Maryland’s 2018 season ends with 13-3 loss to Indiana

Maryland baseball learned during pregame warmups that Saturday’s game against Indiana would be its last of the season. Michigan State’s win clinched the final spot in the Big Ten tournament, eliminating the Terps from postseason contention for the first time since 2013.

Maryland (24-30, 9-14 Big Ten) arrived in Bloomington with their eyes set on a fifth straight conference tournament berth, but left with three straight losses and a nine-month wait before their next game. For a handful of Terps — whether it be because of graduation or the upcoming MLB Draft — Saturday’s 13-3 loss was their last time donning the Maryland uniform.

In the last four seasons, Maryland has participated in every conference tournament, earned three trips to the NCAA Tournament and advanced twice to the NCAA Super Regionals. That streak of success wasn’t replicated in the 2018 season, which failed to yield a postseason appearance.

Indiana (37-15, 14-9) still had motivation to play well in the regular season finale, hoping for better seeding in next week’s tournament while celebrating senior day. The Hoosiers scored in five of the first six innings, jumping on starting pitcher Mark DiLuia and a variety of relievers thereafter.

Right fielder Logan Sowers blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the first off DiLuia, taking advantage following a Maryland error and a one-out walk. The Hoosiers scored three more times in the next two frames against the freshman, who had been great for the past month and a half before Saturday.

Maryland nearly came back twice before the Hoosiers started to pull away. Junior third baseman Taylor Wright finished the season strong, collecting another two RBIs on a two-out single to cut Indiana’s lead to 3-2. After Indiana added another run, freshman Randy Bednar crushed a solo homer for his sixth of the season.

At least four players in Saturday’s starting lineup won’t be back next season, but Wright and Bednar both will be. They accounted for three of Maryland’s five hits and all three runs driven in.

Left-hander Sean Fisher worked a scoreless fourth inning, but it took four different pitchers to get through the next two frames. Fisher and right-hander Elliot Zoellner each finished short relief outings with three earned runs before Alec Tuohy entered and conceded a run and just one out. Senior Ryan Hill got the last two outs of the sixth after Indiana opened up a 13-3 lead. Hill pitched a scoreless seventh inning, capping off his Maryland career.

Senior Kevin Biondic’s pitching career began by fooling around with a knuckleball in pregame throwing lines and over last summer. He finished his first and only season as a Maryland pitcher with the same exact pitch, striking out Indiana’s Sam Crail with the erratic motion in the bottom of the eighth.

Maryland’s bats then went down in order in the ninth inning, ending the season by getting swept in Bloomington.

 

Maryland loses for 2nd straight day as postseason race tightens

Maryland baseball no longer controls its own destiny, now requiring assistance to earn a Big Ten tournament berth after losing for the second straight day against Indiana. All eyes for the remainder of Friday will turn to East Lansing, where Michigan State has a chance to put itself a game ahead of the Terps heading into the final day of the regular season.

Senior right-hander Taylor Bloom’s potentially last collegiate start was primarily successful, but Maryland’s offense stranded 12 runners — twice leaving the bases loaded — as the Terps never led in a 5-1 loss.

Maryland had two opportunities to control its fate this series, but with back-to-back losses, it’ll need some help now. If Michigan State beats Ohio State Friday at 4 p.m., the Spartans would overtake the No. 8 seed with one game left in the postseason race. Nebraska, too, remains alive with the Terps’ loss.

In the midst of retiring 13 straight hitters at one point, Bloom became just the second pitcher in program history to eclipse 300 innings in his career. He trails just former Terrapin and 2015 fifth-round MLB draft pick, Mike Shawaryn, but won’t catch his record unless Maryland makes the postseason.

The senior took several batters to settle in, walking the first batter he faced on five pitches before conceding a single on a 2-0 count. He wouldn’t allow another base runner until the fifth inning, but Matt Gorski’s RBI groundout in the first was the game’s only run for the first half of the game.

Maryland’s offense looked uneasy one time through the batting order against Indiana starter Pauly Milto (7-2, 2.00 ERA). The junior right-hander effectively used off-speed pitches, allowing one hit to the first nine batters.

The Terps fared much better in the following innings, but still struggled to find the tying run. Maryland loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth inning, but third baseman Taylor Wright struck out swing to end the threat. Designated hitter Randy Bednar singled to lead off the fifth, but a failed hit-and-run turned into a double play.

Right fielder Marty Costes began the sixth by working a walk, and then advanced around to third on two wild pitches. Left fielder Will Watson, on a 3-0 count, selected a pitch he liked and drove home Costes on an RBI double to tie the game. Still with no outs, the Terps were unable to bring across the go-ahead run.

