Maryland baseball picked up perhaps its biggest win of the 2017 season late Friday night, eliminating top-seeded Nebraska from the Big Ten Tournament with an 8-5 victory in Bloomington, Indiana.
Two big hits in the early innings were enough. A.J. Lee’s three-run homer in the first and Madison Nickens’ three-run triple in the fourth gave Maryland a sizeable lead, and although Nebraska never went away, the Terps hung on.
Tyler Blohm was effective in his first postseason start, striking out a career-high 10 batters despite only throwing 4.1 innings. The freshman allowed five hits and four walks, but held Nebraska to three runs. Jared Price followed with a crucial 4.2 innings out of the bullpen to clinch the game.
After losing their first game of the double-elimination tournament to Iowa on Thursday afternoon, the Terps earned a spot in this game by beating Purdue shortly afterwards. Nebraska won its first game Wednesday, but fell to the Hawkeyes earlier on Friday and had to play again late at night. This game started at 10:14 p.m., easily the latest first pitch Maryland has seen this season.
Nebraska starter Ethan Frazier left the game in the second with right arm discomfort, so head coach Darin Erstad was forced to use four relievers across 7.2 innings. The Huskers bullpen didn’t let things get out of hand, and were almost rewarded with an offensive comeback.
In Frazier’s only full inning of work, he surrendered a one-out walk to Brandon Gum and a two-out single to Nick Dunn before Lee took him deep to left, putting Maryland up 3-0.
Nebraska’s Angelo Altavilla led off the bottom of the first with a homer, but Blohm settled down from there. He struck out the side in both the first and second, and his first seven outs recorded overall were strikeouts. The Huskers stranded five runners in the first three innings, keeping the score at 3-1.
Maryland’s offense picked back up with four runs in the fourth. Lee started the frame with a walk, and Nick Cieri followed with a single. Kevin Smith laid down a bunt and reached on a throwing error to load the bases. Nickens cleared them with a triple to left center. His three-bagger was the first of the tournament, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Justin Morris followed with a single to second base, scoring Nickens and making it 7-1. Brandon Gum’s double put two runners in scoring position with one out, but the Terps didn’t do any more damage.
Nebraska chipped away with four runs in the next three innings. Jake Schleppenbach blasted a solo homer in the fourth, and the Huskers started the fifth with a walk and a single. With one out, Blohm gave way to flamethrowing right-hander Price, who let one inherited runner in before ending the frame with a strikeout. Two Nebraska singles in the sixth came around to score on a groundout and a Nick Dunn error, trimming the score to 7-5.
Price kept it together, though. He tossed a scoreless seventh and eighth, leaving one runner at first in each frame. Marty Costes’s RBI single in the ninth provided Maryland an insurance run, and Price shut the door in the ninth. He allowed a one-out single to Ben Miller, who went 2-for-5 and moved to 12-for-18 against the Terps this season, but a 6-4-3 double play ended it.
Maryland most likely solidified its spot in the NCAA Tournament with this win, but there’s still work to be done if the Terps want to earn an automatic bid. They’ll start with Northwestern at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.