The Terps swept only two series in their 2019 season: their home-opening Maine series, and their regular season-ending Iowa series.
Maryland’s victory over Iowa stands alone as the most significant series, and the best series, not only because of the level of confidence with which the Terps entered the three-game set, but also because with the series victory Maryland qualified for the Big Ten Tournament for the first time under head coach Rob Vaughn (the first time since 2017).
Thursday’s series opener set the tone of the late-season matchup, with senior A.J. Lee knocking the second pitch of his last at-bat of the night out of the park for a two-run home run, the Terps’ first walk-off of the season.
While Maryland came out on top in the end, the game had been as back-and-forth as the series to that point. The Terps took an early lead with two runs apiece in the first and third innings. By the end of the eighth, the Terps were leading 6-2.
But after Iowa tacked on four runs in the top of the ninth, Maryland needed to do something it had not accomplished all season. A.J. Lee rose to the occasion.
With the 8-6 win on Thursday, Maryland entered Friday’s game looking to clinch the series, a feat the Terps accomplished behind an outpouring of offensive power. The 8-4 win marked only the second time the Terps had clinched a Big Ten series that season.
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.
The Terps sent three home runs over the fence: a two-run home from Maxwell Costes in the first and a solo home run apiece from Randy Bednar and A.J. Lee in the fourth and eight innings, respectively. Add in Josh Maguire’s bases-clearing triple and it’s clear Maryland carried the momentum from Thursday’s walk-off into Friday’s match.
Entering Saturday’s series finale, the Terps had the chance to clinch their first Big Ten Tournament berth under Vaughn.
On Saturday, both Maryland’s offense and defense–including some at-times lackluster pitching–merged together for a 10-8 win over Iowa to secure the sweep and ensure the Terps’ ticket to Omaha.
Maryland players sprinted out of the dugout, engulfing closer John Murphy in the infield Saturday evening. The Terps had just clinched their first appearance in the Big Ten Tournament under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn.
Murphy, who entered in the ninth, recorded three straight outs to ensure Maryland’s 10-8 win over Iowa (30-22, 12-12), earning his 11th save of the year in the Terps’ final game of the regular season in College Park.
Iowa had tied the game for the third time in the top of the eighth with a grand slam from Tanner Wetrich. But, as they had the whole game, the Terps responded and a two-RBI double from Chris Alleyne put Maryland on top 10-8 and left Murphy with the task of holding off the Iowa bats.
Not only did Maryland show its strength on the mound and at the plate, but the series and its many comeback wins served as a metaphor for the Terps’ season as a whole.
The Terps flirted with the .500 mark the entirety of their 2019 campaign, finishing with a 29-29 record and a 12-12 in-conference record. With the Iowa sweep, Maryland proved to the conference, and to itself, that it was worthy of that coveted tournament spot.