Bloom walked the first two batters he faced in the following half inning, both of which came around to score to put Indiana back on top, 3-1. The Terps loaded the bases in their next trip to the plate, but first baseman Kevin Biondic struck out to strand all three runners on base.

Gorski and Luke Miller provided insurance runs with two solo home runs to put away the Terps, as Bloom preserved Maryland’s bullpen by completing all eight innings on 118 pitches. The final game of the series on Saturday is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.

Eighth-inning homer dooms Maryland, drops series opener to Indiana

Junior right-hander John Murphy struck out the first two batters he faced out the bullpen — each representing the go-ahead run  — narrowly escaping an eighth-inning jam before conceding a costly three-run home run in an all-important series opener against Indiana.

The Terps (24-28, 9-12 Big Ten) held a 4-2 lead before a two-hour weather delay halted play at Bart Kaufman Field in the top of the seventh. The stoppage ended junior Hunter Parson’s successful start for Maryland after six innings, and the bullpen was unable to preserve the lead in a 6-5 loss.

Before the home run, everything Maryland needed to happen to create separation in the postseason hunt, did. Rutgers, Michigan State and Nebraska — the three teams directly trailing the Terps in the standings — all lost Thursday.

While the loss is disappointing, absolutely nothing changes in the hunt for the No. 8 seed. With two games left in the regular season, Maryland still holds the final spot. The Terps have the same conference record as the Spartans, but hold a tiebreaker, while Nebraska sits 1.5 games back. Rutgers’ loss eliminated it from postseason contention.

Center fielder Zach Jancarski gave Maryland an early advantage following Will Watson’s leadoff single in the second inning. The senior launched a towering fly ball that cleared the left field fence for his seventh homer of the season to put the Terps up 2-0. The Hoosiers, who lead the Big Ten in home runs, used their strength to immediately answer. After Parsons worked a 1-2-3 first frame, the junior allowed a solo home run to Luke Miller.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Indiana tied the game using an unusual sequence. Following a leadoff single, right fielder Logan Sowers hit a line drive to center field that scored Matt Gorski all the way from first. Sowers ended up in a rundown in between first and second, deflecting all attention away from Gorski as he scampered home.

Indiana starter Jonathan Stiever escaped a jam in the fifth after the Terps got the first two hitters of the inning on base. Rather than electing to sacrifice bunt with Marty Costes, the right fielder flew out to straightaway center field. Kevin Biondic then grounded into an inning-ending double play.

A leadoff walk issued to Watson later hurt Stiever when Taylor Wright delivered the go-ahead hit in the sixth. Following Stiever’s departure, Maryland instantly  jumped on reliever Tommy Sommer. Lee led off the top of the seventh with a double. Nick Dunn — who became the 13th player in Maryland history to record 200 hits in his career earlier in the game — then singled to put runners on the corners. Costes lifted a sacrifice fly to extend Maryland’s lead to 4-2.

An almost two-hour rain delay ensued, knocking Parsons out of the game after 77 pitches. Following the delay, senior right-hander Ryan Hill replaced the starter and pitched a scoreless seventh frame.

But after Wright provided another insurance run that gave Maryland a 5-2 lead, it all fell apart in the bottom of the eighth. Left-hander Grant Burleson allowed an RBI single before Murphy entered the game and allowed Miller’s second homer of the game to put Indiana ahead, 6-5.

Maryland can still clinch a tournament berth with a win Friday and a Michigan State loss. The Terps’ game was moved up to 1 p.m. from an original 6 p.m. start.

Maryland completes sweep of Rutgers with Sunday victory

On Saturday, the Maryland Terrapins pieced together an 11-run third inning in their victory against Rutgers, one of the best single inning performances in program history.

The encore on Sunday: a five-run third inning, marking the second consecutive day Maryland batted around in the third frame. Sunday’s offensive burst was enough to give the Terps a 8-6 win, completing the sweep against the Scarlet Knights.

“When people are playing fearless and people are playing like there’s no tomorrow, they become really dangerous,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “And that’s what you saw out of this group this weekend.”

With two outs and a pair on base, senior designated hitter Will Watson singled up the middle, bringing home AJ Lee. Watson, who set a career-high with eight RBI in Saturday’s game, was once again the catalyst. Then, after a Zach Jancarski walk, senior Justin Morris lined a base hit that trickled to the right field wall after Kevin Blum’s diving attempt came up short. He ended up on third base with a bases clearing triple.

