Game Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes

After dropping the first two games against High Point to extend their season-long losing streak to four games, the Terps rebounded with a 9-2 victory over the Panthers on Sunday afternoon to send them into the Big Ten Tournament on a winning note. Maryland cooled off near the end of the regular season, losing its last four weekend series. However, the Terrapins (34-19, 15-9 Big Ten) led the Big Ten for a good chunk of the season and they split six games with the top two seeds in the Big Ten Tournament (Nebraska and Michigan). This is a team that has the ability to make a deep run in the tournament and it will start that journey in the first round against No. 5 seed Iowa at Bart Kaufman Stadium in Bloomington, Ind, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

The Hawkeyes (34-19, 15-9 Big Ten) finished the regular season with the same overall record as the Terps, as well as the same conference mark. The two teams did not meet during the regular season, so some advanced tiebreaker math ruled that Maryland would be the No. 4 seed and the “home” team, while Iowa would be seeded fifth and bat first instead. The practical implication of that ruling is that fans will get to see a matchup between the best pitcher and the best power hitter in the conference within the first three batters of the game. That would be newly minted Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Brian Shaffer (more on him below) and Big Ten Player of the Year Jake Adams, Iowa’s imposing first baseman.

Adams has been the proverbial straw that stirs the drink for the Hawkeyes this season, coming within 19 batting average points of winning the conference’s triple crown. He settled for fourth in the Big Ten with a .344 average, but led the league in home runs (24, a single-season Iowa record and nine more than anyone else in the league), RBI (65, eight more than his closest competitor), and total bases (159, fourth in the nation and a whopping 41 more than anyone else in the Big Ten). The 6-foot-2, 250-pound junior already boasts three multi-homer games this season, including his most recent outing, a two-home run performance against Illinois on Sunday.

Although Adams is an ever-dangerous figure in the heart of Iowa’s lineup, he’s far from a one-man band. Three Hawkeye position players were named to the all-Big Ten Second Team: catcher Tyler Cropley, shortstop Mason McCoy, and outfielder Robert Neustrom. Cropley is an asset both with his bat and behind the plate. He posted a .773 OPS and hit six home runs, while also throwing out 17 of the 27 would-be base-stealers that tested his arm.

McCoy, who usually hits second in the Hawkeye order, hit .329 this season and demonstrated excellent bat-to-ball skills, striking out fewer times than he walked, the only Iowa starter to accomplish that feat. He got on base at a .398 clip and led the team with 16 doubles, while also adding four home runs. His fellow all-conference performer, Neustrom, turned in an identical .329 batting average out of the cleanup spot and ranked fourth in the Big Ten with 114 total bases (one more than Maryland’s leader in that category, Marty Costes). The sophomore outfielder turned in a .886 OPS and provided more-than-capable protection for Adams. A trip through the McCoy-Adams-Neustrom heart of the order will be a test for even as dominant a pitcher as Shaffer.

Iowa’s offense was very good, ranking third in the Big Ten in runs scored and second in home runs, but it’s pitching staff was not nearly as intimidating. Ace Nick Gallagher (more on him below) was a solid Friday starter, but the Hawkeye bullpen includes only one pitcher with an ERA below 3.00. That would be closer Josh Martsching, a 6-foot-2 senior, who worked 34.1 innings and posted a 2.88 ERA with 38 strikeouts. He only allowed more than one earned run once all season, though that came just two weeks ago against Ohio State. Overall, the staff posted middling marks in ERA (4.40) and WHIP (1.57).

Starting Pitching Matchup 

WED 8:30 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Brian Shaffer (7-3, 1.67 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Nick Gallagher (8-1, 2.59 ERA)

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Shaffer was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday, and it was well-deserved, as he led the league in ERA, WHIP (0.91) and innings pitched (97), while ranking second behind Michigan’s Oliver Jaskie in strikeouts with 98. The 6-foot-5 Shaffer is no stranger to the pressure of the Big Ten Tournament. A year ago, he faced third-seeded Indiana in an elimination game and rose to the occasion, tossing a complete game shutout and holding the powerful Hoosier lineup to just two hits while striking out eight in a Terps victory. He’ll face an ever tougher test this year, but he comes in rolling, having completed eight innings in each of his last three starts.

Gallagher is a familiar postseason foe for the Terps. Last season, the Hawkeyes and Terrapins met in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, and the 6-foot-3 right-hander struck out nine Terps over six innings en route to a victory. The junior followed up that performance with a stellar 2017 that saw him strike out 77 hitters in 83.1 innings and earn a spot on the all-Big Ten Second Team. He’s pitched at least six innings in five straight and at least seven in 8 of his 13 appearances this season, covering for the so-so Hawkeye bullpen. Entering the season, Baseball America ranked Gallagher’s curveball as the best breaking ball in the Big Ten.

2017 Big Ten Tournament Preview

Maryland (34-19, 15-9 Big Ten) struggled to end the regular season, losing three straight Big Ten series to close the conference slate with a 15-9 record after starting 12-3. Still, those 15 wins equaled a program record for conference victories last accomplished in 2014 in the ACC. They were also good enough to land the Terrapins the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, setting up a first-round matchup with No. 5 seed Iowa at 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. The format of the tournament is double-elimination, with teams needing a minimum of four wins and a maximum of five wins to take home the Big Ten Tournament Championship. Here’s how the field looks:

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1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (34-18-1, 16-7-1 Big Ten, Streak: W2) 

The ‘Huskers surged to the regular-season conference title after a second-place finish a year ago. Nebraska won five straight conference series to close the season, including taking two of three games from Penn State in the season’s final week to clinch the title. The Cornhuskers won the regular-season crown despite hitting a conference-low 20 home runs. Instead, they ranked second in the Big Ten in doubles and also took second in team ERA at 3.48. Leading the charge on offense was one of the league’s best hitters, junior Scott Schreiber, who hit .335 and led Nebraska with 20 extra-base hits. On the mound, the righty-lefty combo of Derek Burkamper and Jake Meyers anchors the rotation and made 26 combined starts, while the relief duo of Jake McSteen and Robbie Palkert posted identical 2.31 ERAs in 35 innings apiece. The Terps faced Nebraska in early April and split the first two games before dropping a 8-4 decision in the rubber match. The difference in the series was Cornhusker first baseman Ben Miller, who had 10 hits in the three games, scored four times, and drove in three runs in the series-clinching game.

