Jason Savacool stared down a runner on third with two outs in the sixth inning, just the fourth baserunner to reach scoring position against him all day. He fired the second pitch of the at-bat, one that was skied to center field.
Savacool didn’t bother to watch Elijah Lambros secure it for the third out — he knew he’d escaped without trouble.
Instead, he pointed to the Omaha, Nebraska clouds and confidently walked off the mound. The out concluded his Saturday start. He tossed six scoreless innings as Maryland baseball beat Nebraska, 4-2 to advance to its first conference title game since 2015.
Rob Vaughn’s squad will face Iowa on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The outing continued his team’s pitching preeminence through three Big Ten tournament victories.
The right-hander, who tossed an inning of relief in Thursday’s extra-innings win, threw 86 pitches and collected six strikeouts using his entire repertoire.
He mixed different arm angles, a skill he hasn’t displayed all season. Savacool’s normal over-the-top delivery dropped to almost a full sidearm slot at times and prevented hitters from squaring up any of his offerings.
The right-hander kept the Cornhuskers off the bases until the third inning and let just three hitters reach scoring position through the first five frames. He attacked the strike zone and finished with only a pair of walks.
Pitching is how Maryland arrived at the tournament semifinals without a loss. The bullpen allowed just one run in 8 ⅓ innings Tuesday. Nick Dean went 6 ⅓ innings while also giving up a lone score in the first matchup against the Cornhuskers.
Those performances masked underwhelming offensive outputs — the Terps scored just five runs in those two wins. Maryland hitters collected 10 hits Saturday, utilizing a small-ball approach to score the Terps’ most runs in the postseason so far.
Home runs have been hard to come by in Charles Schwab Field — Maryland had just one in the tournament entering the semifinal. They found another in Saturday’s win — a solo shot to left in the fifth inning from Hacopian — but most of Maryland’s production came from a different approach.
The Terps bunted three times, twice for a hit. Hacopian’s two extra-base hits were the Terps’ only hits of the variety.
Nearly all of the Terps’ contributions came from the bottom of the order. Their No. 4 through No. 9 hitters in the batting order finished 10-for-24 while the trio of Luke Shliger, Matt Shaw and Nick Lorusso stumbled and went hitless.
Jacob Orr, who’s held down left field in recent weeks, tallied three singles and reached base in all of his plate appearances. He also proved his defensive versatility with a diving grab to end the second inning.
Matt Woods found his first hit of the postseason after scuffling through the Terps’ first two victories and Kevin Keister hit a two-run single to punctuate a big second inning.
Nebraska’s late comeback attempt fell short. Nigel Belgrave walked the bases loaded before recording an out in the ninth inning as the Cornhuskers brought the winning run to bat. With Vaughn looking to keep David Falco Jr. off the mound after throwing in Maryland’s last three games, Andrew Johnson entered and halted the run.
The Terps aren’t used to scoring just four runs. They’re also not used to their pitchers limiting the opposition to five runs over 28 innings.
Maryland’s reversed its regular season formula to win its first three postseason games, a change in strategy that has it one game away from its first Big Ten tournament title.