CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Andy Fisher dominated the Maryland Terrapins on Friday night — but it was not enough to beat them.
Illinois remains winless in the Big Ten (0-4) as Maryland rallied late to beat the Illini, 4-2, at Illinois Field.
“We let one get away from us,” said Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb.
A week after Illinois’ offense seemed to break against Iowa, Fisher made sure the Illini wouldn’t need much offense this time around.
The story of the night was without a doubt Fisher, showing up under the lights for the Illini and delivering arguably his best outing of the year. Fisher took a no-hitter into the 8th a month ago against Grand Canyon, but on Friday he showed resilience, dominance and attention to detail.
Fisher’s fundamentals are what makes him a good pitcher, with an upper 80s fastball and great offspeed pitches he makes his money off of contact.
Even though Fisher missed bats against the Terrapins, striking out nine, Fisher was hustling on defense as well.
“[I was] competing in the zone [tonight],” Fisher said.
In the top of the eight inning, Fisher’s last out came from him sprinting to cover the first base bag to receive a throw from second baseman Branden Comia, a play not many pitchers make with ease.
“Andy was awesome, he did a great job,” Hartleb said. “He pounded the zone, was in complete command and we were very comfortable putting him back out in the ninth inning. He deserved to go back out.”
Fisher himself was looking forward to pitching the ninth and securing the shut out.
As the top of the ninth rolled around and Fisher looked for a complete game one-hitter, he jogged out to the field and beat the majority of his team out to the mound.
“I wanted to finish it,” Fisher said. “I talked to the pitching coach I told him ‘I got this’ and just ran out of gas.”
The leadoff man, AJ Lee, lined a single, just the second hit of the ballgame for the Terrapins, and then Randy Bednar ripped a double to right to give the Terrapins runners on second and third with no outs.
Hartleb kept Fisher on the mound in the top of the ninth. A sacrifice bunt from Taylor Wright cut into the deficit and Hartleb pulled Fisher.
Fisher delivered eight innings of shutout baseball. The ninth inning was Fisher’s kryptonite. His final line was 8.1 innings, two runs, three hits, nine strikeouts, and just one walk.
Garrett Acton came in to shut the door, but he hit the first batter he faced.
Then a second sacrifice bunt tied the game for the Terrapins, the latter by Caleb Walls. Acton couldn’t seem to find the strike zone, as he walked Justin Vought to load the bases.
His command continued to waiver as a wild pitch allowed the Terrapins to score two runs as catcher Jeff Korte’s throw to Acton to get the first runner escaped him, and the second baserunner sprinted home to give Maryland a 4-2 lead.
The Illini brought Jack Yalowitz, Grant Van Scoy, and Jeff Korte to the plate to mount the comeback.
Yalowitz walked to lead off the inning, reigniting the crowd at Illinois Field. But they were quickly quieted by a Van Scoy strikeout. Korte followed by flying out to right on a sky high pop-up.
Zac Taylor, making his first apprearence in 14 games, struck out to end the game.
“This one stings,” Fisher said. “It’s a tough loss to take.”
Both Van Scoy and Korte singled twice in Friday’s contest. The Illini’s two runs came from sacrifice flies via Ben Troike and Michael Michalak.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
GONE FISHING?: Left-hander Andy Fisher had Maryland hitters fishing all day long. He tied a career-high with nine strikeouts in the dominant performance.
MY MAIN SQUEEZE: A sacrifice squeeze bunt from Taylor Wright gave the Terrapins their first run of the game in the top of the ninth. The tying run came around on a sacrifice squeeze bunt from Caleb Walls.
ACT(ON) FAST: With Fisher’s performance turning quickly into a heartbreak story, Garrett Acton came in with a runner on third and one out in the ninth. A hit batsmen followed by a sacrifice bunt to score a run gave Acton his first blown save of the 2019 season. To add insult to injury, a wild pitch from Acton scored two Terrapins.
TAYLOR GANG: Zac Taylor finally retuned to the diamond, pinch hitting in the ninth inning. His average was .400 before injuring his ankle running into the wall weeks ago.
HE SAID IT
“It’s just like a win, if we would have won that game you gotta put it behind you, you gotta move forward,” Hartleb said. “We have to go one pitch at a time, one game at a time, find a way to get our job done each and every inning and we’ll be in good shape.”
TWEET OF THE GAME
The Illini take on the Terrapins in a doubleheader Saturday. The first game begins at 1 p.m. CT and the second game will take place shortly after.
The Illini plan to roll out Ty Weber in Game One and Cyrillo Watson in Game Two.
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