Michigan eliminates Maryland from Big Ten tournament

After the Terps lost 10-4 to the Michigan Wolverines on Friday in Omaha, Nebraska, Maryland was eliminated from its first Big Ten tournament under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn.

Both defensively and offensively, the Terps struggled to get a handle on the Wolverines in the elimination game, Maryland’s first time facing elimination in the 2019 tournament.

Terrapin starter Tyler Blohm struggled to get a handle on the Wolverines offense, which scored two runs early in the first inning, after a leadoff walk and a single through the left side put two on and no outs.

A sac bunt moved both runners into scoring position and Michigan took the lead on a wild pitch from Blohm that bounced over a foot in front of the plate before getting past catcher Justin Vought. An RBI groundout plated the Wolverines’ second run of the half before Blohm induced a groundout to first base to end the half.

Head coach Rob Vaughn pulled the southpaw after Blohm walked Miles Lewis to start the second. When Elliot Zoellner entered, he walked the first batter he faced before securing three consecutive outs including his first strikeout of the day.

Zoellner threw 3.1 scoreless innings of relief, including a 1-2-3 third inning and a two-strikeout top of the fourth, where the righty worked around a leadoff single and a two-out hit-by-pitch.

After Zoellner secured the first out of the fifth inning, on a fly out to center field, Vaughn opted for the lefty-lefty matchup against Jesse Franklin and gave the ball to redshirt-freshman Drew Wilden. Though he walked Franklin, Wilden soon recorded the second out of the inning on a strikeout.

It seemed Wilden was almost out of the inning, with two outs and a runner on second after Franklin stole the base. But then Maryland’s inconsistent defense could not take advantage of a base-running miscue from Franklin, who scored on a throwing error from shortstop A.J. Lee.

The senior middle infielder caught Franklin in a rundown between second and third, but his throw to third baseman Taylor Wright bounced off of the Wolverine’s helmet and allowed Franklin to score and put a runner on third, after Jordan Brewer walked to initiate the strange sequence of events in the fifth.

But then, Lee send a two-out single into left field for the Terps’ fifth base runner on the day. Unlike with the previous four Maryland runners, however, Lee eventually came around to score, after Randy Bednar went deep to left field for his first hit of the tournament, a two-run blast that cut Michigan’s lead in half. Prior to the homer, Bednar was 0-for-10 in the postseason.

If not for the Terps’ error in the top of the inning, which eventually cost them two runs, Bednar’s homer would have tied the game at two runs apiece instead of cutting the Wolverines to a 4-2 lead.

Even so, Maryland’s middle-inning rally did not jump start the Terps’ offense, which continued to strand runners on the bases as Wolverine starter Tommy Henry consistently worked out of jams and held the Terps to their two runs. The southpaw struck out seven in his 6.0 innings of work, giving the two runs on five hits, one hit-by-pitch and one walk.

Michigan’s offense, however, seemed to feed off Maryland’s struggling relievers. Though right-hander Nick Turnbull threw one scoreless inning of relief in the sixth, after he took over for Wilden when the redshirt-freshman gave up a single to start the inning.

But after Turnbull hit the first batter of the seventh, sophomore Sean Fisher finished the inning and freshman Sean Heine threw the eighth. Both struggled against Michigan’s lineup. The Wolverines got two across in the seventh, one credited to Turnbull, the other to Fisher, before plating one in the eighth to pull ahead to a 7-2 lead.

A solo blast from Maxwell Costes, his third homer of the tournament, cut the Wolverines to a four-run lead, but the Terps couldn’t continue the freshman’s rally and went to the ninth trailing 7-3.

Michigan added three runs in the ninth on four doubles off of closer John Murphy, before the senior recorded a strikeout for the final out of the inning, the Wolverines ahead 10-3.

Maryland stranded seven runners on the day, as the Terps struggled to plate runs against the dominant Michigan squad in the elimination game. A two-out solo shot to left field from the senior Lee was the only run to cross the plate for the Terps in the ninth, as the Wolverines won 10-4 to advance to the tournament semifinals.

 

Maryland falls to Ohio State in postponed tournament game

Senior A.J. Lee stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth Friday morning, as Maryland trailing Ohio State 3-2 in the continuation of the Terps’ Thursday night game, which was suspended due to rain.

Just over a week earlier, Lee hit a two-run walk-off homer in the Terps’ series opener against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the final series of the regular season.

But, Lee couldn’t get the ball out of the outfield on Friday, and Maryland fell 3-2 to Ohio State as the Buckeyes sent the Terps to their first elimination game of the 2019 Big Ten tournament, a Friday afternoon matchup against the Michigan Wolverines.

