Michigan State ended the Maryland baseball team’s season by doing what the Terps couldn’t.
Once the Spartans controlled their own destiny in the race for a Big Ten tournament berth, they took advantage, winning their final two games and removing any postseason implications from Maryland’s series finale against Indiana.
About an hour before Maryland took the field Saturday, the Spartans beat Ohio State, 8-3, to clinch their spot in the postseason. So Maryland third baseman Taylor Wright’s two-run single in the second inning had no bearing on its future. Nor did starter Mark DiLuia’s lack of command.
Nothing Maryland did Saturday could have altered its Big Ten tournament hopes. The Terps’ 13-3 defeat to the Hoosiers on Saturday secured their first 30-loss season since 2011.
Maryland (24-30, 9-14 Big Ten) entered the weekend tied with Michigan State for eighth place and owning the tiebreaker, needing to match the Spartans’ results to make the eight-team conference tournament field. But the Hoosiers (37-15, 14-9) defeated the Terps on Thursday and Friday as season-long issues continued to doom the Terps.
DiLuia was chased after three innings, allowing five earned runs while walking two and hitting two more batters. After Wright’s base hit narrowed the score to 3-2 in the second, left-hander Sean Fisher and right-hander Elliot Zoellner combined to allow six runs as the Hoosiers surged ahead 12-3. Then, coach Rob Vaughn brought in his senior relievers, right-handers Ryan Hill, Alec Tuohy and Kevin Biondic, for one last taste of college baseball.
Little of what Maryland showed in its sweep over Rutgers last weekend carried over to its final series of the year. The Terps’ success facing the Scarlet Knights propelled them from 11th in the conference to eighth, holding the key for a conference tournament they haven’t missed since joining the Big Ten in 2014.
Big performances from the Terps’ seniors against Rutgers masked their deficiencies and seemed to drag an underachieving team toward Big Ten tournament contention, but that breakout couldn’t be sustained.
After a solid performance from starter Hunter Parsons on Thursday, a rain delay bumped the right-hander out of the contest and a notoriously shaky bullpen blew the lead for a series-opening loss. Then, the Terps stranded 12 runners on base Friday and spoiled a strong eight-inning complete game from starter Taylor Bloom in his final game for Maryland.
They were the same type of losses that put Maryland’s back against the wall entering its trip to Bloomington.
The Terps lost the final two games to Nebraska despite holding an 8-1 lead in the second inning of the May 5 contest. They allowed three late runs to Illinois to drop the series finale April 8. It added up into a disappointing first year for Vaughn, inheriting a roster expected to challenge for a high conference finish but faltered and finished two games behind Michigan State.
Vaughn’s reign won’t be defined by this season. The team may lose as many as seven starters in the field and two on the mound, but welcomes the No. 23 ranked recruiting class per Perfect Game.
Still, Saturday’s lopsided result concludes a season that fell well short of preseason expectations.