2. Michigan Wolverines (42-13, 16-8, W2)

The Wolverines won eight more games overall than any other team in the Big Ten, partly on the strength of a 26-5 non-conference record. Like Nebraska, Michigan finished the season strong, winning four straight Big Ten series, including taking two out of three from in-state rival Michigan State to clinch the No. 2 seed and eliminate the Spartans from tournament contention. The Wolverines’ strength is their pitching staff, which led the conference in ERA (3.22) and strikeouts (9.54 per nine innings). The Michigan staff punched out over 100 more hitters than any other team in the conference. The starting rotation was good, if unspectacular, with Oliver Jaskie and Michael Hendrickson each turning in ERAs under 4.00. The bullpen was where Michigan really frustrated opposing hitters. Right-hander Jackson Lamb is the team’s top reliever; he pitched 28 innings without allowing an earned run, while striking out 28. As the Wolverines’ closer, he racked up 12 saves and opponents batted just .182 against him. Even more impressive might have been the performance Lamb’s fellow reliever, Mac Lozer, turned in. Like Lamb, Lozer did not allow an earned run all season, throwing 23.1 innings and striking out 34. In those 23.1 frames, the right-hander did not allow a single extra-base hit and opponents batted a minuscule .082 against him. In all, the Wolverines’ bullpen managed a 2.43 ERA and hitters batted .227 against the staff as a whole. On offense, catcher Drew Lugbauer leads the way for Michigan. He hit a team-high 11 home runs and compiled a .921 OPS. Maryland took on Michigan in the early stages of the Big Ten season and the Terps took two of three games from the then-No. 18 Wolverines. Brian Shaffer pitched eight innings and piled up 10 strikeouts in a 7-2 Maryland win in the first of the three games.

3. Minnesota Golden Gophers (33-19, 15-8, W1)

The Golden Gophers dropped two of three to Purdue in their final series of the season, but won their five previous games to secure a finish near the top of the conference. A 12-game winning streak from March 16-April 14 was the high point of the Gophers’ season and included sweeps of Michigan State and Ohio State, both on the road. Playing away from Siebert Field in Minneapolis was a strength all season for Minnesota, which went 16-5 on the road. The Gophers led the conference in batting average, hitting .313 as a team in conference games and leading the league with 20 triples. A pair of Golden Gophers, Luke Pettersen and Jordan Kozicky hit .340 or better, while Kozicky, a redshirt freshman, compiled a stellar .922 OPS. Meanwhile, junior Micah Coffey, a 2016 second-team All-Big Ten performer, hit a sizzling .370 in conference games. On the mound, the Gophers have a genuine ace in 6-foot-2 left-hander Lucas Gilbreath, who went 5-2 with a 2.37 ERA that ranked third in the Big Ten. He struck out 86 hitters in 76 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a .176 batting average. At the back end of the bullpen, senior Brian Glowicki racked up 15 saves and posted a 1.93 ERA, allowing just three extra-base hits in 28 innings.

4. Maryland Terrapins (34-19, 15-9, W1)

The Terps led the conference for a good portion of the season before dropping those final three Big Ten series to Indiana, Illinois, and Northwestern and settling for the fourth seed in the tournament. Maryland also dropped the first two games against High Point before rallying to win on Sunday by a 9-2 score. The Terrapins boast the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in Brian Shaffer, who led the conference with a 1.67 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 97 innings pitched and was second to Michigan’s Jaskie in strikeouts with 98. Shaffer leads a pitching staff that topped the conference with a 3.61 ERA in Big Ten play, but will need its other starters, Tyler Blohm (8-6, 3.46 ERA) and Taylor Bloom (6-2, 4.30) to pitch well if the Terps hope to make a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament. Sophomore outfielder Marty Costes paces the Terps on offense with a .336 batting average and an OPS over .960. The team’s hottest hitter going in to the tournament is AJ Lee, who is working on a career-long 11-game hitting streak and is third on the team with a .484 slugging percentage. Kevin Smith leads the team in that department at .537, a figure bolstered by his team-best 10 home runs.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes (34-19, 15-9, W1)

Maryland’s opponent in the tournament’s opening round posted identical conference and overall marks as the Terrapins. Like the Terps, Iowa had great success at home, posting a 19-4 record at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City. Unlike Maryland, the Hawkeyes finished the Big Ten schedule with a string of series victories, taking four straight three-game sets, including a sweep of Penn State in late April. Iowa is a power-hitting team that finished second in the conference with 58 home runs and compiled a .446 team slugging percentage. The most powerful hitter in the Hawkeye lineup is also by far the best power hitter in the conference. 6-foot-2, 250-pound first baseman Jake Adams clubbed a whopping 24 home runs and added 14 doubles. His two dozen homers were nine more than any other Big Ten hitter totaled and his 65 RBIs were eight clear of the field. He also finished fourth in the league with a .344 batting average. For a power hitter, Adams is averse to the strikeout, as well; he whiffed in just over 18 percent of his plate appearances. The Hawkeye pitching staff was middling, with a 4.40 team ERA that ranked sixth in the Big Ten. 6-foot-3 right-hander Nick Gallagher went 8-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 13 starts and senior right-hander Josh Martsching struck out 38 hitters in 34.1 relief innings to pace the staff.