Maryland struggled to find its offensive momentum when play resumed Friday morning, after a thunderstorm halted the Terps’ second round game against the Buckeyes on Thursday night.

When the game resumed Friday, the Terps had a runner on second and one out in the eighth, with Michael Pineiro at the plate. But Buckeyes reliever Andrew Magno recorded two strikeouts to neutralize the threat, then got three straight outs after a Maryland leadoff walk in the ninth to secure Ohio State’s second win of the tournament.

The Buckeyes plated the first run of the game early, when an RBI single plated Dominic Canzone, who worked a hit-by-pitch to start the inning. The Ohio State right fielder scored again in the third, after he walked to lead off the half and scored on a Maryland error, when third baseman Taylor Wright misthrew a ball Brady Cherry hit deep to the left side of the infield.

The Terps struggled to plate runs against Buckeyes starter Griffan Smith. Though Maryland had eight base runners against the lefty, on five hits and three walks, through the first 7 innings the Terps’ only runs came in the third, when freshman Maxwell Costes sent the first pitch of his at-bat deep to left field for a two-out, two-run homer and tied the game at two runs apiece.

Maryland right-hander Trevor LaBonte went 6.1 innings Thursday night for his longest start of the season, topping his previous 6.0 innings against Ohio State on April 21 in College Park. He gave up only two runs on two hits, three walks and two hit batters, striking out three.

Though the freshman right-hander provided the Terps with a solid start in his first Big Ten tournament appearance, holding the Buckeyes to two runs on two hits, three walks and two hit batters, the first 6.1 innings didn’t matter in the top of the eighth when Ohio State clawed back on top, capitalizing on another Maryland defensive miscue.

After Cowles dropped a popup in foul territory, failing to secure the second out of the eighth, Cherry singled to center field. Then, Terrapin reliever Mark DiLuia walked a batter to load the bases, and a sacrifice fly plated the go-ahead run for the Buckeyes.

But DiLuia continued to battle on the rubber, and after walking another batter to re-load the bases, the righty took Nick Erwin seven pitches deep, securing the final out of the inning on a strikeout that stranded the bases loaded.

The Terps carried the momentum from DiLuia’s strikeout into the bottom of the inning, after consecutive hits from Wright and Costes, but the weather did not cooperate and the game was suspended until Friday, Maryland trailing 3-2 with 1.2 innings left to play.

Right when the Terps seemed primed to mount an eighth-inning rally, after the Ohio State Buckeyes took the 3-2 tie-breaking lead in the top of the inning, Maryland’s second game of the Big Ten tournament entered into a weather delay on Thursday night before the game was suspended, to be picked back up at 11 a.m. ET on Friday.

Just before the delay, Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn challenged the call on the field that Taylor Wright was out at second, after a grounder to third base from Maxwell Costes, who reached first on the fielder’s choice then landed on second on a throwing error from second baseman Matt Carpenter.

If the call had been reversed the Terps would have had two runners in scoring position with no outs. But, the call was upheld and the game suspended with Costes on second and one out, after lightning in the vicinity of TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, halted play and sent both teams retreating to the locker rooms.

When play picked back up Friday, Ohio State reliever Andrew Magno remained on the mound, securing a pair of strikeouts to rid Maryland of its one base runner and end the eighth.

Then, Maryland called on freshman left-hander Andrew Vail to hold Ohio State to its one-run lead in the ninth. Vail recorded three consecutive outs and gave the Terps the chance for their second walk-off victory in eight days.

But Magno continued to dominate on the mound, and Maryland’s rally fell short and sent the Terps to the elimination game against the Wolverines Friday afternoon, with a tentative 4:30 p.m. ET start.

Maryland defeats Illinois in first game of Big Ten Tournament

In the Maryland’s first Big Ten tournament appearance under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn, the Terps continued their hot streak, defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 6-2 on Wednesday in Omaha, Nebraska, to move on to the winner’s bracket.

Maryland got on the board first, after loading the bases on a pair of walks and an infield single from Josh Maguire. A fielder’s choice from Randy Bednar drove in Chris Alleyne from third, giving the Terps a 1-0 lead.

After Illinois starter Andy Fisher retired the Terps in order in the first, Maryland had runners reach base in every inning. Even so, the Terps struggled to plate runners and provide Parsons with a bigger lead with which to work. The lack of solid run support from Maryland came back to haunt the Terps, as they stranded a total of 12 on the day.

Illinois finally got a runner on base in the fourth, after Parsons threw three consecutive 1-2-3 innings to start. After the Fighting Illini’s first hit, a one- out single to right field from Michael Massey, Parsons walked two with two outs to load the bases. But the Maryland right-hander induced a huge ground out to end the half and strand the bases loaded, maintaining the Terps’ 1-0 lead.

