Maryland players sprinted out of the dugout, engulfing closer John Murphy in the infield Saturday evening. The Terps had just clinched their first appearance in the Big Ten Tournament under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Murphy said. “Especially because this is the same weekend I got ejected last year, so I’m pretty happy I didn’t get ejected this weekend and get to be there for all three games with my team.”
Murphy, who entered in the ninth, recorded three straight outs to ensure Maryland’s 10-8 win over Iowa (30-22, 12-12), earning his 11th save of the year in the Terps’ final game of the regular season in College Park.
“What John Murphy did at the end was awesome,” Vaughn said. “That game was kind of a culmination of our season. We get up, have moments that are really good, we have moments were we give it up, then have moments that are really good again.”
Until the top of the eighth, when Iowa tied the game for the third time on the day, it seemed Maryland (28-27, 12-12) had already won the back-and-forth battle. Though Iowa got on the board first, on a Tanner Padgett solo homer to start the second inning, Maryland quickly clawed its way back on top.
After starter Tyler Blohm worked out of the top of the inning, Maryland sophomores Michael Pineiro and Justin Vought sent back-to-back solo shots deep to left-center field to start the bottom half.
“When Pineiro’s going oppo-jack, that gets people going a little bit,” Vaughn said. “Those [homers] were huge…[they] kind of captured the momentum back and let us play with the lead.”
Two more runs crossed in the third for the Terps, giving Blohm a 4-1 lead off a Hawkeyes error and a handful of Iowa defensive miscues. Senior A.J. Lee, who reached first on an error for the second time on the day, scored on a wild pitch from left-hander Grant Judkins, who walked three Terps in the half. Maryland’s second run came on an RBI sacrifice bunt from Pineiro.
“We talk about how you respond in the midst of adversity,” Vaughn said, “That’s one of our pillars…and every inning that [Iowa] scored, we answered. I mean, the offensive effort today was unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable.”
But the Hawkeyes came back, and a Wetrich three-run homer tied the game at four runs apiece in the fourth. With that, the Terps brought in right-hander Trevor LaBonte, who hit the first batter he faced but worked out of the jam with his first strikeout of the game.
Blohm finished his 3.2 innings of work allowing four runs on four walks and four hits, including the two homers. Behind a solid Maryland offense, LaBonte threw three scoreless innings of relief, before faltering in the eighth.
“If we call it what it is,” Vaughn said, “Blohm’s stuff was terrible today…and he still [went] out and gave us three or four innings. I mean, that’s Tyler Blohm..that’s just who he is.”
After Iowa tied the game in the top of the fourth, Maryland regained the lead on two runs in the bottom of the inning, after Benjamin Cowles and Randy Bednar singled around an A.J. Lee double. Bednar’s hit scored Cowles, and a sacrifice fly from senior Taylor Wright plated Lee, putting the Terps up 6-4 heading to the fifth.
Then, Maryland designated hitter Josh Maguire doubled to start the bottom half for the Terps. The freshman cruised home two outs later on a sac fly from Cowles for the Terps seventh run on the night. Two innings later, Maguire scored again on Cowles sacrifice fly, putting Maryland ahead 8-4.
But LaBonte started to tire in the eighth, loading the bases on a walk and two singles after striking out the first batter he faced in the inning. Then, Andrew Vail relieved his fellow freshman, but gave up a game-tying grand slam to Wetrich before working his way out of the inning.
“I told them,” Vaughn said, “When [Iowa] did hit that grand slam, I said, ‘We’re going to see what kind of character we’ve got.'”
Chris Alleyne stepped into the box in the eighth, runners on first and second with two outs. Then, Alleyne roped a double into the right field corner, clearing the bases and putting Maryland ahead 10-8 heading to the ninth.
“It really just shows what kind of offense we can have,” Lee said. “When all cylinders are firing, we’re pretty good. When we’re moving barrels and we’re swinging at good pitched and we’re getting our swing off, we’re pretty good.”
Iowa put up a fight against senior closer John Murphy in the ninth. But Murphy was not having it, and after the Hawkeyes got a double to start the inning, Murphy struck out one and induced a pop fly to first base. Then, a fly out to Bednar in right field, which ended the game with the Terps on top.
“It was pretty tough [Friday] night,” Murphy said. “It made it easier that we still came back and won, but to do that today and to send us to Omaha, that was pretty awesome, especially on Senior Day.”
“I don’t know if I’ve been more proud of a group of guys than that group of dudes standing out there,” Vaughn said. “That was a gutty, character win for a team that’s [still] learning. Everything they’ve been through in the last six months…everything they withstood, I am so incredible proud of that group.”