6. Indiana Hoosiers (32-20-2, 14-9-1, W2)

Despite being just the No. 6 team in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers actually finished with the best RPI in the conference at No. 28 in the nation. Indiana was one spot ahead of Michigan and five spots ahead of Maryland in this week’s rankings. Indiana’s solid RPI figure is a function of a brutal non-conference schedule that ranked tenth-hardest in the country. The Hoosiers have already taken on both No. 1 Oregon State and No. 5 Louisville, and held their own, losing 1-0 and 4-1 to OSU and defeating the Cardinals, 4-3. Indiana won its final five series of the Big Ten schedule to make the tournament. Two-way star Matt Lloyd has been the team’s best player, leading the Hoosiers in both OPS (.993) and ERA (2.39 in 26.1 innings out of the bullpen). He doubles as the team’s No. 2 hitter and its closer. Indiana also got a powerful contribution from Craig Dedelow, a 6-foot-4 senior who finished second in the Big Ten with 15 home runs. One of those blasts came in the third game between Indiana and Maryland, after the teams had split the first two in a Saturday doubleheader. On Sunday, Dedelow hit a seventh-inning grand slam that turned a 3-2 Terps lead into a 6-3 deficit and carried the Hoosiers to a series-clinching victory in Bloomington.

7. Northwestern Wildcats (24-28, 13-11, W5)

The Wildcats have had a roller coaster of a season. They started the year with seven straight losses and they are the only team in the tournament with an overall record under .500. On the other hand they’re also the hottest team in the conference, having won five in a row to finish their Big Ten slate. Those five consecutive victories, albeit including three over Rutgers, who did not make the tournament, were enough to push Northwestern over the hump and into the conference tournament for the first time since 2010. Wildcat outfielder Joe Hoscheit was the key to his team’s conference success, batting an incredible .468 in Big Ten play, 73 points better than any other hitter in the league. For the season, Hoscheit hit .356, good for second in the Big Ten, and got on base at a .430 clip. The senior went 6-for-13 in the Wildcats’ series win over Maryland May 12-14, with a pair of triples and three runs scored. Northwestern’s best pitcher is senior left-hander Cooper Wetherbee, who tallied a 3.03 ERA in eight starts and 10 relief appearances. In his most recent outing, he threw seven shutout innings against Rutgers, allowing just three hits.

8. Purdue Boilermakers (29-25, 12-12, L1)

The Boilermakers were the Cinderella team in the Big Ten this season, rebounding from a last-place 2-22 finish in 2016 to their first tournament appearance since a regular-season title in 2012. Purdue stumbled in the season’s final weeks, losing five of their final six Big Ten games, but a midseason series win over its biggest rival, Indiana, as well as a sweep of Illinois two weeks later, gave it enough breathing room to grab the final spot in the tournament. The Boilermakers are a light-hitting team that scored the second-fewest runs in the Big Ten in conference play. Their best hitter is sophomore Jacson McGowan, who led the team in doubles (15), triples (three), and home runs (seven) en route to a .486 slugging percentage. What Purdue is good at is getting hit by pitches. Between them, infielders Evan Warden and Harry Shipley got plunked 53 times, and the Boilermakers got 77 free passes on hit by pitches as a team. Purdue’s starting rotation is mediocre at best, with just one pitcher who made any starts registering an ERA below 4.00 (Gareth Stroh at 3.92). The Boilermakers’ best weapon on the hill is reliever Ross Learnard, who might be the best reliever in the entire conference. The junior left-hander threw 44.1 innings and allowed only two earned runs, good for a tiny 0.41 ERA. Opponents managed just a .197 batting average against him. Importantly for the Boilermakers, Learnard didn’t allow any of the 29 hits he surrendered to leave the park.

Early offense, good Taylor Bloom start help Terps end regular season on high note

After four straight losses, including three in a row by one run, Maryland’s offense said “enough” and left no doubt in a blowout win Saturday over High Point.

The Terps plated eight runs in the first three innings and cruised the rest of the way behind six stellar innings from Taylor Bloom en route to a 9-2 win in the regular season finale at Coy O. Williard Stadium in High Point, N.C.

Maryland (34-19) scored just one run combined in the opening three innings on Thursday and Friday, but equaled that total within two batters Saturday. Leadoff hitter Brandon Gum tripled off the right-field wall to open the game and AJ Lee followed with an RBI groundout to give the Terps a lead they would not relinquish.

That single run is all Maryland got in the first, but in the second inning, the Terps offense broke the game open. With one out, Kevin Smith roped a double to the wall in left-center, his ninth two-bagger of the year. A pair of singles from Madison Nickens and Justin Morris followed, driving in two runs. Later in the inning, Marty Costes chopped a ground ball down the left-field line for a double that scored two more and extended the lead to 5-0.

The Terps poured it on in the third, plating three more runs on two hits, with help from two High Point errors. Will Watson led off with a single and stole second. After stealing, however, he had to leave the game with an injury and Pat Hisle ran for him.

Hisle scored on a single from Smith and Smith came around to score for the second time when Madison Nickens tripled deep to right field. It was Nickens’ second triple of the season and it turned into another run when a relay throw to the infield got past everyone, allowing the senior outfielder to score. When the dust settled Maryland held a commanding 8-0 lead.

While the Terps were piling up runs, Taylor Bloom was befuddling the Panthers (29-21) and shutting down any thoughts of a comeback. The right-hander struck out the side in the second and didn’t allow a runner to reach second base until there were two outs in the fifth inning.

He eventually tossed six innings, allowing just two runs and striking out three without issuing a walk, before ceding the mound to Tayler Stiles in the seventh. Bloom picked up the win to improve to 6-2 on the season, while High Point starter Trevor Holloway took the loss and dropped to 3-6.

The Terps used a balanced offense to put nine runs on the board, as every starter had a hit except for Watson, who walked once in two plate appearances. The bottom of the order in particular did a lot of damage as hitters Nos. 7-9, Smith, Nickens and Morris, each had at least two hits and drove in four runs combined.

Gum, Costes, and Nick Dunn each reached base three times, including three hits for Gum, while AJ Lee went 1-for-6, extending his career-long hit streak to 11 games.