But the Fighting Illini continued to threaten in the fifth, putting two on after a leadoff single from Grant Van Scoy and two-out walk. Then, a single to second base from Massey drove home Van Scoy, who beat the throw from Ben Cowles after the second baseman bobbled the ball and hesitated before throwing home.

Parsons found his groove again in the sixth and seventh, however, retiring the Fighting Illini in order in both innings to give the Terps the chance to pull ahead as the right-hander threw his 115th pitch on the day.

Then, the Maryland lineup came alive in the eighth. After Taylor Wright led off the inning with a single through the left side against the shift, freshman Maxwell Costes sent a two-run homer to left field. Then, two batters later, sophomore Justin Vought went deep with a two-run shot of his own, putting the Terps ahead 5-1 and providing Parsons much-needed run support.

Parsons threw 7.1 innings, allowing only one run on four hits and threw walks, recording four strikeouts in his 123 pitches thrown. After the righty secured the first out of the eighth with a runner on first, Mark DiLuia entered to secure the final two outs of the half. The sophomore recorded a three-pitch called strikeout and induced a fly-out to end the inning and hold on to Maryland’s lead.

Behind DiLuia, the Terps tacked on another run on a drag bunt single from Alleyne in the ninth. Illinois tacked on a run in the ninth, but senior closer John Murphy recorded back-to-back strikeouts to secure Maryland’s first win of the conference tournament.

Maryland takes on the winner of No. 2 Michigan and No. 7 Ohio State at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday.

 

 

2019 Big Ten Tournament Preview

Maryland-B1G

Maryland baseball swept Iowa last weekend at home and received the help it needed to qualify for the Big Ten tournament as the No. 6 seed — the Terps’ first trip to the postseason under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn.

It took inspired pitching performances from senior ace Hunter Parsons and junior Zach Thompson, a walk-off homer from shortstop A.J. Lee in the series opener and a clutch eighth-inning, game-winning hit in the finale from Chris Alleyne.

Maryland entered the last three games of conference play in 10th place in the standings, needing to finish in the top eight to extend its season. Not only did the Terps sweep their first conference series of the year, but they also won a Big Ten series at home for the first time. Because of tiebreakers, the sweep propelled Maryland to the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which starts on Wednesday.

Lee, who went 10-for-17 in the final week of the regular season, earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors. The conference also announced its yearly awards on Tuesday, which recognized Maxwell Costes as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and an All-Big Ten first team recipient. Randy Bednar was an All-Big Ten second team outfielder, while starting pitcher Hunter Parsons, third baseman Taylor Wright, Michael Pineiro and Lee were featured on the third team.

Costes and Pineiro were also named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team.

Now, the red-hot Terps (28-27, 12-12 Big Ten) will look to continue their momentum in the double-elimination tournament in Omaha. Here’s a breakdown of which teams stand in the way of Maryland and its first-ever Big Ten tournament title, and how the Terps fared against them during the regular season.

Let’s start with Maryland’s first opponent, the No. 3 seed Illinois Fighting Illini:

#3 Illinois (36-17, 15-9 Big Ten)

Maryland went on the road and took two of three from Illinois in April, a huge series win for the Terps against a team that has the 22nd-best RPI in the country and could potentially host a regional in the NCAA tournament.

Hunter Parsons tossed eight innings and only allowed two runs on six hits before closer John Murphy successfully recorded a save to secure a 4-2 win in the series opener. The Illini scored two runs in the second inning and wouldn’t score again.

The Maryland offense was held mostly stagnant by Illinois ace Andy Fisher, who took a shutout into the ninth inning. But the Terps scored four runs in their final trip to the plate to steal a game, using two sacrifice bunts to tie the game at two before a wild pitch plated two additional runs.

The Terps lost the second game of the series, 5-1, but won 8-4 in the Sunday game to leave Champaign with a series victory. More importantly, Maryland won the game with Parsons and Fisher battling it out on the mound. The two pitchers will face off again in the first game of the conference tournament.

#1 Indiana (36-19, 17-7 Big Ten)

The Hoosiers are the 2019 Big Ten regular season champions. Maryland won the series opener against Indiana, when Hunter Parsons tossed eight scoreless innings and only allowed two hits to a powerful lineup.

The final two days of the series, however, did not go quite well for the Terps. Indiana won 20-5 and 19-4, one of the worst two-day stretches in recent Maryland baseball history.

