Rob Vaughn didn’t finish with a winning record in his first two years leading Maryland baseball as the Terps struggled to establish themselves in the Big Ten only a few seasons after joining the conference.
The coach broke through that barrier in 2021, reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in his tenure as head coach. A year later, Maryland set a slew of program records and won its first Big Ten Championship.
Vaughn took over a program struggling to identify itself in a new conference. But over the past two seasons, no Big Ten team has been better than Maryland.
The Terps captured the conference’s regular season title for the second consecutive year with a series win over Penn State this weekend, one made possible by a five-run ninth inning Thursday and capped by a 7-4 win Saturday.
“Just refused to lose,” Vaughn said. “That was kinda the name of the weekend.”
Maryland entered its final regular season series even with Indiana in first place, needing to distance itself.
The Terps appeared defeated in the series opener, down three runs in the ninth inning.
[Maryland baseball digs the long ball. A data-driven approach created its power.]
But Maryland scored five runs — all with two outs — in the final frame to complete an improbable comeback victory. Nick Lorusso, the nation’s RBI leader, pushed the deciding run across with a two-run single.
A 5-3 Terps’ loss Friday meant little. The Hoosiers fell in the first two games of their series at Michigan State, giving Maryland a share of the Championship with an opportunity to clinch the outright title in its final regular season contest Saturday.
The Terps trailed by two in the late innings of the series finale before Elijah Lambros slugged his 14th home run of the season to even the score. That deadlock remained until the bottom of Maryland’s order broke it — Jacob Orr tripled and Kevin Keister singled to bring him home and score the go-ahead run.
Lorusso added two more with a single that stretched his team’s lead to three. David Falco Jr. pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings to close out the win and help the Terps take sole possession of the title.
“[Lorusso’s] been as consistent as it gets,” Vaughn said. “When you start looking around for the best player in our conference, I think we got both of them.”
[Maryland baseball slugs it way to 15-9 win over Minnesota to clinch series victory]
Maryland’s postseason aspirations were cloudy midway through conference play. The Terps were failing to separate themselves from the rest of the Big Ten as pitching struggles held back one of college baseball’s best lineups.
They entered a pivotal April series against Indiana — in first place at the time — needing wins. An imposing three-game sweep where Maryland outscored the Hoosiers 43-12 put the Terps ahead in the standings, a spot where they remained.
So when Maryland players spilled out of the dugout Thursday after the ball leaped off Lorusso’s bat and sent the go-ahead run home, Vaughn struggled to keep his players off the field and contain their emotions.
Coaches and players alike knew where they stood just weeks ago as they shuffled through murky Big Ten standings — unsure if the postseason was a possibility.
That uncertainty heightened the importance of this weekend’s wins and even more so the run Maryland ended its regular season on.
The Terps finished winners of 10 of their last 14 games after two victories over Penn State, a stretch where they pulled away from the competition and asserted themselves atop the conference for the second consecutive year.
“This group deserved to sit at the top alone,” Vaughn said.