Maryland’s 2018 season ends with 13-3 loss to Indiana

Maryland baseball learned during pregame warmups that Saturday’s game against Indiana would be its last of the season. Michigan State’s win clinched the final spot in the Big Ten tournament, eliminating the Terps from postseason contention for the first time since 2013.

Maryland (24-30, 9-14 Big Ten) arrived in Bloomington with their eyes set on a fifth straight conference tournament berth, but left with three straight losses and a nine-month wait before their next game. For a handful of Terps — whether it be because of graduation or the upcoming MLB Draft — Saturday’s 13-3 loss was their last time donning the Maryland uniform.

In the last four seasons, Maryland has participated in every conference tournament, earned three trips to the NCAA Tournament and advanced twice to the NCAA Super Regionals. That streak of success wasn’t replicated in the 2018 season, which failed to yield a postseason appearance.

Indiana (37-15, 14-9) still had motivation to play well in the regular season finale, hoping for better seeding in next week’s tournament while celebrating senior day. The Hoosiers scored in five of the first six innings, jumping on starting pitcher Mark DiLuia and a variety of relievers thereafter.

Right fielder Logan Sowers blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the first off DiLuia, taking advantage following a Maryland error and a one-out walk. The Hoosiers scored three more times in the next two frames against the freshman, who had been great for the past month and a half before Saturday.

Maryland nearly came back twice before the Hoosiers started to pull away. Junior third baseman Taylor Wright finished the season strong, collecting another two RBIs on a two-out single to cut Indiana’s lead to 3-2. After Indiana added another run, freshman Randy Bednar crushed a solo homer for his sixth of the season.

At least four players in Saturday’s starting lineup won’t be back next season, but Wright and Bednar both will be. They accounted for three of Maryland’s five hits and all three runs driven in.

Left-hander Sean Fisher worked a scoreless fourth inning, but it took four different pitchers to get through the next two frames. Fisher and right-hander Elliot Zoellner each finished short relief outings with three earned runs before Alec Tuohy entered and conceded a run and just one out. Senior Ryan Hill got the last two outs of the sixth after Indiana opened up a 13-3 lead. Hill pitched a scoreless seventh inning, capping off his Maryland career.

Senior Kevin Biondic’s pitching career began by fooling around with a knuckleball in pregame throwing lines and over last summer. He finished his first and only season as a Maryland pitcher with the same exact pitch, striking out Indiana’s Sam Crail with the erratic motion in the bottom of the eighth.

Maryland’s bats then went down in order in the ninth inning, ending the season by getting swept in Bloomington.

 

How Maryland can still clinch a spot in the Big Ten tournament

Maryland baseball can still qualify for the Big Ten tournament despite back-to-back losses against Indiana to start the final series of the regular season, but it’ll take some help from the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Terps must win their game tomorrow against Indiana and have Ohio State beat Michigan State on Saturday. If either of the two things doesn’t happen, Maryland will not be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2013.

Seven of the eight spots have been punched to the Big Ten tournament, awaiting  Maryland or Michigan State to officially claim the No. 8 seed. Whichever team makes it will face Minnesota, who clinched the Big Ten regular season title on Friday.

Here are the current conference standings heading into the final day of the regular season:

  1. Minnesota (18-4)
  2. Michigan (15-6)
  3. Purdue (15-6) 
  4. Illinois (15-8)
  5. Ohio State (14-9)
  6. Indiana (12-9)
  7. Iowa (12-9)
  8. Michigan State (10-12)
  9. Maryland (9-12)
  10. Nebraska (7-14)
  11. Rutgers (7-16)
  12. Northwestern (6-18)
  13. Penn State (3-20)


BOLD
 = clinched postseason berth
Strikethrough  = eliminated from contention

The Terps began the series with the opportunity to control their own destiny, but after losing the first two games of the series, handed that advantage over to Michigan State. Maryland’s loss Friday afternoon gave Michigan State the ability to pass the Terps in the standings later in the evening at home against Ohio State. They took advantage, beating the Buckeyes, 6-2.

The result put Michigan State one game ahead of Maryland in the standings with one game left in the regular season. It also eliminated Nebraska from contention. Because the Terps won two of three games against the Spartans earlier this season, Maryland owns the tiebreaker if both teams finish 10-12.

