Lee homers, Blohm strikes out 10 in Terps elimination game win

It was AJ Lee’s birthday, but it was Lee giving the Terps a gift in the first inning of Friday’s game.

The newly-minted 20-year-old hit a three-run home run over the left-field fence in that opening inning, jumpstarting a 8-5 Maryland win over No. 1 seed Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament at Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington, Ind.

Lee stepped to the plate in the first with runners on first and second in a scoreless game. After working a full count, he ripped a pitch from Nebraska starter Ethan Frazier deep into the night sky, scoring Brandon Gum and Nick Dunn and putting the Terps ahead 3-0.

“He (Frazier) had been struggling with his fastball command, and he threw me two fastballs in the zone that I fouled off,” Lee said of his first at-bat. “He got me to two strikes and threw me a slider and I just put a good swing on it and it happened to go out. It was big to get our team on the board first there and let us relax a little bit.”

Nebraska (35-20-1) got one run back immediately off Maryland’s freshman starter Tyler Blohm in the bottom of the inning. Leadoff hitter Angelo Altavilla drove his first home run of the season to a similar spot to Lee’s blast to slice the Terp lead to 3-1.

Blohm settled in after that, though, and despite needing 34 pitches to get through the first inning put together one of his most dominant starts of the season. The freshman left-hander struck out a career-high 10 Cornhuskers and the first seven outs he recorded all came via the strikeout.

“They (Nebraska hitters) were a little bit behind velo-wise, we thought, so he just stayed with the hard stuff,” head coach John Szefc said of Blohm. “They just weren’t catching up to it for the most part.”

While Blohm was mowing down Nebraska hitters, Maryland’s offense was putting more distance between the Terps and the Cornhuskers. Lee walked to lead off the fourth and Nick Cieri followed with a bloop single to right. Kevin Smith, owner of a team-high 10 home runs, hit next and laid a perfect bunt down the third base line for a hit, loading the bases with nobody out.

Senior Madison Nickens, who was hitting just .217 coming into the game, cleared the bases when he slashed a line-drive triple to the gap in left-center. It was his third three-bagger of the season and extended Maryland’s lead to 6-1. The Terps added a seventh run when Justin Morris bounced an infield single up the middle and Nickens scored. The Terrapins (36-20) sent nine batters to the plate in the inning and tallied four runs.

Blohm held the lead until the fifth. In that frame, he walked Mojo Hagge and surrendered an infield single to Scott Schreiber, putting two on with nobody out. After a flyout, Blohm’s night was finished. He threw 107 pitches in 4.1 innings, allowing five hits and three runs, to go along with those 10 strikeouts. For the first time in his 15 starts this season, Blohm did not get a decision.

Jared Price took over for Blohm, but that didn’t stop the parade of Cornhusker whiffs. The senior right-hander hit as high as 98 on the stadium radar gun and punched out five Nebraska hitters over a season-high 4.2 innings.

When asked what was working for him, Price didn’t hesitate.

“Fastball location,” he said. [Pitching coach Ryan] Fecteau came in there and said throw as hard as you can for as long as you can so that was my mentality going in.”

Nebraska chipped away off Price, though, putting two runs on the board in the sixth with the help of an error on Nick Dunn at second base. By the time Price walked off the mound in the eighth, the Cornhuskers had trimmed their deficit to just two at 7-5.

Maryland made any comeback bid more difficult in the top of the ninth when it plated an insurance run. Morris and Zach Jancarski drew back-to-back walks to open the inning and a wild pitch moved them up a base. Later in the inning, Marty Costes singled through the left side of a drawn-in infield to provide the final Terps tally.

Price returned to the mound for the ninth and gave up just a one-out single before closing the door on the Cornhuskers with a double play.The final out was recorded at 1:23 a.m. It was the first time Price had pitched more than two innings all season and it was enough to get him his first win since his sophomore season in 2014.

“That was probably the best outing of his career, obviously in a really important game so I’m really happy for Jared,” Szefc said of Price. “That was as good as I’ve seen him in five years. That’s not a knock on the other years, that’s a compliment to tonight, because that (Nebraska) is a good team.”

Szefc said he had never seen Price throw 98 before.

“Never. I’ve seen him at 95 before but not 98,” the fifth-year Maryland coach said. “But the biggest difference for Jared wasn’t really the velocity, it was the fact that he was throwing consistent strikes, didn’t walk a guy.”

Lee’s home run extended his career-long hit streak to 14 games, and he’s hitting nearly .350 over that span. Smith and Morris each recorded two hits in the game for the Terps.

Nebraska’s Jake Schleppenbach homered in the fourth off of Blohm, pulling the ball over the right-field fence. It was his fifth home run of the season and second off of Blohm.

Nebraska starter Frazier took the loss, dropping his record to 2-1. He was not originally slated to start, but scheduled starter Jake Meyers’ arm tightened up between Nebraska’s two games Friday and he did not play. Frazier only last 1.1 innings before he too was sidelined with an arm injury.