The Hoosiers showcased their home run ability throughout the weekend, and they finished the regular season with a Big Ten leading 90 home runs. Ohio State, which is second in the conference in home runs, only had 62.

Indiana is led by Big Ten pitcher of the year Andrew Saalfrank and first-year Hoosiers head coach Jeff Mercer, who won the conference’s coach of the year award. Indiana had two players on the All-Big Ten first team and three on the second team.

#2 Michigan (38-16, 16-7 Big Ten) 

Maryland hosted Michigan in the first weekend of May, and the Wolverines won all three games pretty easily, as the Terps’ pitching staff struggled all series.

Maryland’s pitchers conceded 10 runs in all three games of the series. The Friday game of the series was the only conference game the Terps lost when Hunter Parsons started on the mound.

Maryland hasn’t beaten Michigan since 2017, and the two teams would meet up if both won its respective first game of the tournament. Michigan leads the Big Ten with a .285 team batting average and a 3.40 pitching staff ERA.

Outfielder Jordan Brewer won the Big Ten Player of the Year after ranking first in batting average (.358), second in slugging percentage (.637), stolen bases (19), hits (69) and RBI (52), and third in runs scored (51) and doubles (18).

#4 Minnesota (26-25, 15-9 Big Ten)

The Golden Gophers return to the postseason as the reigning Big Ten tournament champions.

Maryland went on the road and took the series opener against Minnesota before dropping the final two games of the series. Randy Bednar and Michael Pineiro combined for five runs batted in during the lone win of the weekend.

After dropping the middle game of the series, Maryland had its opportunities to take the series on Sunday. But the Terps wouldn’t score until the ninth inning and were contained offensively with only four hits.

Catcher Eli Wilson represents the Golden Gophers on the All-Big Ten first team, while their ace Max Meyer earned a spot on the conference’s second team as a starting pitcher. Minnesota won the tournament last year as the top overall seed.

#5 Nebraska (28-20, 15-9 Big Ten)

Maryland and Nebraska did not meet during the 2019 regular season.

The Cornhuskers beat up on the weaker teams in the Big Ten play and didn’t have a signature conference series win until the final weekend of the regular season. Nebraska beat Michigan in the first two days of the series, outscoring the Wolverines 12-2.

Nebraska had a chance to sweep the series and earn a higher seed in the tournament but fell 10-8 on the final day of conference play.

Outfielder Aaron Palensky and designated hitter Cam Chick earned spots on the All-Big Ten second team as Nebraska’s representatives. Like Maryland, Nebraska did not qualify for the Big Ten tournament last season.

#7 Ohio State (31-24, 12-12 Big Ten)

Maryland lost two games of three against Ohio State at home earlier this season. The Terps arguably should have won that series but timely Buckeyes hitting stole a series away on the road.

Maryland won 14-8 in the first game of the series in an offensive explosion and, after jumping out to a 7-2 lead in the second game, it appeared the Terps would finally win a Big Ten series at home. But the Buckeyes did not quit.

Ohio State chipped away, then scored five runs in the final two innings to force extras, before hitting a game-winning solo homer in the top of the 11th off Maryland closer John Murphy. The Buckeyes went on the win the rubber match on Sunday.

The Buckeyes’ .273 team batting average ranks third in the conference. Outfielder Dominic Canzone earned All-Big Ten first team honors, Dillon Dingler and Brady Cherry were on the second team and starting pitcher Seth Lonsway was a third-team recipient.

#8 Iowa (30-22, 12-12 Big Ten)

Maryland’s biggest series of the season came last weekend against Iowa, when the Terps played their way into the Big Ten tournament by convincingly sweeping the Hawkeyes.

The Hawkeyes were on the fringe of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament several weeks ago, but their recent performances put them in desperate need of a conference tournament championship. Iowa lost its final five conference games of the season to fall to the last eligible spot in postseason play.

Reliever Grant Leonard earned All-Big Ten second team honors. Maryland, though, was a thorn in the side of Leonard throughout last weekend. Terps shortstop AJ Lee hit the first homer off Leonard all season for a walk-off win on Friday, then outfielder Chris Alleyne hit the game-winning knock off Leonard in the eighth on Sunday.

Leonard earned the loss in two of the three games against the Terps in the final weekend of the regular season.

Six Terrapins earn Big Ten yearly awards

GameThreeFront

After powering Maryland’s cleanup spot with 12 homers in the regular season, infielder Maxwell Costes was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year on Tuesday — one of six Terps to earn a yearly award from the conference.

Costes, also named to the All-Big Ten first team as a first baseman, is joined by All-Big Ten second team outfielder Randy Bednar, and All-Big Ten third team recipients in starting pitcher Hunter Parsons, third baseman Taylor Wright, shortstop AJ Lee and designated hitter Michael Pineiro.

