Stellar defense earns Maryland baseball’s advancement to second round of Big Ten Tournament

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Tied 2-2 in the eighth, Jacob Orr stepped to the plate against lefty Nick Powers. Orr, who was 0-2 on the day, looped a single into center field. Orr, now standing on third via a sacrifice bunt by Kevin Keister and a wild pitch, was in scoring position for Luke Shliger. Shliger ripped a double down the left field line, scoring Orr.

Orr’s run turned out to be the winning run, as the No. 1 seed Maryland defeated No. 8 seed Michigan State, 3-2. 

The Dirty Terps entered the game as outright Big Ten Champions and the owner of the number one seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Matt Shaw and head coach Rob Vaughn headlined a slew of award announcements that included a Big Ten Player of the Year for the shortstop and a Big Ten Coach of the Year honor for Vaughn. 

Seven Terps made an All-Big Ten Team, with Maryland’s top three in the lineup being named to the first team. Righty Jason Savacool and Ian Petrutz made the second team and Elijah Lambros and Nick Dean penciled into the third team. 

The highly touted Terps lineup had to contend with Michigan State lefty Nick Powers to start their tournament journey. Powers’ started 10 games during the season, eight coming against Big Ten opponents. The southpaw ended the regular season with a two-inning scoreless outing against Indiana on Saturday, throwing 29 pitches. 

Maryland decided to match lefty with lefty, sending Kyle McCoy, (a member of the All-Big Ten Freshman team) to the mound. McCoy missed the last couple of weeks due to injury but was healthy enough to come in for Maryland at a key time. McCoy ended the regular season with a 8.67 ERA and 1.96 WHIP against Big Ten competition. 

McCoy’s return warranted similar results to recent outings, as the freshman was unable to get past the first inning. McCoy started his outing with a groundout but a walk and a single to the next two batters put runners at the corners. As the bullpen got up and working, Mitch Jebb squibbed the pitch back to McCoy who fired to first off target, sending the ball to right field. 

Jebb, noticing the errant throw, ran to second and turned to head to third, but the base was already occupied by Brock Vradenburg. Jebb was caught in the middle and Maryland recorded the second out, although a run came home to score. Kenny Lippman replaced McCoy, getting the final out of the half inning, and limiting the Spartans to one run. 

Maryland’s top four hitters issued a response in the bottom half of the first. True to form Luke Shliger worked a walk and Shaw belted a double to the right field gap putting both runners in scoring position with no outs. Nick Lorusso and Ian Petrutz brought the two home to score with sacrifice flies, putting the Terps ahead, 2-1.

The scoring scuffled in the next two frames but the defense did not. Lippman allowed multiple baserunners to reach in both the second and third innings, accumulating four walks in that span. Despite the added pressure on the basepaths, Lippman was able to induce a pair of ground balls that the Maryland infield turned into inning-ending double plays. The double play in the third inning was a big momentum swing, ending a bases-loaded threat by the Spartans. Lippman induced a third double play in the fourth ending his outing on a high note. 

Andrew Johnson entered the game in the fifth and was on the receiving end of more high-level Maryland defense. With a runner on second and one out in the inning, Vradenburg looped the ball to shallow center. Shaw ran to make an attempt on the soft fly ball and made an incredible grab reaching over his head as he backpedaled, falling down on the catch. Shaw quickly rose to his feet and fired the ball to second to double up the runner. The awareness accounted for the Terps’ fourth double play in a row, keeping the score at, 2-1. 

The Terps’ offense continued to be stifled since their two-run first inning. Powers dominated on the mound keeping the high-powered Maryland offense at bay. Powers’ allowed just two hits between the second and sixth innings while striking out five. 

The Spartans’ rewarded the lefties’ effort by tying the score in the top of the seventh. Greg Ziegler started the inning blasting a triple off the top of the wall in left field. Belgrave (who entered with two outs in the sixth) got the next batter to ground out but walked the third batter of the inning, bringing up Vradenburg. The lefty hitter scorched a ball through the left side of the infield scoring the run from third to bring the teams even. 

The Spartans threatened again in the eighth but the Terps defense shined yet again, turning their fifth double play of the game to bring the bats back up tied, 2-2. Maryland scored a run in the eighth and Falco Jr. pitched a clean ninth to secure Maryland’s first victory of the tournament. 

Maryland will await the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between Nebraska and Rutgers. The Terps will play again on Thursday.