High Point tallied 12 hits, but left 10 runners on base. Hunter Lee and Zach Vandergrift each had multi-hit afternoons for the Panthers.

Stiles pitched three shutout innings to close out the game for the Terps, striking out six and lowering his ERA to 3.72. He picked up his first save of the season in the process.

Maryland falls in 11 innings on Senior Day, despite five-run fifth

Fans came to Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium Sunday expecting to see the final nine innings of the Terps’ home slate. Maryland gave them 11, but couldn’t pull out a win.

The Terps scored five runs in the fifth inning, but Alex Erro tallied four hits and homered to left-center in the 11th to lead Northwestern to a 6-5 series-clinching win in College Park.

Erro’s drive in the 11th came on a 3-1 pitch against left-hander Andrew Miller. It was the freshman’s fourth homer of the season and it sent Miller to his second loss of the season, dropping his record to 2-2.

Despite the loss, right-fielder Marty Costes said he enjoyed the atmosphere at the game.

“I thought today was a really fun day, with the [Senior Day] ceremonies and everything,” the sophomore said. “The ballpark was jumping.”

Four scoreless innings to open the game gave way to a flurry of action in the fifth. The Wildcats scored twice in the top half before Maryland’s big inning in the bottom half.

The Terps (33-17, 15-9 in the Big Ten) batted around in that frame, collecting four hits and getting help from a pair of Northwestern errors. The inning started innocently enough with Madison Nickens getting thrown out after a failed attempt at a bunt hit.

The rally started with a walk to catcher Justin Morris, the first of five straight Terps to reach in the inning. Northwestern had a chance to stymie the uprising when Zach Jancarski grounded to shortstop, but the throw to second for the force went into right field, putting two on with one out.

Three straight singles followed, plating a pair of runs to even the score at 2-2. The third of those hits was a long fly ball to right field off the bat of Nick Dunn that backed Northwestern’s Ben Dickey up to the wall. He got a glove on it, but couldn’t pull it in, allowing Dunn to reach, although the runners could only advance one base because they had to see if the ball was caught.

Dunn later scored the fifth run of the inning when AJ Lee bounced a single up the middle. Earlier in the at-bat, Costes, who had singled, stole third and came around to score when the throw to third went into left field.

“We practice dirt ball reads,” said Costes of his decision to try to take third on the play. “It just kicked a little to the left of the plate and I just became aggressive. Good things happen, so I was fortunate.”

Trailing 5-2, the Wildcats wouldn’t concede, and began the comeback in the sixth. A strange play scored one run. With Matt Hopfner on first and Joe Hoscheit on third, starter Taylor Bloom picked Hopfner off first. The Wildcat senior had the presence of mind of mind to get in a rundown, allowing Hoscheit to break for home. The throw went there and it was late, allowing Northwestern to get a run and Hopfner to reach third safely. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Connor Lind brought in Northwestern’s fourth run, closing the gap to one.

The Wildcats (21-28, 10-11) evened the score in the eighth. Ryan Selmer had relieved Bloom in the seventh and got through that frame. In the next one, however, he surrendered a single to Hopfner and a double off the right-field wall to Lind that brought Hopfner in with the tying run.

“Hats off to them, they got hits right when they needed them” Costes said of Northwestern. “It took a lot of guts for them [to come back].”

Despite allowing the tying run across, Selmer was the MVP on the mound for the Terps, as he held Northwestern to one run in four innings, while saving a depleted bullpen from further taxation. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth, and survived the 10th, before ceding to Miller for the 11th.

Maryland did not have an extra-base hit in the game. Costes and Brandon Gum each had a pair of singles, while Costes’ RBI single inched him in front of Kevin Smith for the team RBI lead. It was the sophomore’s 37th run knocked in. Lee also had two singles, giving him seven hits in the series and raising his season average to .336, second on the team.

“We left a lot of guys on base too, we had our opportunities,” head coach John Szefc said of his team, which left nine runners stranded. “We have opportunities, we have to take advantage of them. They did, we didn’t.”

The game completes the Big Ten and home schedules for Maryland. The Terps finished 21-3 at home, but lost their final three conference series.

Zach Jancarski said after the game the team is not down on itself and it feels it’s ready to break out again.

“I think it takes one inning with this team,” the leadoff hitter said. “We go out our next game and put up a three-spot in the first, it’s like ‘Boom’ it’s back and no one’s even thinking about anything else. This team is very good and we know we’re very good.

“I promise you not one of our guys after this is going to be going into next weekend like, ‘Oh we’re in a slump right now.’ It’s just like, ‘Let’s go.’ Like we’re ready to throw down right now if we could.”




Rough fifth inning costs Maryland in loss to Northwestern

Ryan Hill struck out the first Northwestern hitter in the fifth inning. Nine hitters later, there was still one out in the inning.

Three Maryland pitchers combined to surrender five hits and four free passes in the inning, allowing Northwestern (20-28, 9-11 in the Big Ten) to plate seven runs and break open what had been a tight game.

A two-run triple for the Wildcats’ Joe Hoscheit opened the scoring in the inning and was one of three hits for the left-fielder as he led Northwestern to a 11-3 win Saturday at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium in College Park.

Maryland starter Tyler Blohm got through the first two innings unscathed, but it was a rough day after that for the Terps’ pitching staff. With one out in the third, No. 9 hitter Jack Paciorek ripped a home run over the high wall in center field to open the scoring. The catcher entered the game hitting just .134 and it was his first career home run.

The Terps (33-16, 15-8) briefly went in front in the bottom of the inning. Catcher Justin Morris led off the inning and matched his counterpart Paciorek with a home run to even the score at 1. Later in the inning, Brandon Gum singled and came in to score on a ground ball Marty Costes chopped to shortstop. It was Costes’ 36th RBI of the season, tying him with Kevin Smith for the team lead.

Maryland went hitless over the next four innings, though, while Northwestern’s offense exploded. Two runs came in in the fourth off Blohm, ending his day with the Wildcats in front 3-2. It was the second straight start the freshman hasn’t been at his best as he’s given up seven earned runs in 6.2 innings over those two appearances.