Here’s the schedule for Saturday’s influential games:

1:05 p.m. ET — Ohio State at Michigan State

5:00 p.m. ET — Maryland at Indiana

Maryland’s game was originally scheduled for 2:05 p.m., which would’ve overlapped with the one in East Lansing. Now, Maryland will know for sure whether or not its regular season finale against Indiana will matter. Maryland has participated in the Big Ten tournament in each of its first three years as a part of the conference, but is in jeopardy of continuing the streak.

Freshman right-hander Mark DiLuia (3-4, 5.17 ERA) will be Maryland’s starting pitcher against junior left-hander Tim Herrin (4-0, 3.00 ERA).

This story has been updated to reflect Maryland’s game vs. Indiana starting at 5 p.m. instead of the originally-scheduled 2:05 p.m. 

Maryland loses for 2nd straight day as postseason race tightens

Maryland baseball no longer controls its own destiny, now requiring assistance to earn a Big Ten tournament berth after losing for the second straight day against Indiana. All eyes for the remainder of Friday will turn to East Lansing, where Michigan State has a chance to put itself a game ahead of the Terps heading into the final day of the regular season.

Senior right-hander Taylor Bloom’s potentially last collegiate start was primarily successful, but Maryland’s offense stranded 12 runners — twice leaving the bases loaded — as the Terps never led in a 5-1 loss.

Maryland had two opportunities to control its fate this series, but with back-to-back losses, it’ll need some help now. If Michigan State beats Ohio State Friday at 4 p.m., the Spartans would overtake the No. 8 seed with one game left in the postseason race. Nebraska, too, remains alive with the Terps’ loss.

In the midst of retiring 13 straight hitters at one point, Bloom became just the second pitcher in program history to eclipse 300 innings in his career. He trails just former Terrapin and 2015 fifth-round MLB draft pick, Mike Shawaryn, but won’t catch his record unless Maryland makes the postseason.

The senior took several batters to settle in, walking the first batter he faced on five pitches before conceding a single on a 2-0 count. He wouldn’t allow another base runner until the fifth inning, but Matt Gorski’s RBI groundout in the first was the game’s only run for the first half of the game.

Maryland’s offense looked uneasy one time through the batting order against Indiana starter Pauly Milto (7-2, 2.00 ERA). The junior right-hander effectively used off-speed pitches, allowing one hit to the first nine batters.

The Terps fared much better in the following innings, but still struggled to find the tying run. Maryland loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth inning, but third baseman Taylor Wright struck out swing to end the threat. Designated hitter Randy Bednar singled to lead off the fifth, but a failed hit-and-run turned into a double play.

Right fielder Marty Costes began the sixth by working a walk, and then advanced around to third on two wild pitches. Left fielder Will Watson, on a 3-0 count, selected a pitch he liked and drove home Costes on an RBI double to tie the game. Still with no outs, the Terps were unable to bring across the go-ahead run.

Bloom walked the first two batters he faced in the following half inning, both of which came around to score to put Indiana back on top, 3-1. The Terps loaded the bases in their next trip to the plate, but first baseman Kevin Biondic struck out to strand all three runners on base.

Gorski and Luke Miller provided insurance runs with two solo home runs to put away the Terps, as Bloom preserved Maryland’s bullpen by completing all eight innings on 118 pitches. The final game of the series on Saturday is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.

Eighth-inning homer dooms Maryland, drops series opener to Indiana

Junior right-hander John Murphy struck out the first two batters he faced out the bullpen — each representing the go-ahead run  — narrowly escaping an eighth-inning jam before conceding a costly three-run home run in an all-important series opener against Indiana.

The Terps (24-28, 9-12 Big Ten) held a 4-2 lead before a two-hour weather delay halted play at Bart Kaufman Field in the top of the seventh. The stoppage ended junior Hunter Parson’s successful start for Maryland after six innings, and the bullpen was unable to preserve the lead in a 6-5 loss.

Before the home run, everything Maryland needed to happen to create separation in the postseason hunt, did. Rutgers, Michigan State and Nebraska — the three teams directly trailing the Terps in the standings — all lost Thursday.

While the loss is disappointing, absolutely nothing changes in the hunt for the No. 8 seed. With two games left in the regular season, Maryland still holds the final spot. The Terps have the same conference record as the Spartans, but hold a tiebreaker, while Nebraska sits 1.5 games back. Rutgers’ loss eliminated it from postseason contention.

