In Maryland baseball’s best opportunity to cut into a four-run deficit in its rubber match with Nebraska on Sunday, Cornhuskers third baseman Luke Roskam snared Kevin Biondic’s line drive and dove to the bag, doubling off right fielder Randy Bednar.
Roskam flipped the ball into the air, shortstop Angelo Altavilla whipped off his hat and shoved him in excitement and closer Jake Hohensee walked off the mound, having escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning without any damage, thanks to the Terps’ third line-drive double play of the game.
The Terps slugged 23 runs in the first 11 innings of the weekend, but couldn’t score in the next 15. It was an untimely return of the anemic offense that has put Maryland in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since joining the Big Ten. As they currently sit in 11th place, Maryland is in need of conference wins — and a lot of them — to reach the Big Ten tournament.
Starter Taylor Bloom had a few blips Sunday in his first start after his April 13 concussion. But the Terps’ lineup couldn’t support the senior in the series-deciding 5-2 loss.
“I thought today we might have had the best approach of any game we’ve had all year,” coach Rob Vaughn said. “To me, it had very little to do with the swings. We just didn’t run the bases very well today. We got antsy in situations we couldn’t get antsy and got doubled up in some situations that end up hurting you.”
Bloom retired the first 10 batters he faced. But when catcher Justin Morris called for an outside fastball to the Cornhuskers’ first baseman Scott Schreiber, Bloom’s offering caught too much of the zone and Schreiber lined a home run over the right-field fence.
Maryland (20-27, 6-11 Big Ten) entered the contest a game and a half behind eighth-place Michigan State, needing to make up ground to reach the Big Ten tournament and have a chance at reaching an NCAA Regional. With the Terps’ loss, Nebraska (22-23, 6-10) passed Maryland in the conference standings, putting another team between the Terps and the postseason.
Bloom, who featured out of the bullpen last weekend against Michigan State to help ease him back, seemed to tire in the middle innings, allowing three runs and four consecutive hits in the fifth. But he powered through, giving a much-needed breather for a bullpen taxed after Saturday’s 17-8 loss.
“Those two innings there in the middle, just kind of got in a funk a little bit,” Bloom said. “It’s tough to stay consistent like that, to go seven and have your mechanics and your body feeling like it has before the injury.”
Nebraska turned four double plays to keep the Terps off the board through the first eight innings. Morris struck out with two runners on in the seventh to end a Terps offensive threat, after they had finally bounced Nebraska starter Matt Warren, who efficiently carved through Maryland’s lineup.
“Today we just had some unfortunate things happen,” Morris said. “Sometimes, you can take good swings and not be rewarded.”
The Terps scored twice in the ninth inning off Hohensee but couldn’t mount a comeback to overcome the five-run gap.
It was a return of the futile displays that have put the Terps in this situation, expected in the preseason to be a regional team. Instead, they’re fighting to remain relevant in the Big Ten tournament hunt. With Sunday’s loss to drop the series, the team’s chances of playing deep into May seem slight.
“Shoot, it’s right where we want to be, baby,” Vaughn joked. “The reality of it is we really control our own destiny. … That’s all we can control. We start worrying with ourselves about how we’re going to finish in eighth place in the Big Ten, we might as well shut it down today.”