COLUMBIA, S.C. – In its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 43 years, Maryland waited until its final at-bat to win its first tournament game since 1970. The Terps completed a come-from-behind victory with three runs in the ninth to walk-off against Old Dominion by the score of 4-3 in the opening game of the Columbia Regional Friday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.
Trailing by two runs in the ninth, Maryland (37-21) cut the deficit to one on a run-scoring single by Charlie White and proceeded to load the bases on a LaMonte Wade walk. Old Dominion’s Brad Gero hit Brandon Lowe and Jose Cuason consecutive pitches to force in the tying and winning runs.
With the win, Maryland advances to the winner’s bracket of the Columbia Regional and will face either South Carolina or Campbell Saturday at 7 p.m. It is the Terps’ first NCAA Tournament victory since knocking off Mississippi State, 3-2, on May 28, 1970.
“I got to give our guys a lot of credit,” said head coach John Szefc. “It wasn’t a real pretty game for us particularly in the first two-thirds of it. [Jake] Stinnett made a very efficient start. He kept things close and gave us a chance to win late, which is all you can ask for in the NCAA Tournament.
“We had some opportunities late that we didn’t take advantage of and made it a little harder for us late. At the end of the day, when you count up the runs, it’s either a win or a loss and our guys did what they had to do late.”
The Terps trailed by three entering the bottom of the eighth. Monarchs’ starter Andy Roberts and reliever Ryan Yarbrough combined to shutout Maryland through seven innings stranding seven runners including leaving the bases loaded in the fifth.
In the eighth, Wade, Lowe and Cuas led off the inning with three consecutive singles to load the bases and put the Terps in position to cut into the deficit. Blake Schmit grounded into a double play, but the ground ball did score Wade and trimmed the Old Dominion (36-25) lead to 3-1.
Kyle Convissar started Maryland’s come back in the ninth. The senior shot the gap in left center for his fifth double of the season to lead off the inning. After a ground out, Kevin Martir reached on a fielding error to put runners at the corners.
Behind 0-2, White flared a single to center to scoring Convissar and bringing Maryland within one. Wade then drew a walk to load the bases before the Terps snatched the victory on back-to-back hit by pitches.
“There is never a sense of doubt in the dugout for us,” said Cuas. “We’ve been playing about as well as any team in the country in the month of May. We never doubt each other whether we are up or we are down. Our pitching staff settled down and we got big hits when we needed them.”
Maryland received a solid start from senior Jake Stinnett. The Vista, Calif., native scattered six hits over eight innings giving up three runs while striking out seven moving him past Steve Schmoll as the Terps’ single-season record holder. Stinnett has 130 strikeouts this season.
Tayler Stiles earned the win with a strong ninth inning. Stiles struck out two of the three batters he faced to improve his record to 4-2.
Old Dominion got on the board first in Columbia. With one out in the top of the third, Mike Perez tripled to the gap in left center. Tyler Urps got Perez home with a shot towards second that hopped over Lowe’s glove to give the Monarchs the early advantage.
The Monarchs added to their lead in the fifth tallying a run on three hits. Ben Slaton led off the inning with a single and moved to third on a well-executed hit-and-run by Perez. With runners at the corners, Urps hit a dribbler just in front of home plate leaving Martir with only one play. Martir dove in an attempt to tag the runner, but Slaton slipped past to score Old Dominion’s second run.
ODU continued to scratch out runs adding to its lead in the sixth. P.J. Higgins led off the inning with a single and stole second to put himself in scoring position. A long out to center allowed Higgins to move up and then score on a sacrifice fly by Josh Eldridge.