Center fielder Zach Jancarski gave Maryland an early advantage following Will Watson’s leadoff single in the second inning. The senior launched a towering fly ball that cleared the left field fence for his seventh homer of the season to put the Terps up 2-0. The Hoosiers, who lead the Big Ten in home runs, used their strength to immediately answer. After Parsons worked a 1-2-3 first frame, the junior allowed a solo home run to Luke Miller.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Indiana tied the game using an unusual sequence. Following a leadoff single, right fielder Logan Sowers hit a line drive to center field that scored Matt Gorski all the way from first. Sowers ended up in a rundown in between first and second, deflecting all attention away from Gorski as he scampered home.

Indiana starter Jonathan Stiever escaped a jam in the fifth after the Terps got the first two hitters of the inning on base. Rather than electing to sacrifice bunt with Marty Costes, the right fielder flew out to straightaway center field. Kevin Biondic then grounded into an inning-ending double play.

A leadoff walk issued to Watson later hurt Stiever when Taylor Wright delivered the go-ahead hit in the sixth. Following Stiever’s departure, Maryland instantly  jumped on reliever Tommy Sommer. Lee led off the top of the seventh with a double. Nick Dunn — who became the 13th player in Maryland history to record 200 hits in his career earlier in the game — then singled to put runners on the corners. Costes lifted a sacrifice fly to extend Maryland’s lead to 4-2.

An almost two-hour rain delay ensued, knocking Parsons out of the game after 77 pitches. Following the delay, senior right-hander Ryan Hill replaced the starter and pitched a scoreless seventh frame.

But after Wright provided another insurance run that gave Maryland a 5-2 lead, it all fell apart in the bottom of the eighth. Left-hander Grant Burleson allowed an RBI single before Murphy entered the game and allowed Miller’s second homer of the game to put Indiana ahead, 6-5.

Maryland can still clinch a tournament berth with a win Friday and a Michigan State loss. The Terps’ game was moved up to 1 p.m. from an original 6 p.m. start.

Series Preview: Indiana Hoosiers

Maryland (24-27, 9-11 Big Ten) swept Rutgers last weekend in College Park to move into eighth place in the conference, the last spot that qualifies for the tournament. The Terps now control their own destiny, knowing they’ll clinch a postseason opportunity if it wins all three games on the road against Indiana.

Anything short of a second straight sweep will require help to get in. MBN’s Justin Gallanty and Connor Newcomb broke down every scenario going into the final week of the regular season in the latest podcast. But simply put, Maryland likely needs to mirror whatever Michigan State does against Ohio State. Because Maryland took two of three against the Spartans, it owns a tiebreakers right now despite having the same exact conference record.

Nebraska is the only other team that has a realistic chance of catching the Terps. If Maryland only wins one game and Nebraska sweeps Illinois, then the Cornhuskers jump the Terps by half of a game. Rutgers, technically, isn’t out, but the Terps pretty much ended the Scarlet Knights’ season last weekend.

Scenarios can be described over and over but at the end of the day, Maryland doesn’t need to worry about them as long as it continues to win in Bloomington. The series will begin on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. and end Saturday, instead of the typical Friday-Sunday.

Maryland is riding a four-game winning streak, its longest in over a month. The offense took full advantage of a weak Rutgers pitching staff, outscoring the Scarlet Knights 30-10 in the three games. Nick Dunn continues to lead the Terps with a .335 average, but it was Maryland’s senior bats that stood out last weekend. Will Watson hit two home runs in one inning, Kevin Biondic’s batting average inches closer to .300, Zach Jancarski made two more highlight-reel catches and Justin Morris provided a much-needed boost at first base and at the bottom of the order.

While the Terps might be playing their best baseball at the right time, the Hoosiers have lost five of their last eight games. Indiana was the only Big Ten team ranked to begin the season, tabbed as the favorite to win the conference. However, the Hoosiers head into the final weekend ranked sixth in the Big Ten, and no longer included in the national top-25 polls.

Indiana (34-15, 11-9) has been average on the road with a 10-9 record, but 18-5 in Bloomington. The Hoosiers are 6-0 against Maryland during the regular season since the Terps joined the Big Ten, but 0-3 in the postseason. Indiana swept Maryland in Bloomington last season.

