Maryland baseball looked to collect a win on its senior day and complete the series sweep of Indiana in College Park Sunday.
A back and forth affair early on turned into a slugfest that was dominated by the Hoosiers, as Maryland’s senior-led pitching staff struggled to quiet Indiana’s bats.
The game was put away in the top of the sixth when Indiana tallied two home runs and two doubles over the course of seven batters to jump out to a four-run lead, a campaign that was led by designated hitter Jordan Fucci and left fielder Drew Ashley.
The Hoosiers scored seven runs from the fifth to seventh innings to serve Maryland a 7-3 defeat in this season’s final regular-season game, dropping its season record to 28-16 as the Terps head into the NCAA Tournament’s selection show on Monday.
“Obviously, not quite the way we wanted to finish the regular season, but man, what a run it was for those guys,” head coach Rob Vaughn said.
The Terps opened the scoring in the bottom of the second. Left fielder Randy Bednar launched a solo homer just to the left of the batter’s eye in center to give Maryland a 1-0 advantage.
“It’s good to have [myself] back, but having [Maxwell Costes] back, and some of these guys starting to come together as a team, especially going into the postseason which is really, really good,” Bednar said on his recent comfort level in the lineup upon returning from an injury.
Two more batters reached base behind Bednar, but were stranded at second and third with one out after Indiana starter John Modugno buckled down and worked out of the jam.
Sloppy play by the Indiana defense allowed Maryland’s lead to double in the bottom of the third. Centerfielder Chris Alleyne singled, and Modugno’s errant pickoff throw to first sailed into the Indiana bullpen. The throw back into the infield from first baseman Kip Fougerousse was also wild, and Alleyne motored all the way around from first to increase the lead to 2-0.
Maryland starter Sean Fisher was replaced by fellow senior Zach Thompson in the top of the fourth after a valiant three inning-shutout performance.
Thompson worked a clean fourth but ran into trouble in the top of the fifth. Infield singles by Fougerousse and right fielder Morgan Colopy set the Hoosiers up with a second and third situation after a sacrifice bunt moved the runners over.
Left fielder Drew Ashley lined out to right to push Indiana’s first run across, and Thompson’s day was finished after an inning and two-thirds. Senior lefty Tyler Blohm relieved Thompson and gave up a single to Grant Richardson, and the Hoosiers knotted the contest up at two apiece.
The top of the sixth proved to be even tougher for Maryland pitching. Indiana second baseman Paul Toetz led off with a double, which was followed by a long home run to left-center off the bat of designated hitter Jordan Fucci.
That would be the end of the afternoon for Blohm, who went just one-third of an inning with two earned runs.
Sean Heine came on in relief and fell victim to another two earned runs over the course of the top of the sixth. When all was said and done, Indiana took a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the frame.
Fucci added another solo homer to left-center in the seventh, and Maryland had just two innings to try to climb back into this year’s regular-season finale.
Shortstop Benjamin Cowles cut the deficit in the bottom of the frame with a loud double off the wall in center, but Bednar just missed his second homer of the day and Maryland still trailed by four.
“We weren’t great with a runner on third and less than two outs this weekend,” Vaughn said on the Terps’ struggles at the plate. “We didn’t do a great job of picking that run up consistently enough, and against good staffs, you’re going to have to be good at that.”
Right-hander Sam Bello took the mound for Maryland and as lights out, shutting the Hoosier lineup down over an inning and two-thirds. With two outs in the top of the ninth, Vaughn called on senior Mark DiLuia for his first appearance of the season. The righty struck Toetz out on three pitches and left the field to a standing ovation from Maryland fans in the bleachers and players in the dugout.
“Mark is, like, my best friend. He’s struggled with some injuries and stuff like that ... it didn’t really hit me that this was our last game [at The Bob] until he came in at the end of the game there. That’s when I started to get a little emotional,” Alleyne said. “It was really awesome to see.”
Indiana left-hander Braden Scott worked a perfect bottom of the ninth, sealing the Hoosier win and sparing Indiana of a season-ending sweep.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s pitching wasn’t able to mirror its success from Saturday’s doubleheader. Senior day festivities and a wrist injury to the usual weekend starter Nick Dean prompted Vaughn to tap the left-hander Fisher to start. He performed well, shutting the Hoosiers out through three innings, but was the most consistent arm Maryland threw on the mound on Sunday until the eighth inning. Seniors Zach Thompson, Tyler Blohm and Sean Heine combined for four innings of work with seven earned runs, nine hits and zero strikeouts. The Terps held Indiana to five runs over the course of yesterday’s 19 innings of play but weren’t able to replicate that performance against an Indiana lineup that was due to string hits together.
Despite the shaky outings from senior arms, fellow senior Randy Bednar was more than excited to share the field with some of his teammates for what could very well be the last time at The Bob.
“It meant everything,” Bednar said. “Just being able to be out on the field with the guys and enjoy the moment. Guys that you’ve been there for four years with, you’ve been through everything together, it means everything. You get a little emotional thining about it.”
2. Indiana pitching returned to form and stifled Maryland’s bats. The Hoosier staff was much improved on Sunday after looking overmatched at times in both games of Saturday’s doubleheader. The Terps struck out nine times and managed seven hits over the course of Sunday’s finale, but weren’t able to come up with big hits when it mattered most to keep the game within reach down the stretch. Five Terps went hitless in the weekend’s finale, contributing to an offensive performance that was far from the norm for Maryland.
3. The Terps dropped their last game before Selection Monday. The Terps finish the regular season second in the Big Ten standings behind Nebraska with a 28-16 record. Despite Sunday’s loss to Indiana, the Terps clinched the series with back-to-back wins in Saturday’s doubleheader marking Maryland’s seventh straight series victory. After the series victory, the latest projections from D1Baseball.com have Maryland as the No. 2 seed for the 2021 NCAA Tournament in the Tucson region.
“This is one of the most special groups in the history of Maryland baseball. What they’ve done this year will go down by us that have watched it and were apart of it as one of the best regular season’s we’ve ever had,” Vaughn said.