Maryland baseball closer John Murphy jogged to the mound Sunday against Michigan seven innings earlier than he usually does.
After starter Tyler Blohm left due to arm discomfort, Murphy was charged with holding the Terps' one-run lead in the second inning before right-hander Hunter Parsons, the usual Sunday starter, could enter in relief. Instead, Murphy's season-long control issues continued. He surrendered three walks, leading to four Wolverine runs and sinking Maryland's lead.
In both games this weekend, Maryland's emergency bullpen options failed to cover for starting pitching injuries. After losing 10-4 on Friday, Murphy's erratic showing led to a 6-3 loss in an eight-inning game delayed by weather and cut short by Maryland's travel curfew.
"He just got put in a situation that's difficult, and obviously he didn't throw as many strikes as he thinks he should [and] as we'd hoped he would," coach Rob Vaughn said. "But again, he was just in a tough situation there in very tough conditions."
Shortstop AJ Lee stepped into the box to lead off the game about six hours after the Terps took batting practice. Ahead of the 1 p.m. start time, both teams helped shovel ice off the warning track as plows cleared the turf field at Ray Fisher Stadium, but the game wouldn't begin until after 6 p.m. due to cold weather.
Once the game began, Blohm escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and third baseman Taylor Wright gave the Terps (16-19, 3-5 Big Ten) a 1-0 lead in the second with his first Maryland home run.
Then, Murphy entered and allowed a single followed by three consecutive walks to level the contest at 1-1. An RBI groundout and two-run double from center fielder Jonathan Engelmann put the Wolverines (21-11, 8-0) ahead, 4-1, before Vaughn could get the ball to Parsons.
"I told Murph we might not use him in a standard role, we might use him in a little bit more of a bridge role, just because, as a reliever, he's used to getting ready a little quicker than a guy like Parsons is," Vaughn said. "He was aware of it. None of us were aware that was going to be in the first inning."
Blohm's early exit was the second starting pitching injury of the weekend.
Right-hander Taylor Bloom was ruled out of his Friday start after he was hit with an errant ball during batting practice as he warmed up. Emergency starter Mike Vasturia had about 30 minutes to prepare for the second start of his career, and he struggled in his two frames, allowing four earned runs.
And on Sunday, Vaughn couldn't successfully bridge the gap between Blohm and Parsons.
Parsons handled the Wolverines' order apart from consecutive doubles in the fifth and a solo home run from first baseman Jesse Franklin in the seventh. The right-hander struck out seven, but the two runs he surrendered allowed Michigan to bolster its lead.
Meanwhile, Michigan starter Ben Dragani (4-0, 1.38 ERA) scattered six hits and struck out six Terps over his six innings, allowing two solo home runs to Wright and first baseman Kevin Biondic. The freshman left-hander entered Sunday with a Big Ten-leading 1.13 ERA.
Up against the Terps' travel curfew with two outs in the eighth inning, Wright grounded out with two runners in scoring position to end the contest and the series after just two games, weather having wreaked havoc on the weekend's schedule and injuries having decimated the Terps' rotation.
"'Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong,' is kind of what we ran into this weekend," Vaughn said. "That's baseball. It's what we've got to deal with. You're going to have adversity, it's all about how you respond to it. I didn't think we responded terribly to it, but we didn't respond good enough to it this weekend."