Taylor Wright drove in the fifth, and final, run of the inning with an RBI single.

The Terps tacked on an insurance run the following inning, when Jancarski drove in a run with an infield single.

“Anytime our back is so-to-speak against the wall, for our team to come out and respond the way it did, it says a lot about our character,” Jancarski said.

While Maryland’s offense rallied in the early stages of the contest, its starting pitcher, freshman Mark DiLuia, kept up his end of the deal. The Illinois native allowed a solo home run to Juwaun Harris in the second inning, but then threw three straight scoreless innings while Maryland built its lead.

His solid outing hit a speed bump in the sixth inning. With the rain transforming from a mist to a drizzle, DiLuia allowed the first three Scarlet Knights to reach base (two singles and a walk). While Chris Folinusz’s run-scoring single cut the deficit to five, DiLuia retired the next three Rutgers batters to end the frame.

His day concluded after he threw six innings, allowing two earned runs, six hits, striking out four, and walking just one.

Grant Burleson relieved DiLuia and, after a scoreless seventh inning, struggled in the eighth. The freshman left-hander allowed a one-out single and walk, and then allowed both runners to score on an RBI double by Milo Freeman. Unfortunately for Burleson, Freeman’s at bat only continued because Morris dropped a potentially inning-ending pop-up in foul territory.

Maryland got one of those runs back when Nick Dunn drove in Justin Vought with a double in the right-center field gap.

There was some more drama in the ninth inning. After striking out Folinusz, Vought threw away the dropped third strike, allowing a run to score. Then Harris drove in his second run of the game with an infield single.

Head coach Rob Vaughn then elected to bring in closer John Murphy, with the potential game-tying runs on base. The right-hander hit Carmen Sclafani to begin his afternoon, loading the bases. The next batter, Freeman, endured an eight-pitch at bat that concluded with a deep fly out to right field.

“It felt good just to get out with a win,” Morris said.

With a 9-11 record in the Big Ten, Maryland is just on the fringe of postseason contention. The top eight teams in the conference make the Big Ten tournament, and the Terps are currently ninth. That could change depending on the result of Michigan State’s Sunday contest, which was still being played at the time of the conclusion of Maryland’s game. If the Spartans lose, Maryland would jump into the eighth, and final, postseason spot entering the final weekend.

Vaughn’s team will wrap up the regular season with a three-game set against Indiana, which is currently sixth in the conference.

Maryland baseball destroys Rutgers, 17-2

The bottom half of the third inning against Rutgers on Saturday will go down in Maryland lore as one of the best in the history of the program. And senior Will Watson’s performance will live on forever in the record books.

In the second game of his last series in College Park, Watson tied a school-record with eight RBI on the day. The majority of that came in the third inning, hitting two home runs and knocking in seven runs to lead the Terrapins to 17-2 victory.

Not to be lost among the offensive showcase that Maryland put on was the outstanding performance of starting pitcher Taylor Bloom. In his last outing ever on the mound at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, the senior delivered a masterful gem, hurling seven strong and holding the Scarlet Knights to just one earned run on six hits.

“I just wanted to give the fans a good start, the team a good start,” Bloom said following his outing.

A double from Dan DiGeorgio to kick off the game was not how Bloom wanted things to start. And when Mike Nyisztor ripped the very next pitch towards the third base line, it seemed as though it could be the makings of a disastrous outing.

But Taylor Wright made a diving stop to hold the runner at second base and get the out, and Bloom picked off DiGeorgio soon thereafter to take away the scoring threat. He then struck out the next batter to close out the first inning without any damage.

AJ Lee doubled to start off the bottom half for Maryland, and some good baserunning allowed him to score on a passed ball. After Marty Costes made his way to third base following a walk, Watson brought him home on sacrifice fly in his first at-bat of the game.

In the top of the third, Rutgers got its first run on the board. Luke Bowerbank sent a seemingly innocuous ground ball to second base, but Nick Dunn couldn’t field it cleanly. That put a runner on base, and it came back to hurt the Terps. DiGeorgio delivered his second double in as many at-bats to cut Maryland’s lead to one, but Bloom stranded him on base to leave with the inning with the lead.

Marty Costes doubled with one out in the bottom of the third, and Kevin Biondic singled to put runners on the corners for Watson. At that point, the Terps held a 2-1 lead and were looking to add some insurance runs for Bloom. But the senior left fielder wanted more, ripping a line drive over the wall in left-center field to give Maryland a four run advantage.

