Michigan eliminates Maryland from Big Ten tournament

After the Terps lost 10-4 to the Michigan Wolverines on Friday in Omaha, Nebraska, Maryland was eliminated from its first Big Ten tournament under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn.

Both defensively and offensively, the Terps struggled to get a handle on the Wolverines in the elimination game, Maryland’s first time facing elimination in the 2019 tournament.

Terrapin starter Tyler Blohm struggled to get a handle on the Wolverines offense, which scored two runs early in the first inning, after a leadoff walk and a single through the left side put two on and no outs.

A sac bunt moved both runners into scoring position and Michigan took the lead on a wild pitch from Blohm that bounced over a foot in front of the plate before getting past catcher Justin Vought. An RBI groundout plated the Wolverines’ second run of the half before Blohm induced a groundout to first base to end the half.

Head coach Rob Vaughn pulled the southpaw after Blohm walked Miles Lewis to start the second. When Elliot Zoellner entered, he walked the first batter he faced before securing three consecutive outs including his first strikeout of the day.

Zoellner threw 3.1 scoreless innings of relief, including a 1-2-3 third inning and a two-strikeout top of the fourth, where the righty worked around a leadoff single and a two-out hit-by-pitch.

After Zoellner secured the first out of the fifth inning, on a fly out to center field, Vaughn opted for the lefty-lefty matchup against Jesse Franklin and gave the ball to redshirt-freshman Drew Wilden. Though he walked Franklin, Wilden soon recorded the second out of the inning on a strikeout.

It seemed Wilden was almost out of the inning, with two outs and a runner on second after Franklin stole the base. But then Maryland’s inconsistent defense could not take advantage of a base-running miscue from Franklin, who scored on a throwing error from shortstop A.J. Lee.

The senior middle infielder caught Franklin in a rundown between second and third, but his throw to third baseman Taylor Wright bounced off of the Wolverine’s helmet and allowed Franklin to score and put a runner on third, after Jordan Brewer walked to initiate the strange sequence of events in the fifth.

But then, Lee send a two-out single into left field for the Terps’ fifth base runner on the day. Unlike with the previous four Maryland runners, however, Lee eventually came around to score, after Randy Bednar went deep to left field for his first hit of the tournament, a two-run blast that cut Michigan’s lead in half. Prior to the homer, Bednar was 0-for-10 in the postseason.

If not for the Terps’ error in the top of the inning, which eventually cost them two runs, Bednar’s homer would have tied the game at two runs apiece instead of cutting the Wolverines to a 4-2 lead.

Even so, Maryland’s middle-inning rally did not jump start the Terps’ offense, which continued to strand runners on the bases as Wolverine starter Tommy Henry consistently worked out of jams and held the Terps to their two runs. The southpaw struck out seven in his 6.0 innings of work, giving the two runs on five hits, one hit-by-pitch and one walk.

Michigan’s offense, however, seemed to feed off Maryland’s struggling relievers. Though right-hander Nick Turnbull threw one scoreless inning of relief in the sixth, after he took over for Wilden when the redshirt-freshman gave up a single to start the inning.

But after Turnbull hit the first batter of the seventh, sophomore Sean Fisher finished the inning and freshman Sean Heine threw the eighth. Both struggled against Michigan’s lineup. The Wolverines got two across in the seventh, one credited to Turnbull, the other to Fisher, before plating one in the eighth to pull ahead to a 7-2 lead.

A solo blast from Maxwell Costes, his third homer of the tournament, cut the Wolverines to a four-run lead, but the Terps couldn’t continue the freshman’s rally and went to the ninth trailing 7-3.

Michigan added three runs in the ninth on four doubles off of closer John Murphy, before the senior recorded a strikeout for the final out of the inning, the Wolverines ahead 10-3.

Maryland stranded seven runners on the day, as the Terps struggled to plate runs against the dominant Michigan squad in the elimination game. A two-out solo shot to left field from the senior Lee was the only run to cross the plate for the Terps in the ninth, as the Wolverines won 10-4 to advance to the tournament semifinals.