hander Sean Fisher a long leash in the matinee against Tennessee.
After Maryland knotted the game at four in the eighth inning, Fisher retook the mound despite allowing two hits the inning before and giving the Volunteers a 4-2 lead. Vaughn didn't leave the dugout, either, when Tennessee catcher Benito Santiago pulled Fisher's first pitch of the eighth into right field for a single.
Fisher, facing significant pressure in his college debut, took advantage of the faith Vaughn showed in him. He forced third baseman Wyatt Stapp into a double play and gave a fist pump.
Shortstop AJ Lee then laid out for a grounder up the middle and fired across the diamond to end an inning and finalize Fisher's shutdown eighth inning. It spurred Maryland to a six-run ninth inning that secured an series-clinching 10-4 victory.
Left fielder Marty Costes, center fielder Zach Jancarski and designated hitter Will Watson accounted for two RBIs apiece, and the Terps posted 12 hits as they secured a win in their opening series of the season.
Tennessee starter Garrett Stallings faced the minimum through five innings, but a line drive from catcher Justin Morris hit Stallings on the throwing hand and knocked him out of the game. Reliever Richard Jackson threw a run-scoring wild pitch to the first batter he faced, and the Terps jumped on the Volunteers' bullpen throughout, forcing Tennessee to use six arms over the final 3.2 innings.
Vaughn said he doesn't have a take sign for batters, breeding aggression that led to first-pitch outs against Stallings but led to results against Tennessee's other pitchers.
Terps starter Tyler Blohm, meanwhile, needed 92 pitches to complete 5.1 innings, putting Maryland's unproven bullpen to handle a significant workload in its second game of the season and first of two Sunday. Right-hander Elliot Zoellner allowed one run before Fisher threw 1.1 innings of relief, bridging the gap between Maryland's established starters and veteran late-game options.
Fisher's eighth-inning escape opened the door for Costes' go-ahead RBI double in the top half of the ninth, which Jancarski followed with another double as part of Maryland's five-hit, two-walk rally.
Blohm allowed a home run to the first batter he faced but found a rhythm after that, allowing two hits and two runs in his season debut. But he often worked deep into counts and his inefficiency increased the burden on his relievers.
Maryland's bullpen handled the load, while Tennessee's litany of arms wilted under the Terps' pressure. The Volunteers will hope to receive a strong start in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader to cover for a spent bullpen.