Indiana hits .287 as a team — third in the conference — with four starters batting above .300 and seven players with at least six home runs. Sophomore infielder Matt Gorski leads the team with 68 hits, 13 doubles and 19 stolen bases. Senior outfielder Logan Sowers — a 2017 Big Ten All Second Team selection — is hitting over .300 with seven home runs in the middle of Indiana’s lineup.

Juniors Matt Lloyd and Luke Miller are both hitting below .300, but each lead the team with eight home runs this season. Indiana’s 54 team home runs lead the Big Ten, but the Hoosiers also strike out the second-most times. Only Maryland has more strikeouts as a team.

Indiana’s 2.88 team ERA is the lowest in the conference. All of its most-used starters have an ERA below 4.00 and every player who has started in at least one game has an ERA below 5.00. Sophomore right-handed reliever Cal Krueger has a 3.13 ERA in a team-leading 37.1 innings out of the bullpen, while senior lefty B.J. Sabol has a 1.05 ERA and a .198 batting average against in 25 innings this season.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Thursday, 7:05 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Hunter Parsons (5-2, 3.47 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Jonathan Stiever (5-4, 2.98 ERA)

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Parsons made his first-career Friday night start last weekend and will take the ball for Game 1 against the Hoosiers. The right-hander allowed just one earned run over seven innings, walking three and striking out seven in the win against Rutgers. The late-season injuries have shifted the weekend rotation, and Parsons rose to the occasion last weekend and he’ll need a similar appearance Thursday against the Hoosiers. He’s allowed just three homers all season — the fewest among Maryland’s starters — which will come into play against a power-heavy Indiana team.

Stiever has by far pitched the most innings for the Hoosiers this season, tossing 84.2 innings in 13 starts this season. No other Hoosier has pitched more than 61 innings this year. The right-hander holds hitters to a .244 average, striking out more than one batter per inning and walking only 25. In his last start against Nebraska, he allowed five runs (three earned) in six innings. He’s conceded at least three runs in each of his last three starts, receiving a loss in all of them.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:05 p.m. EST

Sr. RHP Taylor Bloom (3-7, 4.92) vs. Jr. RHP Pauly Milto (6-2, 2.04 ERA)

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Bloom pitched last Saturday as he continues to work back from his concussion last month. He matched the performance of Parsons, allowing just one earned run over seven innings. He didn’t walk anyone, hit just one batter and struck out six. Bloom hasn’t had the season many expected him to have, but as someone who has pitched in big games since his freshman year, Friday’s could certainly be up there as one of the biggest and definitely one of, if not the last opportunity for the senior.

Milto has the best ERA of any Indiana starting, also holding opposing hitter’s to the lowest batting average. The junior has also only allowed one home run the entire season. His best performance came early in the season against Boston College, throwing a complete-game shutout. In his last start against Nebraska, he earned the win by allowing two runs over 6.2 innings. He walked one and struck out five.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 2:05 p.m. EST

Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia (3-4, 5.17 ERA) vs. Jr. LHP Tim Herrin (4-0, 3.00 ERA)

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After starting on several straight Fridays, DiLuia’s permanent role for the rest of the season appears to be on Sundays. With Tyler Blohm’s status looking improbable, the freshman will remain in the weekend starting rotation. He started for the first Sunday last weekend against Rutgers, tossing six solid innings. He allowed two runs on six hits, walked one and struck out four. His start may very well end up deciding whether or not the Terps will make the Big Ten Tournament.

Herrin has made a lot his early-season appearances out of the bullpen, but has transitioned into a weekend starter. He’s now made eight stands and, on the season, has an 3.00 ERA in 51.0 innings. He’s not an overpowering thrower, striking out just 29 batters this year. He earned a win in his last start against Nebraska, allowing one run on five hits while striking out three. He has yet to allow more than three runs in an appearance the entire season.

 

 

 

Controlling their destiny: senior bats are leading Maryland’s postseason push

Maryland baseball’s chances of making the Big Ten Tournament looked slim less than a month ago after it was swept at home by Purdue. The weekend dropped the Terps’ conference record to 3-8 with three of the last four series slated for the road.

The team then won two of three in East Lansing against Michigan State — a series that might determine the final seed in the tournament — before losing two of three against Nebraska. Maryland’s record still sat at 6-11 and outside the tournament.

