No. 1-seed Maryland baseball couldn’t find any offense against No. 8-seed Michigan State junior left-handed pitcher Nick Powers, who kept the Terps at bay for almost the entire game.
With the score knotted at two in the eighth, Maryland sophomore outfielder Jacob Orr changed that. He hit a leadoff single, before advancing to third base via a sacrifice and a wild pitch.
That brought on junior catcher Luke Shliger, who roped his second double of the night to give Maryland the lead. Redshirt junior right-hander David Falco Jr. held strong in the top of the ninth as the Terps escaped the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament, 3-2.
Maryland freshman left-handed pitcher Kyle McCoy got the nod in his return from injury, but only mustered 2⁄3 inning. On the fourth play of the game, McCoy made a throwing error at first that brought in Michigan State’s first run of the game. He exited the game immediately after, with Vaughn citing the reason for his pitches having a lower than usual velocity.
With McCoy out, the Terps deployed their bullpen the rest of the way out, with fifth year right-handed pitcher Kenny Lippman the first one called.
The Terps responded immediately in the bottom of the first to take the lead back. Shliger and junior shortstop Matt Shaw each scored on sac-fly’s. With a two run advantage, though, Maryland’s bats fell asleep for the next few hours.
Powers only surrendered five hits in seven 1⁄3 innings pitched. At one point, he retired 10 straight batters.
But what allowed Maryland to secure the victory was its defense. Lippman wasn’t great in his outing — surrendering five walks and two hits — but the Terps’ infielders shined. They worked a double play in each of the second, third and fourth inning to get Lippman out of jams.
In the fifth, sophomore left-handed pitcher Andrew Johnson came into the game with a runner on second. Michigan State junior infielder Brock Vradenburg hit a ball that went over the head of Shaw, but Shaw made a miraculous over-the-shoulder catch. He then made a timely throw to second to work the fourth double play of the game for the Terps.
In the seventh, the Spartans finally broke the ice. Redshirt junior outfielder Greg Zeigler hit a long leadoff triple and then Vradenburg brought Zeigler home with a single.
But Maryland’s bullpen once again held strong, this time courtesy of Falco Jr.. He pitched the final two and 2⁄3 innings, surrendering no runs or hits. Paired with Shliger’s double, it was enough for the Terps to avoid an upset.
Maryland will face the winner of Nebraska/Rutgers at 7 p.m. EST on Thursday.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s bats struggled. Maryland’s usually potent offense fell asleep after the first inning. It had no answer for Powers’ performance on Tuesday. While they got the win, the Terps will need their bats to be back in usual form if the hope for a long postseason run.
2. Defense kept Maryland in the game. Maryland’s defense was horrible against Penn State, committing seven errors in three games. But on Tuesday, it made five double plays, tying the Big Ten Tournament record. Shaw’s circus catch in the fifth highlighted an infield that is great when at its peak.
3. An impressive outing from the bullpen. When Maryland scores less than 10 runs, its chances of winning aren’t that high. Against the Spartans, despite McCoy exiting in the first, the Terps’ relievers allowed just one run in a gutsy performance.