“He’s swinging the bat with a lot of confidence right now,” coach Rob Vaughn said of Watson. “Will just comes out and keeps working every day. You’re seeing the fruits of his labor right now.”

The Terrapins didn’t stop there. Seven of the next eight batters reached base, sending Watson to the plate once again. This time around, he stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and his team sporting a 9-1 lead.

“With runners in scoring position, you’re just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Watson said about heading to the plate for the second time in the inning. “Once you get one over the plate, you have to be moving the barrel and good things usually happen.”

On an 0-1 pitch, Watson drove a long fly ball to left-center field, sending outfielder Kevin Blum to the warning track. Blum followed the ball as far as he could, scaling the wall once he ran out of room. But his efforts were futile, and it was a grand slam for Watson.

That was the senior’s second home run, combining for seven RBI in the third inning alone. He sits in second place in NCAA history for most in a single inning, and Terps now led by a score of 13-1.

“We’re having so much fun right now, we’re just trying to keep it rolling,” Watson said.

Bloom did his part to keep the Terps ahead – the senior went above and beyond to quiet the Scarlet Knights the rest of the way. The tops of the next three frames were all scoreless, as Bloom used a combination of the strikeout and the soft-contact routes to silence Rutgers.

Despite such a large number already on the scoreboard, Maryland kept putting runs across. The fourth inning saw AJ Lee and Nick Dunn knock runners in on a single and sacrifice fly, respectively. Then in the sixth, Dunn plated another run with a second sacrifice fly.

Bloom’s only real mistake came on the first pitch to Chris Folinusz to kick off the seventh, as the first baseman lifted a fly ball over the wall to get Rutgers back on the board. The bases became loaded with one out, but he got Blum to roll a pair to close out his outing. Elliot Zoellner came on to finish off the final two innings, and he did so without incident to complete the blowout victory.

Maryland still has some work to do if it is to make the postseason, but if Saturday is any indication, the Terrapins are up to the task to get the job done. These seniors don’t want to quit playing just yet.

“For most of us, this is our last time playing baseball,” said Bloom. “We’re just laying it all on the line.”

Maryland beats Rutgers behind Parsons’ masterful first-career Friday start

With right-hander Hunter Parsons over 100 pitches in his first-career Friday night start, pitching coach Corey Muscara visited the mound in the middle of a 2-0 count to tell his starter the next two batters were his regardless of the result.

Parsons threw two more balls to walk the hitter, but with the confidence instilled in him, the junior then induced an inning-ending flyout on his 118th pitch to cap off his two-run, seven-inning performance in Maryland’s 5-2 win against Rutgers.

Center fielder Zach Jancarski perhaps saved the game in the top of the ninth, making a full-extension grab with the tying-run at the plate. After losing eight straight series openers, the Terps have now won their last two as they continue to vigorously hunt down the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament.

“This is the playoffs from here on out. We’re playing for our lives right now and it’s time to step it up,” Jancarski said.  “I think our guys did a great job not letting the pressure get to them, but being ready when their number was called.”

Rutgers scored in the very first frame, taking advantage of multiple Maryland miscues. Parsons allowed a leadoff single after getting ahead 0-2 in the count, and Justin Vought’s throwing error on a steal attempt moved the runner to third. With an RBI groundout following, The Scarlet Knights took a quick 1-0 lead.

From that point on, though, it was all Hunter Parsons and clutch hitting from several Maryland seniors to stay in postseason contention. After retiring 11 straight hitters at one point, Parsons conceded a run in the seventh before loading the bases. But the coaching staff decided to live or die with their ace on the mound.

“That guy’s been so dang good. He deserved a chance to try to finish that inning,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “So just try to give him a deep breath and just reset everything and good execute some pitches and kill some of their momentum.”

In the midst of Parsons’ standout start, all four seniors in Maryland’s starting lineup recorded multi-hit games in clutch situations to pull away from the Scarlet Knights. Kevin Biondic, Will Watson, Justin Morris and Jancarski went a combined 8-for-15 with two runs scored and three RBIs.

“This is the last time we’re going to be putting the Maryland uniform on this field,” Jancarski explained. “The blood, sweat and tears that these guys — especially the seniors — put into this, just so much stuff behind the scenes. There’s nothing else we know.”

Biondic extended the bottom of the first with two outs with a single, granting an opportunity for Watson to deliver the game-tying RBI hit. The following frame, Morris led off with a single before junior shortstop AJ Lee hit a two-out RBI double to give Maryland a 2-1 lead.