Hill opened the fifth with a strikeout of Paciorek, but it would be the only out he’d record. The next five hitters reached against the junior right-hander, including Hoscheit’s triple, which banged off the “Regional Champions” sign on the right-center field wall.

Jamal Wade relieved Hill, but he couldn’t stop the bleeding as he surrendered a single and three walks before exiting without having gotten an out. Jared Price became the third Maryland hurler in the inning and finished the frame, but not before allowing a fielder’s choice that plated the seventh run to make it 10-2. 12 Northwestern batters came to the plate in the inning and all nine players in the lineup reached base at least once.

Wildcat starter Hank Christie made sure the outcome was never in doubt as he held Maryland to just six hits in eight innings, striking out three and walking one. He picked up the win to move to 4-4 on the season. Blohm took the loss to drop to 8-5; he’s gotten a decision in each of the 13 starts he’s made this season.

Hoscheit was the hitting star for the Wildcats, going 3-for-5 with two RBI and scoring a pair of runs. He’s working on an eight-game hit streak. Connor Lind, Paciorek, and Jake Schieber also drove in two runs each for the Wildcats.

One bright spot for the Terps was the Hunter Parsons, who entered the game in the seventh and pitched 2.1 innings. He retired the first six hitters he faced, striking out four of them, before struggling in the ninth and ceding the final two outs to Cameron Enck.

Nick Dunn completed the scoring for Maryland with his third home run of the season, pulling a line drive off a right-field light pole in the eighth inning.

The loss was just Maryland’s second at home this season, running its record to 20-2 at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium. It sets up a series rubber match Sunday on the Terps’ Senior Day.

Maryland wins 20th home game behind dominant Brian Shaffer start, two Kevin Smith home runs

It’s tough to keep up with Brian Shaffer.

Northwestern pitcher Cooper Wetherbee tried on Friday and matched zeroes with the Maryland ace for four innings, but the Terps offense broke through and Shaffer just kept rolling along with another in a string of shutdown performances.

The junior right-hander Shaffer threw eight innings of one-run ball, striking out a eight, and giving up just six hits to lead the Terps to a series-opening 7-1 win over Northwestern Friday at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium in College Park.

“[Shaffer] holds them at bay and gives our guys time to get on the board,” head coach John Szefc said. “That’s what responsible Friday night starters do. [Mike] Shawaryn did it for a long time, Jake Stinnett did it here, Jimmy Reed did it here. We’ve been really fortunate to have what I would call very responsible Friday night starters. Every college program needs one.”

It was Shaffer’s seventh win of the season—against two losses—and the 20th of his career, tying him with John Rayne for second on the all-time Maryland list behind only Mike Shawaryn, who finished his collegiate career with 30 victories. Shaffer lowered his Big Ten-leading ERA to a minuscule 1.72 and added to the single-season career-high in strikeouts he set last week against Illinois. The Pylesville native has punched out 91 hitters this season.

Wetherbee was sharp to open the game and the two teams were locked in a scoreless tie through four innings. Shaffer and Wetherbee needed just 89 combined pitches as they zipped through those first four frames.

“They’re throwing who they think is their best guy out there,” Szefc said of Friday games. “Regardless of how good he is, he’s going to give them a good start and he’s going to make it difficult for your team to score runs. That’s the typical Friday night right there for four innings.”

In the fifth, though, Maryland’s offense woke up. AJ Lee singled to left center and Kevin Smith followed with a grounder to short that got through for another hit. Later in the inning, Zach Jancarski roped a single to left to score the first run of the game, plating Lee. Then, facing Brandon Gum, Wetherbee let loose a wild pitch that allowed Smith to scamper home, making it 2-0.

After Northwestern (19-28, 8-11 in the Big Ten) went quietly in the top of the sixth, the Terps broke the game open in the bottom half. It didn’t look like they would after Nick Dunn got picked off second with one out, leaving just Will Watson on first with two away. But Watson stole second and then came home on another hit for Lee, his third of the day.

Smith was up next and, after hitting a long, loud foul ball down the left field line, deposited a 3-2 pitch far over the wall in left-center for his ninth homer of the season. He knew the blast, which put his team in front 5-0, was gone off the bat and began trotting right out of the batter’s box.

The home run also leapfrogged Smith past Marty Costes and into the team lead with 35 RBIs on the season. Costes pulled even in the seventh when he drove a single to right to make it 6-0.

“We’ve talked about it [the RBI lead] a few times, I mean it’s all fun and games,” Smith said. “When he gets he’ll point over to me to let me know and vice-versa. So, you know, it’s fun just because a lot of them come with two outs or big hits, so RBIs are always fun to get. It’s kind of a tribute to all the guys getting on in front of you.”

Smith retook the team RBI lead in the eighth when he hit what looked like a deep fly to left. The ball kept carrying and eventually landed beyond the wall just to the right of the sign marking the Terps’ trips to the NCAA Super Regionals. It was his 10th home run of the season, extending a career-high he’d set earlier in the game.

“It was a hanging slider, maybe a little in,” Smith said of the pitch he hit for his second home run. “I was out in front a little bit, but I got a little barrel on it.”

With Lee, who went 3-4 with an RBI single, Smith, who now leads the team in home runs and RBIs, hitting in the second half of the lineup, respectively, the Terps’ lineup is longer than most other teams.

“I think we’re dangerous because we can score in any inning,” Smith. “You can’t get through our first three batters and then cruise through the rest of our lineup until you get back to the top. We take pride in that, we don’t care where we hit in the order, we take pride in trying to score wherever we are and contribute to the team.”

Shaffer gave up his only run in the eighth when pinch-hitter Grant Peikert drove a double off the wall in left and Connor Lind scored from first. Shaffer needed just 89 pitches to get through eight innings.

Szefc said Shaffer could have gone back out to pitch the ninth if needed.

