With five conference games remaining and Maryland baseball in a battle to secure a spot in the Big Ten tournament, coach Rob Vaughn’s team was relying on a clean series against Minnesota.

But on Saturday in Minneapolis, the Terps’ (24-26) self-inflicted blunders were the downfall of a squad needing to stay composed with Big Ten play rapidly coming to a close.

Three errors — including two in the Golden Gophers’ four-run first inning — and two relievers uncorking wild pitches allowed Minnesota to pull away from a sloppy Terps’ team to secure a 9-3 win, evening the series at one game apiece.

In the first frame, left fielder Caleb Walls dropped a fly ball to allow Minnesota second baseman Zack Raabe to reach base. Raabe scored three batters later on first baseman Cole McDevitt’s RBI single to put Minnesota up 2-0.

The Golden Gophers (23-24) would tack on two more runs as they sent 10 batters to the plate during the frame — and it was all they needed to polish off the win and set up a rubber match Sunday.

Terps first baseman Maxwell Costes briefly cut into the lead in the second inning, slugging his 10th home run of the season. He went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored. Right fielder Randy Bednar and third baseman Taylor Wright each added two hits.

Golden Gophers catcher Eli Wilson answered Costes’ blast with one of his own in the bottom of the second, pushing Minnesota’s lead to 5-1.

From there, the game turned into a pitchers’ duel, as Maryland starter Zach Thompson allowed just two baserunners the rest of his outing. He finished with five runs allowed — three earned — and scattered six hits while striking out four in seven innings, falling to 2-6 on the season.

Minnesota right-hander Patrick Frederickson, meanwhile, was efficient, allowing one run and two hits on 69 pitches in 4 ⅔ innings. Left-hander Bubba Horton relieved Frederickson and picked up his first career win, allowing one run in 2 ⅔ innings.

After being shut down for most of the day, the Terps showed life in the eighth inning. Bednar and Costes each drilled RBI singles and temporarily cut the deficit to 5-3. However, right-hander Nick Turnbull and left-hander Sean Fisher struggled out of the bullpen in the bottom of the frame, allowing four runs to all but squash a chance of a Maryland comeback.

Left-hander Jeff Fasching kept Maryland’s lineup at bay in the ninth, tossing a clean inning to polish off the Golden Gophers’ victory.

With the loss, Maryland falls into a tie for the final spot in the Big Ten tournament with Rutgers and sits half of a game ahead of Ohio State. The Terps will send Trevor LaBonte to the hill for tomorrow afternoon’s rubber match as they look for a crucial series win.