A glance at the pitching matchup would have led most forecasters to predict a low-scoring affair Wednesday afternoon.
The game that actually transpired was not a low-scoring affair.
Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Brian Shaffer and Iowa ace Nick Gallagher gave up 24 hits and 16 runs combined, but Tyler Cropley raced home with the winning run on a Matt Hoeg sacrifice fly in the ninth to give Iowa a 9-8 victory in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington, Ind.
Maryland’s bullpen held the Hawkeye lineup at bay for two innings, but Ryan Hill gave up a walk and a single in the ninth before Ryan Selmer surrendered the sac fly to Hoeg. The ball was not deep and it looked like Marty Costes might be able to throw Hoeg out, but the wind blew the ball a little further than Costes thought and he wasn’t able to get all of his momentum into the throw.
Iowa (35-19) scored early and often off Shaffer, who had not given up more than three runs in a game all season coming in. After a couple of hard hit balls in the first failed to bring home any runs, the Hawkeyes began to pile up runs in the second. Cropley led off the inning and on the first pitch he saw lifted a home run over the right field wall. His seventh homer of the season gave his team an early 1-0 lead.
After a strikeout, the bottom of the order did some damage for Iowa. No. 7 hitter Hoeg doubled and Ben Norman and Mitchell Boe followed with a double and single, respectively, to bring in two more runs. The Hawkeyes eventually put up four runs in the second and two more in the third to take an early 6-1 lead.
In the bottom of the third, the Terps began closing the gap. With one out, three straight Maryland hitters singled, but no runs came across after Zach Jancarski was thrown out trying to go first-to-third on a Brandon Gum hit. Nick Dunn made that play hurt less when he launched the longest home run of his Terps career far over the right-field wall to shrink Iowa’s lead to 6-4. It was Dunn’s fourth homer of the season and landed beyond the ‘408 ft.’ sign beyond the fence in right.
The Terps (34-20) continued to rack up hits against Gallagher in the fourth. Nick Cieri doubled to lead off the inning and catcher Justin Morris brought him around with homer into the bleachers in right field. It was Morris’ fourth of the season and evened the score at 6. The Terps went in front for the first time later in the inning when Jancarski singled, stole second, and scored on a bloop single from Gum. It was Jancarski’s 20th steal of the season and 46th run scored, both most on the team.
A flurry of solo home runs followed over the next several innings, as Iowa’s Robert Neustrom and leadoff hitter Chris Whelan left the yard in the fifth and sixth respectively, while Maryland’s Marty Costes added his 10th homer of the season in the seventh. When the dust settled, the game was tied at 8, setting the stage for Cropley’s mad dash in the ninth.
In all, the two teams hit six home runs off the starting pitchers, in what was easily the worst outing of the season for both Shaffer and Gallagher. Shaffer came in with 0.56 ERA in his two past Big Ten Tournament starts.
The Terps loaded the bases in the eighth inning with one out, but Iowa relief ace Josh Martsching bore down and struck out Costes swinging. He then got Dunn to pop to short and Maryland’s best chance to win the game had gone by the board. Martsching pitched the ninth, as well, to pick up the win and run his record to a perfect 4-0. Hill took the loss to fall to 4-2 on the season.
Every hitter in the Maryland lineup had at least one hit, and five Terps had multi-hit afternoons. Jancarski, Costes, Cieri, and Morris each tallied two knocks, while Gum went 3-for-4 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored. AJ Lee doubled and scored in the second, extending his hit streak to a career-long 12 games.
Three Iowa hitters had two hits, including Whelan, who went 3-for-4 with a double and a single to go along with his home run. Notably absent from the hit parade was Big Ten Player of the Year Jake Adams. The big Iowa first baseman, who hit 24 home runs during the regular season, was 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts.