Bottom-seeded Indiana fell behind early, and then fought to even it down the stretch at every single turn with Maryland baseball. The Hoosiers’ pitching neutralized early gains from the Terps as they ended the night with 18 strikeouts.
As the game took a turn into extras and each team fought for position, the time came for Indiana, as its pitching had finally tired against a strong Maryland batting lineup.
The Terps loaded the bases with one out and Ian Petrutz up in the box. Maryland had a chance to end it with a bang, but It ended with a clack.
A pitch ricocheted off Petrutz’s elbow pad, and the bases rotated for the winning run. Shaw crossed for the winner as Maryland escaped Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, 6-5.
“We load the bases and get a freshman up in a big spot,” Maryland coach Rob Vaughn said. “[And] that’s what we talk about, [Petrutz] doesn’t move his feet, gets clipped and game over.”
The Terps will take on the winner of Illinois and Michigan on Friday.
Maryland waited three long years to come back onto Charles Schwab Field in Omaha for the Big Ten tournament. With the No. 1 seed and the Big Ten regular season title in hand, the Terps faced their first obstacle of their conference tournament run: Indiana.
The No. 8 seeded Hoosiers had a rough regular season — going 25-30 overall and 10-14 in conference play — and edged out the last seed as the only losing team in the tournament.
But Indiana fought out of the gate against Maryland with its season on the line, as the tournament likely held the only shot for the Hoosiers to touch the NCAA tournament.
Starting thrower Ty Bothwell buoyed Indiana as his stuff befuddled Maryland hitters at the plate. After the Terps jumped him with two early hits from Luke Shliger and Nick Lorusso that culminated in a run, Bothwell turned it on.
The redshirt junior — who had primarily been a reliever for the Hoosiers — threatened Maryland primarily with a high four-seam fastball that the Terps oft-attacked to no avail. Kevin Keister took a pitch for a ball in the second, just to punch-out on a breaking ball in the zone.
He frustrated Maryland to the tune of six strikeouts in the first three innings. In the fourth inning, the Terps figured him out.
[Rob Vaughn, Chris Alleyne highlight 13 Big Ten honors for Maryland baseball]
Troy Schreffler kicked the rally off by clubbing a ball into the outfield, and Bobby Zmarzlak repaid him not too long after with a double of his own to cross Schreffler.
Petrutz popped up for the second out before Kevin Keister added to Maryland’s lead. The sophomore blasted a ball high and off the top of the left-center wall for a long double to score Zmarzlak.
Chris Alleyne capped the rally off with the third scoring double of the frame to make it 4-0 over Indiana and to evacuate the previously-enigmatic Bothwell off the mound.
“We don’t quit, that’s been our mantra all year,” Schreffler said. “We just go out there everyday, try to barrel the baseball, hit it as hard as we can, and [the] rest will do its job.”
Meanwhile, Jason Savacool started on the mound for the Terps. The right-hander, amidst a flurry of pitches that rattled Indiana just as much as Bothwell had done to Maryland, landed 13 straight outs in a stretch from the first to the sixth inning.
Adversity came in the sixth frame as Zmarzlak dropped a fly-ball in the sun-splashed outfield to surrender a run and Matt Shaw missed the bag on an attempt to turn two outs. However, Savacool stayed calm and closed the inning with two straight outs.
But the hits kept coming from the Hoosiers, and Jordan Mathison started the seventh frame with a statement solo shot over the right-field fence.
A single followed, and then a walk not long after. Savacool chilled rapidly as runners graced second and third after a passed ball exacerbated his mistakes. Laboring, he struck out a batter for the second out of the seventh.
Only needing one more out, the pitcher made a fatal error. Savacool balked and quickly argued the call, but his protest fell short. His mistake scored a run and the Hoosiers subsequently tied the game on an RBI single, leading to Dave Falco replacing Savacool.
“[Savacool] was really mature today,” Vaughn said. “He did exactly what a starting pitcher is supposed to do and give us a chance to win, so I thought he gave us an unbelievably great start.”
[Maryland baseball beats Purdue, 18-7, clinches first share of conference title since 1971]
Maryland came up short of a suitable response in the bottom of the seventh inning and Falco came out clean in the eighth frame with the help of a double play to continue the stalemate.
Falco and Hoosiers’ relief pitcher Reese Sharp dueled as Sharp landed three strike-outs in the bottom of the eighth and Falco went 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth to give the Terps a walk-off opportunity.
But Sharp shot three-straight Terps down to send the game into extra innings. Then the Hoosiers quickly snatched a one-run lead with the help of a strategic bunt in the tenth and a missed tag from Shliger on a throw home.
Maryland struck back and tied the game off consecutive base hits from Zmarzlak and Petrutz. Keister and Shliger struck out and the Hoosiers elected to walk Alleyne with the walk-off situation.
“We’ve been coming from behind all year. We’re just a resilient group,” Alleyne said. “We trust each other … we’ve been doing it all year and we did a great job today.”
Lorusso needed one well-placed poke into the outfield, but he couldn’t do it. The junior popped the third out into a fielder’s glove, sending the game into the 11th frame.
The Hoosiers appeared poised to grab an early lead in the inning with the first two batters allowed on, but Maryland had a key play nonetheless. After the Terps repelled two runners from reaching third, Schreffler gathered a base hit and fired home to Shliger, who landed the tag to prevent the run.
“That was awesome. That was a big change in the game right there,” Alleyne said. “The momentum kinda switched to our side there and then we end up coming [up] with a big hit in the last inning.”
Reliever Nigel Belgrave forced a ground out to end the top of the 11th inning. Maryland loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame before Indiana hit Petrutz and allowed Shaw to cross home, handing the Terps a victory.
“The reality is, when you get to the postseason, you have to win games like tonight,” Vaughn said. “There [were] some times we could have been better … but at the end of the day we found a way to win.”