“He would have been fine [if he had pitched the ninth], but anytime you can protect an arm like that you try to protect him as much as you can,” Szefc said. “I’d like to think our bullpen can get three outs with a six-run lead at home in the ninth and they did.”

Outside of Smith, Maryland’s offensive star was Lee, who went 3-for-4 and scored twice. He’s now hitting .326 for the season, the third-best mark on the team.

“I think a lot of it was just taking the borderline pitches that are balls, taking the ball below the knee that a lot of people like to swing at and just getting into hitters’ counts,” Lee said. “And then you can really work in your approach and get into 2-0 counts and hit balls hard.”

Jancarski and Costes tallied multi-hit games, as well.

The win was Maryland’s 20th at home this season, running the Terps’ record at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium to 20-1, good for the best home winning percentage in the country. It was also the team’s 15th conference victory, equaling a program record for conference wins in a single-season last achieved in 2013.

John Murphy finished the game for Maryland (33-15, 15-7), pitching a scoreless, hitless ninth. He lowered his ERA to 1.33 in 20.1 innings.

Wetherbee worked six innings for the Wildcats, allowing five runs on eight hits. He only walked one, but didn’t strike out anyone. He falls to 2-3 on the season.

Smith home run not enough as late grand slam sinks Terps

After a pair of blowouts on Saturday, Maryland and Indiana decided to treat those who braved the afternoon rain to some drama in the series finale.

Craig Dedelow launched two home runs, including a seventh inning grand slam, to provide the winning margin in a series-clinching 6-3 victory Sunday at Bart Kaufman Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana. The game was called in the eighth inning because Maryland had to catch a plane back to College Park.

Indiana (24-17-2, 10-7-1 Big Ten) entered the seventh inning trailing 3-2 and Maryland reliever Ryan Selmer got two quick outs on just six pitches. With rain falling steadily, though, Tony Butler singled and Matt Lloyd doubled to put two on. The Terps elected to intentionally walk cleanup hitter Luke Miller to get to Dedelow. The center-fielder cleared the bases with an homer to left, his 11th of the season, a career-high for the two-time all-Big Ten performer.

Before Logan Sowers could bat following Dedelow’s home run, lightning flashed across the sky, putting the game into an immediate delay. Play didn’t resume until 15 minutes before Maryland’s 2:35 travel curfew, giving the Terps just three outs to play with. They went quietly in the eighth against IU closer Lloyd, who picked up the save.

After piling up 13 hits in a 9-2 win Saturday night, Maryland (29-13, 13-5) picked up right where it left off in the first inning of Sunday’s game. Zach Jancarski continued his torrid hitting with  a double to the wall in left-center. He later came around to score on a line drive off the bat of Nick Dunn. Dunn was robbed of what would usually have been a hit because Marty Costes, who had walked, got a bad jump off first and was forced out at second on a rare 9-6 fielder’s choice.

Dedelow responded for Indiana in the bottom of the second. The junior ripped a home run to right field off the light post rising out of the grass beyond the wall.

Maryland went ahead again in the fourth when Danny Maynard, getting his second straight start behind the plate, singled and Kevin Smith followed with a two-run blast. The shortstop’s eighth home run of the season was not cheap, traveling far over the left field wall and putting the Terps in front 3-1.

Maryland starter Taylor Bloom made that lead stand up through the sixth. The junior right-hander looked sharp for the third start in a row, throwing an even 100 pitches and striking out seven. He made just two mistakes, on Dedelow’s home run and on a solo shot given up to freshman Jeremy Houston in the fifth. It was the first home run of Houston’s career at Indiana.

Over his last three starts, Bloom has looked much more like the pitcher that was fourth on the Big Ten’s ERA list last season. He has a 2.61 ERA in 20.2 innings over those three outings, striking out 19 and walking just three.

Selmer, who pitched 2.2 scoreless innings on Saturday, looked sharp again before running into trouble with two out. The grand slam raised his ERA by nearly 1.5 runs to 2.70 and dropped his record to 2-1.

Maryland tallied nine hits, with Costes, Smith and Jancarski each chipping in two. Maynard was on base three times with a single and two walks.

With this series loss, the Terps continue to struggle comparatively on the road. Maryland has won just one true road series, a sweep of Rutgers in early April. The Terps fall to below .500 (11-12) away from home despite a dominant 18-1 mark at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.

Costes, Lee, Jancarski homer, helping Maryland split doubleheader

In the first game of the day Saturday, Indiana took a lead early and never looked back.

Maryland flipped the script in the second game and evened the series.

The Terps clubbed three home runs and Tyler Blohm worked his way through 6.1 innings to lead the Terps to a 9-2 win in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Bart Kaufman Stadium, setting up a Sunday rubber match.

The Terrapins (29-12, 13-4 Big Ten) took their first lead of the series in the top of the first. An error, a Marty Costes single, and passed ball put runners on second and third for Nick Dunn. The second baseman came through, hitting a sacrifice fly to left to put his team in front 1-0.

Maryland added on in the third when Costes ripped a long home run over the bullpen in left field. Brandon Gum was on first for Costes’ blast, putting the Terps ahead 3-0. It was the sophomore’s team-leading ninth home run of the season. Costes went 3-for-4, one of four Terrapins with multiple hits, and raised his average to .352.

Indiana (23-17-2, 9-7-1) closed the gap with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third, but, undeterred, Maryland opened it up again in the fifth. AJ Lee led off against Indiana starter Brian Hobbie and battled through a seven-pitch at-bat before launching a home run in almost the same place as Costes’ shot. It was Lee’s fifth of the season as he continues to produce from the No. 9 spot in the order.

Two innings later, the hitter at the other end of the lineup, leadoff man Zach Jancarski, became the third to send a ball over the same bullpen in left field, extending the Terrapins’ lead to 6-2. After having a 14-game hitting streak snapped in the first game, the junior center-fielder bounced back with a 2-for-4 performance that also saw him score two runs.