The Terps will take on Northwestern at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday in the tournament semifinals.

Smith’s eighth-inning double gives Maryland dramatic win

Kevin Smith was having a tough day.

When he came to the plate in the eighth, he was 1-for-8 in Maryland’s two games with the only hit being an infield single. He changed that with one swing.

The junior shortstop stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the score tied at 2-2. On a 1-1 count, he roped a double into the left-field corner, scoring three Terps and sending Maryland to a 5-2 victory in the Big Ten Tournament Thursday night at Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington, Ind.

“I was just trying to get a pitch to drive,” Smith said of the at-bat in the eighth. “That’s what guys are supposed to do on this team. We set up a good inning and you’re supposed to come through with a big hit.”

Smith said it didn’t cross his mind that he’d only had one hit up to that point.

“No if you start switching up your mindset that’s when you get into trouble,” the shortstop said. “You have to trust your preparation and trust what you’re doing at the plate and ultimately that you’re going to come through. Just kind of sticking to the plan.”

Associate head coach Rob Vaughn wasn’t surprised Smith came through.

“It’s what we expect out of him and it was huge,” Vaughn said.

Smith’s heroics wouldn’t have been possible without the lights-out pitching of right-hander John Murphy. Murphy entered a tie game in the sixth with runners on first and second with nobody out and struck out the side to escape with no damage. He also struck out Purdue’s No. 3 hitter Jacson McGowan with runners on second and third and two outs in the seventh, setting up Smith’s big hit.

The sophomore reliever eventually pitched three scoreless innings, striking out six hitters and lowering his team-best ERA to 1.40. He picked up the win, his first decision of the season. Dalton Parker took the loss, dropping his record to 2-3.

Unlike their first game of the day, in which the Terps (35-20) fell behind 6-1 in the third, they got on the board first and held a lead in the early innings. In the second, AJ Lee led off with a single, extending his career-long hit streak to 13 games. He stole second and later came around to score the game’s opening run on a two-out single from Madison Nickens. Catcher Justin Morris followed Nickens with a ringing double to the gap in right-center and the left-fielder scored from first to make it 2-0.

Maryland starter Taylor Bloom made that lead stand up over the first four innings. He wasn’t missing many bats, but it was a clinic of soft contact from the junior right-hander. He only gave up two hits in those four innings and held Purdue to just a single in the fifth, as well.

In that fifth, though, the Boilermakers (29-27) rallied with only that one hit. Mike Madej reached on an error from second baseman Nick Dunn, who bobbled a ground ball. Alec Olund hit next and bounced softly to third. Lee fielded the ball and threw off-balance to first, but the throw went up the right field line, allowing Madej to score from first. The throw from right came home and went into the Terps dugout, putting Olund on third. Hayden Grant promptly drove him in with a sacrifice fly to even the score at 2.

Bloom threw five innings without allowing an earned run, while striking out two and not walking anyone before ceding the mound to Murphy.

Vaughn said it was important for his team to have a proven big-game pitcher like Bloom on the mound to start the game.

“That guy [Bloom] pitched at UCLA and won a regional and there’s a lot of trust when that guy’s on the mound,” Vaughn said. “It gives us something knowing that there’s not one of these things where you’re feeling like you have to go out and punch 10 runs across. There’s an element of knowing that you have one of your horses on the mound and he’s going to give you his best effort and that’s exactly what he did tonight.”

Murphy’s Houdini acts kept the score at 2-2 until the eighth.

Brandon Gum led off the inning with a walk and Marty Costes followed with a walk of his own against Parker to put two runners on. Costes first got hit by a pitch, but the umpire ruled he had not made an attempt to get out of the way and ordered him back to the batter’s box. Head coach John Szefc vigorously disagreed with the call and was ejected, but Costes reached anyway.

A sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk to Lee loaded the bases for Smith and he cleared them, as Gum, Costes and Lee all came around to score and give the Terps a lead they would not relinquish.

“We’ve done a pretty good job this year of battling back and it’d just been a long day,” Vaughn said of his team’s second game in eight hours. “When you mix a little bit of tired bat speed with a long day, you can get some bad results like we were getting there for a couple of innings. I give them [the players] credit. It takes a spark. That’s what I tell these guys all the time, it takes one guy to spark it and Gum did that for us [with the walk].

“It’s hard to come back and ring the bell in game two. I told our guys 99 percent of people can’t do it. That’s why you guys are different. They came out, it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t sexy, but they found a way to get it done in the end.”

It was not surprising Lee was intentionally walked in a big situation, as he was a star for Maryland at the plate. He went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored, raising his batting average to a robust .325.

Ryan Selmer pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing a couple of hits, but surviving to pick up his eighth save of the season.

Maryland will face the loser of tomorrow’s game between Nebraska and Iowa at 8:30 p.m. ET in another elimination game.

Terps hit three home runs, but Shaffer struggles and Maryland falls in Big Ten Tournament

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.

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.”