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Maryland edges Connecticut in 11 innings, forces winner-take-all finale

NCAA baseball tournament: Maryland 7, Connecticut 6

Maryland's Chris Alleyne connects for a two-run homer during Sunday afternoon's eighth-inning rally against Wake Forest. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
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Rob Vaughn figured his Maryland baseball team would have to slug its way into a deciding game in the NCAA tournament’s College Park regional. What the Terrapins needed more than anything was patience.

Maryland outlasted Connecticut, 7-6, in 11 innings Sunday night on Nick Lorusso’s bases-loaded single, extending its season at least one more day.

“You knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, but we found a way to get to tomorrow,” Vaughn said. “Shoot, all bets are off now. Who knows what can happen? This is why you show up to play right now.”

The teams will meet again at 7 p.m. Monday on ESPNU, with the winner advancing to a super regional against No. 2 seed Stanford or Texas State. Maryland is seeking its first super regional appearance since 2015.

Maryland’s Kevin Keister singled with one out in the 11th to end the night for Connecticut reliever Devin Kirby, who allowed two runs in a season-high 4⅓ innings. Jack Sullivan promptly allowed a first-pitch single to Luke Shliger and plunked Chris Alleyne. Lorusso then singled off the right field wall to win it.

“There are a lot of things that could go through your head, but I tried to remain calm, remain neutral,” Lorusso said. “That entire at-bat, I was just trying to think, ‘Deep flyball.’ ”

Maryland’s Andrew Johnson pitched a scoreless 11th for the win.

It was the second consecutive night the Terps (48-13) met the Huskies (48-14), and Connecticut’s 10-5 triumph Saturday had relegated Maryland to the losers’ bracket. It meant the Terps, the No. 15 seed, would have to win three in a row to move on to the second weekend of the tournament, while Connecticut needed just one win in two tries.

Maryland already had squandered a four-run lead when Alleyne led off the seventh with a double, then scored from second on Matt Shaw’s infield single. Shaw came around two batters later when Maxwell Costes roped a single to right.

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Nick Robinson pitched five scoreless innings for Maryland. Vaughn used four regular bullpen options to cover the sixth, seventh and part of the eighth. But David Smith’s two-out RBI triple to right forced Vaughn’s hand; he called on Ryan Ramsey, who threw 81 pitches in Friday’s defeat of Long Island, to attempt to finish things out.

Ramsey’s wild pitch scored Smith to tie it, but Maryland’s ace got the next seven outs without incident.

“This time of year, you don’t have the luxury of managing game-to-game or trying to save a starter,” Vaughn said. “You have to manage every inning, and you’re just trying to find a way to get a zero and score a run. Our mantra the entire day was ‘One inning at a time.’ ”

In the first game of the day, Maryland uncorked a six-run rally with two outs in the eighth to eliminate Wake Forest, 10-5.

The Terps hit five home runs — including Bobby Zmarzlak’s tying blast onto the roof of the ancient Varsity Team House beyond the left field fence in the eighth and Alleyne’s two-run shot three batters later off Gabe Golub — to eliminate the Demon Deacons (41-19-1).

“I’m never worried when we’re down — especially a three-run lead like that,” said reliever David Falco Jr., who pitched a season-high 3⅓ innings and struck out seven in his scoreless stint. “One inning is all it takes. We saw it today. I’m on the bench looking at the score, and I have zero worries about our team’s ability to hit and score runs.”

Pitching was the concern heading into the nightcap, especially because the Terps already had used their three usual weekend starters after getting bumped into the losers’ bracket. That meant turning to Robinson, a Rhode Island transfer whose longest outing of the year was 2⅔ innings and who sported a 7.61 ERA while largely working out of the bullpen.

The right-hander retired the Huskies in order in the first and set down 10 of the first 11 he faced. He worked into and out of two-on jams in the fourth and the fifth, escaping the latter with a flyout and a grounder to end his night.

“I don’t know what they were thinking they were going to get out of Robinson, but he was a veteran guy and I know the numbers weren’t great, but he really kept us off-balance,” Connecticut Coach Jim Penders said.

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Robinson hadn’t thrown more than 57 pitches in a game this season, but he used all the guile he could muster to navigate his 85-pitch outing.

He handed the bullpen a 4-0 lead featuring Troy Schreffler Jr.’s two-run homer in the first and a Lorusso solo blast in the fifth. But three relievers combined to give up four runs on two hits, throwing a mere 16 strikes on 40 pitches in the sixth as the Huskies tied a game on its way to lasting 4 hours 3 minutes.