Stout pitching carries Maryland baseball to first-ever Big Ten Tournament championship win

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Iowa had a runner at first and one out. David Falco Jr. threw a 1-1 pitch to the Hawkeye shortstop Michael Seegers. Seegers hit a grounder to third. Lorusso fielded, fired to Keister at second who caught it, and then threw it to first. Hacopian caught the ball, completing the double play. Falco Jr. saw the play unfold and when it was completed he threw his glove in the air and jumped into the arms of Luke Shliger, ending up at the bottom of the ensuing dog pile. 

Maryland beat Iowa, 4-0, to win the program’s first Big Ten Tournament and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

The Terps got to their second-ever Big Ten Tournament Championship game after winning three straight, two against Nebraska. Maryland defeated Michigan State to start the tournament and then followed it up with an extra innings thriller against Nebraska only to face them again in the semifinal game. Jason Savacool led the way in the, 4-2 win, throwing six innings of scoreless baseball.

Maryland’s starter in the championship game was Ryan Van Buren. The sophomore made his seventh start of the season after throwing three and two-thirds innings on May 20 against Penn State. The right-hander gave up four runs, two of them earned, on five hits in the start.

Iowa sent right-hander Marcus Morgan to the mound. Morgan made one appearance against the Terps in the regular season throwing an inning and third. Morgan allowed two hits and two earned runs in that game and was slapped with the loss. 

It was a tale of two beginnings for the starters. Van Buren allowed two baserunners to reach in the first and second innings, but was able to battle out of trouble. Morgan allowed just one hit (to Eddie Hacopian) in two innings, stranding Hacopian at second in the second. Despite the different paths both pitchers kept the score tied at zero through two. 

Both teams turned to the bullpen in the third but the results remained the same. Andrew Johnson faced four Iowa batters in the top half stranding Raider Tello at second. Maryland loaded the bases in the bottom half, but Jack Whitlock struck out Ian Petrutz to keep the game tied a third of the way in. 

The pitcher’s duel continued through the fourth and into the top half of the fifth, but in the bottom half, Maryland’s lineup came alive. The inning started with a walk to Jacob Orr bringing up the nine-hole hitter Kevin Keister. Keister worked the count to 2-1 and got a pitch he could drive, sending the Whitlock offering to the Maryland bullpen for a 2-run homer. Nick Lorusso added to the lead with a home run of his own a couple of batters later and the Terps ended the fifth inning leading, 3-0. 

The scoring continued in the bottom of the sixth after Lippman retired the Hawkeyes in order in the top half. Orr scorched a two-out single into center field, scoring Eddie Hacopian from second after his lead off double started the half-inning. The two-out RBI increased the Maryland lead to four, going into the final three frames. 

Maryland’s pitching continued to be the talk of the tournament putting together another outstanding outing. The staff held the Hawkeyes to four hits and zero runs through the first seven innings, both avoiding and pitching out of trouble. 

David Falco Jr. took over one out into the seventh inning and never left the mound, pitching a clean eighth and ninth to secure the victory. What was a question going into the tournament, Maryland’s pitching proved to be a strength and one that carried them to a shutout win in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game. The Terps used five pitchers to complete the shutout holding the Hawkeyes to five hits while striking out eight. 

Maryland will await the results of selection Monday to see where they will play next weekend in the NCAA regionals.