The bottom of the sixth belonged to Maryland’s senior hitters, too, doubling, singling and doubling again to spark a two-run inning to extend the Terps’ lead to three heading into the seventh frame. After Parsons allowed a run in the seventh, Jancarski grabbed the run right back with an RBI single in the next half inning.

Kevin Biondic was the designated hitter, unable to play defensively with a bruised foot. Morris, therefore, was given the task of playing first base for the first time this season. He made several great plays, including a foul grab against the wall with a runner in scoring position and two inning-ending picks.

“This was his first week of practice at first base,” Parsons said. “He’s played 50 games either behind the dish or [designated hitter] and just to see him over there … it looks so natural for him.”

Ryan Hill, also a senior, held the score at 5-2 by striking out two hitters in a scoreless eighth inning. He recorded the first two outs of the ninth, but let the tying-run get to the plate. Left-hander Grant Burleson sealed the game, coming on to get the last out.

“We’re going to enjoy this for about 15-20 minutes and then it’s back to the basics. It’s back to square one,” Jancarski said. “We got a 0-0 game and we have to take care of business tomorrow.”

Nick Dunn delivers walk-off hit in extras to beat Towson

Maryland baseball is still fighting to extend its season, and while Wednesday’s midweek matchup with Towson would neither help nor hurt those chances, erasing two late deficits before second baseman Nick Dunn’s walk-off single in extras was representative of the team’s challenge to make a late push into the Big Ten Tournament.

First baseman Kevin Biondic hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth and right fielder Marty Costes hit a game-tying sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth to force extras, keeping Maryland alive. All this happened before Dunn delivered the walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th to cap off Maryland’s 8-7 comeback win in its final midweek game of the season.

The Terps were never truly out despite trailing the majority of the game, similar to the team’s position two games back of the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament with two weekends left to play. Mathematically, Maryland still has a chance.

“Belief is a huge thing. That’s the one thing in this dugout. There’s a lot of people that believe that we’re not done yet,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “I think that goes for every game we walk in to. Having guys come through in big spots like they did today can be a big thing to carry into the weekend.”

The Terps fell behind 6-2 in the top of the seventh, but used a late offensive power surge to even the score. Zach Jancarski and catcher Justin Vought each homered in the bottom of the seventh inning to cut the Terps’ deficit to 6-5.

Right-handed reliever Elliot Zoellner recorded a much-needed shutdown in the eighth, just in time for first Biondic to hit a game-tying home run to deep left field. It was Maryland’s fourth homer of the afternoon.

“We were just locked in at the plate today,” Dunn said. “We were seeing the ball well and running off good ABs.”

Trailing since the second inning, the Terps were even with the Tigers, who used similar home runs to claim their lead.

Starting pitcher Billy Phillips worked a scoreless first inning, but allowed three runs over the next two frames. Junior third basemen Richard Miller hit his seventh home run of the season over the batter’s eye to give Towson a 1-0 lead. The Tigers went up 2-0 later in the second inning, and senior left fielder Billy Lennox snuck a ball over the fence the following in the third to put the visitors up 3-0.

“I thought we came out, honestly, a little flat today and I thought Towson kind of did the opposite,” Vaughn said. “They came out with energy and took some really good swings early in the game and kind of punched us in the mouth a little bit.”

After three scoreless frames, Maryland cut its deficit to two in the bottom of the fourth. Biondic legged out a leadoff infield, preceding a two-run home run from Will Watson.

Towson added two important insurance runs in the top of the seventh off left-hander Grant Burleson, extending its lead to 6-2 with just nine outs left to record. But another late Maryland push ensued, tying the game after scoring four runs in the next two trips to the plate.

Closer John Murphy entered in the top of the ninth, but allowed a leadoff walk and a go-ahead double before departing after recording one out. Redshirt senior Alec Tuohy recorded a double play to get out of the inning, and later pitched a scoreless frame in the top of the 10th.

Dunn delivered the walk-off hit down the right field line with one out, scoring Taylor Wright from second. A mob followed, as Dunn was lifted and carried into the outfield in celebration. It was the most emotion on the baseball field Dunn has expressed, according to Biondic.

“It feels pretty good,” Dunn said. “I was just looking to put a good swing on the ball. He kind of left one up and that was it.”

The Terps, who have six conference games remaining, will return to Big Ten play this weekend when they host Rutgers. Maryland trails Nebraska, Rutgers and Michigan State for the No. 8 seed in the tournament.

“We’re just fighting for a spot right now in the Big Ten,” Biondic said. “We start with Friday. Win Friday and go on from there.”