Norfolk State’s historic baseball season has come to an end.
The Spartans (25-28) fell behind early and never recovered in a 16-0 loss to Maryland in an NCAA Greenville Regional elimination game Saturday.
“These guys sacrificed unbelievably and made themselves better day in and day out,” Norfolk State coach Keith Shumate said, “and in the end, they had a wonderful season.”
Bobby Zmarlak belted two home runs and the Terrapins finished with seven homers as they scored double-digit runs for the second straight game.
Spartans senior starter Danny Hosley (7-2), the MEAC Player of the Year, struggled from the outset, walking a batter and hitting another before Zmarlak homered to make it 3-0 in the first inning.
Maryland followed a similar script in the third inning, when the Terps put two runners on and Maxwell Costes blasted a three-run homer.
The Terps weren’t done, though. The fourth inning featured four more home runs to cement Maryland’s trip to Sunday’s noon game against the loser of East Carolina and Charlotte.
“It looked like they were hitting the fastball well,” Hosley said. “I thought I was able to get them out on the change-up and the curveball a decent bit, and probably just left a few too many fastballs over the middle that they handled.”
The disappointing ending doesn’t, however, overshadow Hosley’s career.
“I had a blast here and I loved every second of it,” Hosley said. “I’m just gonna miss hanging out with the guys every day.”
Much like Friday, Norfolk State was superb in putting runners on base against Maryland starter Sean Burke, but in contrast to that narrow 8-5 defeat to ECU, the nation’s 13th-ranked team, the Spartans stranded them all.
Norfolk State put its first two runners on in each of the first three innings, including a second inning when NSU loaded the bases with one out before two straight swinging strikeouts ended the threat.
“At some point, you’ve gotta have some timely hitting,” Shumate said. “You’re facing their best arm. He was their guy. ... Once we got behind, we’re not able to do the things we wanna do on the bases.”
Norfolk State finished the season as MEAC champions for the first time in program history when the Spartans beat North Carolina Central in a dramatic 11-inning barnburner capped by Alsander Womack’s walk-off RBI single.
The win ended a tough-luck streak of nine trips to the conference championship round without winning.
“You kinda have to step back and realize what this team did as a whole,” Hosley said. “I mean we brought the first championship home to Norfolk State, which is a great accomplishment in itself.”
NSU placed five players on the All-MEAC team, including Hosley, Womack, first baseman Mason Velasquez, outfielder Dionte Brown and pitcher James Deloatch.
Moving forward, this season’s success should propel the program forward, Shumate said, and give it a head start next season as the Norfolk State name gained more weight.
“When (young players) come, these (veterans) will say, hey, you gotta listen to Coach, you gotta have fun, you gotta follow what we did,” Shumate said. “You gotta run the bases hard, you gotta play the Spartan way. It sort of gives it some meaning.”
Ray Nimmo, 757-446-2364, email@example.com