The probability of the postseason still looked minimal heading into last weekend against Rutgers, likely needing a sweep — something the Terps hadn’t accomplished all season — to keep their hopes alive. But then, with potentially six games left in their Maryland careers, the seniors led a charge that now has Maryland in a position to control its own destiny heading into the regular season finale on the road against Indiana.

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 2.27.56 AM
Big Ten baseball standings (as of 5/16/18)

Maryland’s four starting seniors — Kevin Biondic, Will Watson, Zach Jancarski and Justin Morris — finished their final series at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium a combined 19-for-43 (.442) with 14 runs scored and 17 RBIs to lead the Terps to their first sweep of the season. The results moved Maryland from 11th place in the Big Ten to eighth, which would earn them a trip the tournament.

“We’re playing with that chip on our shoulder right now,” Morris said on Sunday. “I mean, our careers can be over after any day now so we’re all just trying to take advantage of these last few games and just leave it all out there on the line.”

DSC_5689
Senior catcher Justin Morris waiting for a call. Photo by Amanda Broderick/Maryland Baseball Network

The Maryland native started all three games at first base against Rutgers, relinquishing his primary role behind the plate to provide assistance as Biondic nursed a bruised foot. In addition to his 4-for-10 weekend at the plate, Morris’ defense was strong despite playing the position on just one other occasion this season.

“He did an unbelievable job out there, just unbelievable. What that is, is just big-time unselfishness from that young man. Big time,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “He’s been our catcher here for the last couple of years but our team needed him to play first base and that dude stepped up and did his thing both offensively and at first base [last] weekend.”

While Morris’ defensive boost was a pleasant surprise, Jancarski’s performance in center field was nothing out of the ordinary. His full-extension grab in the ninth inning Friday night potentially saved the game with the tying-runner at the plate. A day later, with his team much more comfortably up 15 runs, he dove backward and crashed into the wall to corral a fly ball.

IMG_3042
Senior center fielder Zach Jancarski scores for the Terrapins last season against Northwest. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Jancarski — who also went 5-for-10 at the plate in the series —  has played in 183 games in his Maryland career, including starts in every game of the last two seasons. Putting his body on the line while up 15 runs in the last inning of his last weekend series in College Park shows what kind of seniors Vaughn has playing for him.

Biondic, despite not pitching, didn’t let his minor injury keep him from the batting order for the finale home series of his career. He assumed the designated hitter role for all three games, going 3-for-10 with two RBIs. The typical first baseman’s time in College Park began with playing 42 games in the Terps’ run to the NCAA Super Regionals in 2015, including all 10 starts in Maryland’s postseason games during his freshman year.

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Senior first baseman Kevin Biondic mid-swing. Photo by Amanda Broderick/Maryland Baseball Network

He started just 16 times two years later as a junior when Brandon Gum replaced him as a redshirt senior. Biondic’s adaptability has exemplified senior leadership, working hard to earn 50 more games this season with 23.1 innings on the mound as a first-year pitcher.

However, Maryland’s offensive surge began with the senior that has spent the least amount of time in College Park. Will Watson, who transferred from LSU-Eunice after his sophomore year, went 7-for-13 with 10 RBIs against Rutgers in three games. He hit two home runs with seven RBIs in the third inning alone on Saturday, helping earn national recognition and the Big Ten Player of the Week.

“Not one of us wants to be done playing so we want to extend the season as long as we can and we know what’s at stake,” Watson said Saturday. “We know that every inning, every pitch is important so we just kind of try to relay that message to the whole team.”

Despite a below-.500 season the Terps didn’t anticipate, they have a chance to extend their season in Bloomington. It’s simple: win all three games and they’re in the tournament. Anything other than that will require some help from around the conference.

The Terps are playing inspired baseball right now, going 6-3 in their last three conference series. That success, orchestrated largely by their seniors and starting pitching, has earned all one can ask for going into the final three games of the regular season: the right to control one’s own destiny.

“We could’ve made out lives much easier if we were getting after it, doing some of this earlier in the year,” Vaughn said. “But at the end of the day, if we can find a way to get to the tournament, who knows? I think when people are playing fearless and people are playing like there’s no tomorrow, then they become really, really dangerous.”