While Maryland was putting on a hitting display, Blohm was continuing his stellar work as the Saturday starter. In three starts since moving to the weekend’s middle game, the freshman has pitched to a 1.99 ERA in 18.1 innings. Against Indiana, he allowed two runs while striking out five and walking two. Maryland’s big offensive game made him the winner, his Big Ten-leading eighth victory of the season. He’s gotten a decision in all 11 of his starts this season.

The Terps put the game on ice in the top of the eighth with three consecutive hits to open the inning, including a two-run single for catcher Danny Maynard. The sophomore has 16 RBIs in just 14 starts this season.

Maryland racked up 13 hits after being held in check for most of the first game. Most of the damage came from the top of the order. The 1-4 hitters in the lineup all had at least two hits and went a combined 9-for-17 with six runs scored.

With the game in hand, Ryan Selmer relieved Blohm in the seventh and pitched an efficient 2.2 innings, retiring eight straight hitters on just 23 pitches. His ERA dropped to a minuscule 1.38, the second-lowest on the team behind Andrew Miller’s 1.02 mark.

Matt Gorski was the only Hoosier that had any consistent success with the bat, going 2-for-3 with his fourth home run of the season in the third.

Hill and Parsons surrender nine runs in rain-interrupted loss

It took over 24 hours, but Maryland and Indiana finally completed the opening game of their three-game weekend series.

A thunderstorm Friday forced a suspension of the game until Saturday afternoon. When it finally restarted, Indiana wasted no time in taking control.

The Hoosiers scored six runs combined in the third and fourth innings, two coming on a home run from second baseman Tony Butler, en route to 9-2 victory in the series-opener at Bart Kaufman Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana. The loss snapped a seven-game Maryland win streak.

The teams played the first two-and-a-half innings Friday night before lightning in the area stopped the game with the score 0-0. Maryland ace Brian Shaffer pitched two scoreless innings, but Ryan Hill relieved him Saturday afternoon and struggled.

The junior transfer from Grayson College walked the first hitter he faced and hit the second. An attempted sacrifice bunt from Butler turned into a single when he perfectly placed the bunt between Hill and third baseman AJ Lee. Later in the inning, Hill hit a second batter and walked two more to give Indiana (23-16-2, 9-6-1 Big Ten) a 3-0 lead. In all, the reliever threw 41 pitches in his only inning of work without allowing a ball out of the infield.

Hunter Parsons relieved Hill in the fourth, but couldn’t stem the tide. Left-fielder Alex Krupa started with a one-out double to right and Butler followed with his blast to left. It was the second home run of the season for the junior, who is hitting .357 this season with runners in scoring position.

Two more doubles in the inning, including an RBI two-bagger from Craig Dedelow, extended the Maryland deficit to 6-0. Parsons made it through the fifth, but in the sixth, free passes bit the Terps (28-12, 12-4) again. The right-hander walked Butler and Matt Lloyd back-to-back, bringing third baseman Luke Miller to the plate. Miller smacked a hanging breaking ball way over the wall in left for a three-run homer. It was his ninth of the season and Indiana’s 47th, the most in the Big Ten.

While Indiana was piling up runs, the Hoosiers’ Cal Krueger was holding Maryland comeback efforts at bay. The Terrapins scored a pair of runs in the fifth, including one on a ringing triple off the center field wall from Kevin Smith, but Krueger was able to limit further damage. The right-hander retired 13 in a row after Smith’s triple and pitched all six innings on Saturday afternoon. He allowed four hits and struck out five without a walk, picking up the win to run his record to 2-1 in 18 appearances this season.

Miller and Butler were the hitting stars for Indiana, going a combined 7-for-9 with a home run each and five runs scored.

No Indiana hitter had more than one hit, and leadoff hitter Zach Jancarski didn’t have any, snapping a 14-game hit streak for the junior.

One bright spot for the Maryland pitching staff was sophomore Cameron Enck, who pitched two scoreless innings in just his fourth appearance of the season. He needed only 18 pitches to get six outs, despite allowing three hits.

Series Preview: Indiana Hoosiers

Last week was a banner one for Maryland. The Terps went a perfect 4-0, including a weekend sweep of Big Ten foe Michigan State, and ascended back into the top 25 nationally and to the top of the Big Ten standings.

Maryland (28-11, 12-3 Big Ten) has won seven games in a row, it’s last loss all the way back on April 12 to George Mason. This weekend will see the Terrapins go out on the road to take on Indiana at Bart Kaufman Field, which is also the site of the 2017 Big Ten Tournament. The Hoosiers (21-16, 8-6 Big Ten) are the most recent Big Ten team to play in the College World Series, making it to Omaha in 2013. Since then, they have fallen to the middle of the pack in the conference while Maryland has taken its turn as the conference’s top dog.

At 21-16, Indiana’s record is not particularly impressive, but the Hoosiers have played one of the most difficult schedules in the country with the No. 11 Strength of Schedule and the No. 33 RPI. That difficult slate included a pair of early season games against No. 1 Oregon State, which IU lost 1-0 and 4-1. More recently, the Hoosiers have gone toe to toe with No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor and held their own, taking two of three from the Wolverines last weekend. Indiana and Maryland are responsible for four of Michigan’s nine losses this season.

When the Hoosiers have had success, it has frequently been because of the long ball. Indiana leads the Big Ten in home runs with 45, while sophomore Matt Lloyd and senior Craig Dedelow are tied for fourth in the conference with nine apiece. Sophomore Luke Miller is also in the conference’s top 10 with eight homers.

Lloyd is Indiana’s best hitter, usually batting in the cleanup spot of the Hoosiers lineup. It’s the Canadian’s first season in Division I baseball after transferring from Iowa Western Community College in the offseason. He’s thrived at college baseball’s top level, hitting .336/.434/.655 and leading the team in walks with 18, but the left-handed hitter also strikes out a lot, whiffing in over 23 percent of his plate appearances.

