GREENSBORO, N.C. – LaMonte Wade hit two home runs as part of a four homer effort to help Maryland defeat third-ranked Virginia by the score of 7-6 in its ACC Championship opener Thursday at NewBridge Bank Park. The Terps (35-19) recorded eight hits on the afternoon, six of which went for extra bases, to win their school record 35th game of the season.
Wade’s two solo home runs were half of the total the Terps hit Thursday. Kevin Martir and Charlie White each added one marking Maryland’s first four home run game since 2009, when the club totaled four against James Madison on April 28.
The turning point in the contest came in the Terrapin half of the seventh with the game tied at four. After Anthony Papio was hit by a pitch with two outs, Martir blasted his second home run in as many games to put the Terps up by two, the first two-run advantage for either team.
Wade hit what proved to be the game winner leading off the seventh. On a 0-1 count, Wade turned on a pitch up in the zone and sent it over the right-field wall for his second homer of the game becoming the first Terp to hit two home runs in a game since April of 2012.
“The [second home run] it was a 1-0 count and he hung a slider and I was able to elevate it,” said Wade. “It’s about sticking to our approach, the [home runs] weren’t on purpose they just happened with the good swings that we’ve been taking as a group, so just because the ball flies out we’re not going to change our approach.”
The Terps held off a Virginia (43-12) rally in the ninth with closer Kevin Mooney striking out John La Prise for the final out with the tying run at first for his 10th save of the season.
“We are not a home run hitting team, but obviously this ballpark plays differently than our home ballpark does,” said head coach John Szefc. “We were able to take advantage of it. You don’t normally go out and expect to score seven runs against Virginia.
“Those guys are tough. They battled back to tie it, and had a lead for a while and we just kept answering. I thought Jake [Stinnett] was his normal outstanding self and he bent but he didn’t break.”
The Terps four homer effort overshadowed another strong outing for starter Jake Stinnett. The senior righty struck out 10 hitters surrendering three earned runs over eight innings of work for his seventh win of the season.
Stinnett is now one strike out shy of tying the Maryland single-season record of 124. This season, Stinnett has six outings with 10 strikeouts or more.
“We knew going into the game they have a [good] offensive lineup and against teams like that you really have to minimize,” said Stinnett. “I felt like every time we scored a run my goal was to go out there and put up a zero and they would fight back and get a run, but it wasn’t more than one so we kept our heads high and the offense continued to pick me up over and over again. At the end of the day, we came out on top.”
After a nine-year absence from the conference tournament, White welcomed the Terps back in style. White turned on a 3-2 pitch from Virginia starter Artie Lewicki and drilled it to right field for his second home run of the season to begin the game.
Virginia answered in the second and took the lead behind a two-run home run from Derek Fisher. Nick Howard led off the inning with a single to left and scored two pitches later when Fisher hit his third home run of the season to right center.
Back-to-back doubles by Blake Schmit and Tim Lewis to start the fifth helped the Terps regain the lead. Schmit led off with his team-leading 16th double of the season finding the gap in left center. Lewis then came through with a great piece of fundamental hitting. With the infield shifted towards first, Lewis inside-outed a 2-1 pitch and slapped it down the left field line to knot the game at two.
After a ground out by Nick Cieri moved Lewis to third, Maryland grabbed the lead on a sacrifice fly by Papio. For Papio, it marked his 23rd RBI of the season.
Virginia tied the ballgame in the bottom half of the inning. After Stinnett retired the lead-off batter, a fielding error on Jose Cuas allowed Mike Papi to reach. Branden Cogswell then singled up the middle to put Cavalier runners at first and second.
Stinnett struck out Joe McCarthy looking for the second out of the inning, but Howard followed with a single to left to tie the game.
The Terps and Wade answered right back in the sixth. The sophomore first baseman blasted his first home run of the season planting a 2-0 pitch off the scoreboard in right center. Virginia tied the game in the bottom of the inning on an Irving RBI single knotting the game at four.
Martir put the Terps out in front by two in the seventh with his third home run of the season. His two-run homer came with two outs and proved the Terps an insurance run. Wade extended the Maryland lead to three in the eighth with his second home run of the game to start the inning.
In the ninth, Mooney retired Papi to start the inning, but a double from Cogswell and a home run from McCarthy cut the lead to one. With one out, Schmit made a game-saving grab leaping to snag a line drive from Fisher that would have found the gap in left center. Mooney then rang up La Prise to seal the win.
With the win, Maryland moves into a tie for first place in Pool B with Florida State, who is also 1-0, following a win over North Carolina Wednesday night. The Terps and Seminoles square off Friday at 11 a.m.