Costes and Pineiro were also named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team.

Costes’ first year in College Park rivaled that of his older brother Marty, who the Houston Astros selected last year in the MLB Draft. Costes has been one of the most consistent hitters in the Terps lineup this season, blasting a team-high 12 home runs, a mark that also ranks fifth in the Big Ten.

The Baltimore native started in all 55 regular season games, picking up at least one hit in 37 of them. He collected four hits in the final weekend of the regular season against Iowa, which helped propel Maryland to a sweep and a Big Ten tournament berth.

Costes’ 44 runs batted in and .500 slugging percentage ranked in the top 10 in the conference, while his 19 hit by pitches led all Big Ten hitters. He becomes the second Terrapin to win Big Ten Freshman of the Year in the last three seasons, joining starting pitcher Tyler Blohm.

Senior ace Hunter Parsons has continued the recent trend of dominant Friday night starters for Maryland, going 9-3 with a 3.62 ERA. The Terps won in 10 of his 14 starts and only lost one time with Parsons on the mound during conference play.

The right-hander led the conference with 97 innings pitched, one of the more difficult pitchers to take out of a game. At 120 pitches in his final regular season start, Parsons stayed in the game against Iowa after a mound visit and struck out the final batter of the eighth inning on just three pitches.

Parsons’ best start of his senior season was against Indiana — the Big Ten regular season champions — when he shut out the Hoosiers on two hits over eight innings.

Bednar improved mightily in only his sophomore season, finishing the regular season with a .300 batting average and a team-high 52 RBIs, 47 runs, 69 hits, 29 walks, and a .543 slugging percentage.

The outfielder ranked in the top 10 in slugging, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, and runs batted in. His 19 doubles trailed only Wright, his teammate, for the conference lead. Bednar was one of three Terps to start in all 55 regular season games.

Wright, who transferred into the program last season, led the Big Ten with 20 doubles. In just two seasons, the Canadian already ranks fourth all-time in Maryland history for doubles. The infielder’s 12 steals and 29 walks were tied for the team lead.

Lee, a senior captain, was a key component of Maryland’s push into the postseason in 2019. He missed several games early in the season with an injury but was dominant after returning, and finished the regular season with a team-high .301 batting average.

The shortstop hit .588 in the final week of the season, earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors. Lee had arguably the biggest hit of the Maryland season so far, demolishing a walk-off homer in the series opener against Iowa. He hit three of his six home runs this year in the final four games of the regular season.

Pineiro, who didn’t play at all during his true freshman season in 2018, contributed in a much larger role this year. The outfielder played in 41 games, hitting .250 with three home runs and 23 runs batted in.

No. 6-seeded Maryland begins postseason play Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET against No. 3 Illinois in the Big Ten tournament.

AJ Lee earns Big Ten Player of the Week honors

D2IOs-pWoAEdIiH
Photo Credit: Maryland Athletics

Maryland senior shortstop AJ Lee has been named Big Ten Player of the Week after a dominant four games. It is Lee’s first weekly conference honor of the season.

In one game against James Madison and three games against Iowa this week, Lee hit .588 (10-for-17) with three home runs, two doubles and six RBI. He also worked two walks, stole two bases and came in to score eight times in the four Maryland victories.

Lee homered in each of the first three games of the weekend, including the biggest home run of his career — a walk-off bomb against Iowa Thursday night.

The senior started his great week by snapping an 0-for-25 slump in Tuesday’s 6-5 win over James Madison, recording a hit in his final three at-bats. He singled in the sixth and seventh, and then hit what turned out to be a game-winning solo home run in the top of the ninth.

He followed that up with a 3-for-4 day in Thursday’s opener against the Hawkeyes. Before the walk-off long ball, he singled twice and put down an RBI sacrifice bunt.

On Friday against Iowa, Lee put together a 2-for-4 day. He singled in the fifth and then hit his third home run in as many games with a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth.

In Saturday’s regular season finale, Lee posted another 2-for-4. After reaching on errors in his first two at-bats, he doubled in the fourth and fifth innings. Then, in his final career plate appearance at Bob ‘Turtle’ Smith Stadium, Iowa showed Lee the ultimate form of respect, and sent him to first base on an intentional walk.

Lee and the Terps will now head to Omaha, Nebraska for the 2019 Big Ten Tournament, where they will play their opening game against Illinois at 10:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday. Pregame coverage will start at 9:30 a.m. with Zach Solon on the call live from TD Ameritrade Trade Park on the Maryland Baseball Network.