For only the second time in 2019, Maryland (27-27, 11-12) clinched a Big Ten series win, pulling ahead early and staying ahead in the Terps’ 8-4 win Friday night over the Iowa Hawkeyes (30-21, 12-11) in College Park.
With the victory, the Terps head into Saturday’s game controlling their own destiny with regards to a Big Ten Tournament appearance. A Maryland win or a Northwestern loss against Minnesota would clinch the Terps a postseason berth.
“We’re playing our best baseball right now, in my opinion,” Thompson said. “Everybody wants to play another week with each other, so if we win tomorrow we can do that.”
Maryland’s offense stayed hot on Friday, powered by big hits from throughout the Terps’ lineup that backed an at-times faltering defense, giving early run support to starter Zach Thompson.
“I’ve told these guys from the get-go, moving barrels are dangerous,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “When we’re moving barrels and hunting stuff elevated out over the plate, usually we have some success offensively.”
Freshman Maxwell Costes put the Terps on the board first, with a two-out, two-run blast that soared over the wall in right center for his 12th homer of the season. The first baseman leads all Big Ten freshmen in home runs.
After Thompson worked out of a one-on jam in the second with back-to-back strikeouts, Iowa eventually got its first run on in the third inning. Tanner Wetrich doubled to left field, the ball falling between Michael Pineiro and the wall, as the left climbed and reached for the hit but failed to snag it for an out.
Though the missed out didn’t have a huge impact on the outcome of the game, Wetrich scored Iowa’s first run later in the third, on a two-out single from Izaya Fullard that bounced into center field, just past a reaching A.J. Lee.
Maryland responded quickly, however, tacking on three runs in the bottom of the inning after a pair of singles and a walk left the bases loaded with two outs for Maguire.
“When a good team like that gives you opportunities you have to cash in,” Vaughn said.
With a 1-1 count, Maguire send the third pitch of his at-bat flying to right field, where the ball fell in front of Zeb Adreon, bouncing over the right fielder before rolling to the wall. Maguire flew around the bases, landing on third with a bases-clearing triple, his second three-base hit of the year.
Two more Maryland runs crossed the the fourth. The first, a solo shot to left-center from sophomore Randy Bednar, his first hit of the three-game series after the outfielder went 0-for-4 in the Terps’ Thursday victory.
Senior Taylor Wright crossed the plate later in the half, after he walked, made it to second on a wild pitch then came around to score on a throwing error from Iowa second baseman Mitchell Boe, prompting the Hawkeyes to pull Boe from the game between innings. Wright’s run put Maryland ahead 7-1 heading to the fifth.
But the Terps’ offense slowed, as the Hawkeyes slowly began adding on runs, though Maryland held Iowa to one run an inning in both the fifth and seventh, pulling out solid plays to negate defensive struggles in each of the innings.
When Izaya Fullard doubled into the left field corner, it seemed the Hawkeyes were about to add their second run of the inning, after Chris Whelan hit an RBI sacrifice fly the previous at-bat to cut the Terps to a 7-2 lead.
But Maryland left-fielder Michael Pineiro fielded the hit and threw down the line to shortstop A.J. Lee, whose throw to catcher Justin Vought made it just in time to catch Tanner Wetrich at the plate, leaving the Iowa senior sitting in the batter’s box in shock, helmet in hand.
Then, Thompson walked Sher with one out, who made it to second when the right-hander included a groundout. With that, junior Elliot Zoellner relieved the starter, who went 6.2 innings and struck out seven, allowing only two earned runs on six hits.
“To me,” Vaughn said, “That’s maybe the most complete game, against a really good team, [Thompson] has put together.”
“We’re a dangerous team,” Maguire said. “We gave [Zach Thompson] a 5-1 lead…if he has that comfort, you saw what he did tonight, he just goes out and attacks and gives a great performance.”
Zoellner, however, struggled against the Hawkeyes offense, walking the first batter he faced then committing a fielding error, which allowed Sher to cross for Iowa’s third run, putting Maryland ahead 7-3.
But Maryland wasn’t done yet. Right-hander Mark DiLuia relieved Zoellner after his error, inducing a fly out to end the seventh before retiring the Hawkeyes with three strikeouts in the top of the eighth.
A solo homer from Lee put the Terps up 8-3, his second in as many games, after sending a walk-off bomb deep over the left-field wall Thursday.
Iowa responded with a run in the ninth, but DiLuia got the game-ending strikeout to secure Maryland’s 8-4 win. The righty threw 2.1 innings, allowing one run on one hit, walking one and striking out five.
Maryland and Iowa face off in the series finale Saturday at 2 p.m.
“We’re coming out, we’re focused,” Maguire said. “We’re going to try to get a sweep and then the Big Ten. [It’s] Senior Day so we’re going to play our hearts out for those guys because they’ve been nothing but great to us.”