Not only is Lloyd the team’s top bat, however, he is also its best arm out of the bullpen. The right-hander has appeared in 11 games and has been the Hoosiers’ de facto closer, picking up four saves. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound two-way star has pitched to a 2.08 ERA in 17.1 innings, striking out 12 and walking just three. When opponents make contact against him, it’s generally soft; he’s given up only two extra-base hits all season.

Lloyd is Indiana’s best hitter in 2017, but in 2016 that honor went to Dedelow, who was a third-team All-Big Ten performer in each of the last two seasons and was selected in the 34th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He decided to return to IU for his senior season, though, and he’s mashed again, rolling up a .481 slugging percentage with 18 extra-base hits. Like Lloyd, he is a free swinger, with just a .250 batting average, his lowest since his freshman season, and a 21.7 percent strikeout rate.

Miller is sandwiched in between Lloyd and Dedelow in the usual Indiana batting order, normally occupying the three spot. He was a freshman All-American a season ago when he hit .333 in Big Ten play. This season, he leads the Hoosiers in hits and total bases while batting .297 with a .520 slugging percentage.

Indiana’s pitching has struggled at times this year, as it did last week when it gave up a combined 21 runs to the Wolverines in the final two games of the series. The staff has compiled a 4.76 ERA with a .285 opponents’ batting average. While the Hoosiers have hit a lot of home runs, their pitchers have also given up their share, with opposing teams going deep 32 times against Indiana.

Lloyd is arguably Indiana’s best arm in the bullpen, but the first one out of the pen for the Hoosiers is often Cal Krueger. The freshman from Jasper, Indiana, has appeared in 15 games and pitched 28.1 innings overall while posting a 2.51 ERA. He’s not a strikeout pitcher–he has just 15–but he’s also allowed just six extra base hits. If an IU starter struggles, expect to see the right-hander in long relief.

From the left side, Krueger’s fellow freshman Cameron Beauchamp has been solid for Indiana as well. He has very good stuff with a fastball that touches 93 and a solid curve. He’s posted a 3.68 ERA in 10 appearances, including two starts. The Indiana native sometimes struggles with his command, though; he’s walked 15 in 14.2 innings this season.

Starting Pitching Matchup

FRI 6:05 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Brian Shaffer (5-2, 1.77 ERA) vs. So. RHP Jonathan Stiever (2-2, 4.95 ERA)

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Shaffer and the Terps essentially settled the debate over the best pitcher in the Big Ten last week when the junior right-hander shut down Michigan State and Maryland’s offense chased Big Ten ERA leader Alex Troop after four innings and 11 runs. Now Shaffer occupies that top spot in the ERA rankings, the only qualified pitcher with a mark under two. He also leads the conference in innings pitched, and ranks second in the conference with 74 strikeouts, just one behind Michigan’s Oliver Jaskie.

Maryland’s ace will take on Jonathan Stiever, who is coming off his best start of the season. Last week against Michigan he pitched seven shutout innings, striking out seven and walking one in a 1-0 victory over the Wolverines. The sophomore right-hander is best-known for his exceptional control. As a freshman he ran a K/BB ratio of six over 40 innings, mostly as a reliever. This year, he’s improved upon that already impressive number, striking out 32 and walking just three in 40 innings of work, all as a starter. His ERA is 4.95 mostly because he’s given up 19 extra-base hits, including seven home runs. Opponents hit .310 against Stiever, who throws a fastball that sits around 90 and curve that measures in the upper 70s.

Starting Pitching Matchup

SAT 2:05 p.m. EST

Fr. Tyler Blohm (7-3, 2.49 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Brian Hobbie (2-3, 6.19 ERA)

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Blohm has almost as much of a presence on the Big Ten pitching leader boards as his rotation mate Shaffer. The freshman leads the conference in wins and ranks third in ERA. His performance has led to his promotion to the Terps’ Saturday starter after beginning the season pitching on Sunday. His first two Saturday starts haven’t disappointed, as he’s pitched 12 innings and allowed just two runs while striking out 11 and picking up two wins. Blohm hasn’t had much trouble adjusting to college hitters, as he’s allowing opposing batters to hit just .206. Like Shaffer, he gets plenty of swings and misses, as well, striking out 47 in 50.2 innings of work.

Hobbie pitched just 8.2 innings last season, but his workload has taken off as a junior. He’s made the most starts, 10, of any Indiana pitcher, throwing a team-high 56.2 frames. Like Stiever he’s kept his walks down, allowing only 1.74 free passes per nine innings, but when he’s made mistakes in the zone batters are punishing them. Opposing hitters have posted a .303 batting average against the 6-foot-4 Hobbie, racking up 14 doubles and nine home runs. Hobbie is most effective when inducing ground balls, as he throws a sinker as hard as 93, so if Maryland is beating a lot of balls into the dirt it should be a good day for him.

Starting Pitching Matchup

SUN 12 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Taylor Bloom (5-2, 4.08 ERA) vs. So. RHP Pauly Milto (3-3, 4.20 ERA)

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Bloom has struggled a bit this year compared to a season ago when he posted the fourth-best ERA in the Big Ten (2.46) and walked just nine hitters in over 100 innings. His most recent outing, however, was one of his best of the season. Maryland staked him to a big early lead and the 6-foot right-hander did the rest, tossing 7.2 innings of two-run ball, while striking out four and walking none. He was economical, as well, needing just 93 pitches to complete the sweep of the Spartans. Despite his periodic inconsistency, Bloom is still second on the team in innings pitched and leads the Terps with 11 starts.

Milto is another sophomore hurler who had a promising freshman season, but has seen his ERA rise in his second year with the program. The Greenwood, Indiana, product had a 3.38 ERA last season while striking out more than a batter per inning. In 2017, those numbers have slipped to 4.20 and just over six strikeouts per nine innings. He’s been a jack-of-all trades for the Indiana staff this season, though, appearing 10 times out of the bullpen in addition to four starts. Last time out, Milto started against the Wolverines on Sunday, April 23 and gave up six runs in five innings.