The Big Ten Tournament championship game saw top-seeded Maryland baseball in a scoreless dead heat with No. 3-seed Iowa in the fifth inning.
As the lineup turned to the bottom of the order, Maryland sophomore outfielder Jacob Orr worked a walk against Iowa sophomore right-handed pitcher Jack Whitlock.
Whitlock had only surrendered 12 hits in his 29 innings on the season up to that point, but junior second baseman Kevin Keister barreled up a two-run home run that landed in Maryland’s bullpen. Three batters later, senior third baseman Nick Lorusso launched his second home run of the tournament, and 99th RBI of the year, to give the Terps a three-run lead.
Maryland never looked back in a 4-0 win, as it took home its first tournament title in program history.
The Terps ended the game with a double play, dogpiling in the center of the diamond in celebration. After winning their first-ever Big Ten Tournament title, the Terps earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will have its field announced Monday at noon.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Ryan Van Buren started in place of injured freshman left-handed pitcher Kyle McCoy. Van Buren allowed traffic on the base paths — allowing three hits and a walk in two innings — but Maryland’s defense was able to keep things scoreless.
The Terps needed all the help they could get against an elite Iowa pitching staff. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Marcus Morgan, freshman right-handed pitcher Aaron Savry and Whitlock were elite in the first four innings, surrendering only one hit and no runs.
But the Terps’ bullpen was equally great. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Andrew Johnson allowed one hit and notched two strikeouts in his inning-long appearance. Fifth-year right-handed pitcher Kenny Lippman came into the game in the fourth inning with two runners on and no outs, but forced a double play and a groundout to get out of the jam. Lippman followed with two perfect innings, keeping Iowa scoreless through six.
Sophomore first baseman Eddie Hacopian hit a double to the wall in the sixth, which was followed by an RBI single by Orr to give Maryland an insurance run.
With some extra cushion, the Terps bullpen continued its excellence. After junior right-handed pitcher Nate Haberthier threw just 1⁄3 an inning, redshirt junior David Falco Jr. came in for an eight-out save opportunity. Falco was electric, only allowing one hit, no runs and striking out two batters to punctuate his team’s memorable tournament run.
Three things to know
1. A history-making victory. Rob Vaughn took over as Maryland’s head coach six years ago, but has seen his work pay off most in the past two years. The Terps hosted an NCAA regional in 2022 and won both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles this year. Sunday’s victory marked Maryland’s first-ever conference tournament title.
2. Maryland’s pitching is hitting its stride. Maryland’s pitching — considered by most to be its most glaring weakness — is performing well at the best possible time. The Terps surrendered seven total runs in the tournament, including a championship-clinching shutout of the Hawkeyes. Lippman and Falco were key in Sunday’s game, combining for four strikeouts and one hit allowed in 5 2⁄3 innings pitched.
3. Lorusso was named the tournament’s MVP. Lorusso hit two solo home runs in the tournament — one walk-off homer against Nebraska in the second round and one in the fifth inning Sunday. Lorusso is now just one RBI away from 100, something that hasn’t been done in Division I college baseball since 2003.