Northwestern and Maryland both came into Sunday’s rubber match with extra motivation. The Wildcats were fighting to earn one of the last of eight spots in the Big Ten tournament, while the Terps were looking to get in position to win the regular season Big Ten championship.
On top of that, it was Senior Day for the Terps’ final home game of the regular season and many parents attended the Mother’s Day matinee. The stakes only intensified when the game entered extra innings for the first time this season at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
In the top of the 11th inning, Northwestern’s Alex Erro rained on the Terps’ Senior Day parade with a home run sent over the left field wall. The single swing was all the Wildcats needed to pull ahead and then top the Terps 6-5.
“It was just a disappointing weekend in general,” head coach John Szefc said. “It’s tough but you make you’re own bed.”
Reliever Andrew Miller allowed the game-winning home run in his first appearance back from injury. The sophomore threw nine pitches with just two of them in the strike zone against the two batters he faced.
Starter Taylor Bloom struggled in his six innings pitched, allowing four runs on seven hits, but he did enough to keep his team in the lead. The bullpen surrendered the tying and winning runs in its combined five innings.
“You can’t pin [the loss] all on the pitching staff,” Szefc said. “We left a lot of guys on base, so we had our opportunities.”
The Terps stranded nine runners and hit 5-for-15 with runners in scoring position. With four of those hits coming in the only inning in which Maryland scored, the team went 1-for-10 outside of the five-run fifth inning.
Marty Costes, AJ Lee and Brandon Gum each collected two hits and an RBI, but the rest of the lineup was a combined 3-for-25 at the plate. Northwestern hit 15-for-43 in the game and scored in four innings.
“When you have opportunities, you have to take advantage of them,” Szefc said. “[Northwestern] did and we didn’t, so I give them credit.”
Center fielder Zach Jancarski said he felt the the team was pressing too much in big situations. The Terps responded with five runs when Northwestern plated two runners in the top half of the fifth, but they came up empty in each following inning.
The Wildcats brought themselves within one after a two-run sixth inning. Maryland threatened to score twice in the next five innings but struck out three times in four unsuccessful at-bats with runners in scoring position.
The team preaches staying relaxed and consistent in those situations, but an 11-3 loss Saturday had the Terps straining Sunday.
“When we struggle, I think that sometimes we get a little bit tense and we get [into the mentality] that we have to get it done,” Jancarski said. “We’re best when we just relax and know we’re going to do it.”
Northwestern handed Maryland its first series loss at home and its third consecutive Big Ten series loss. The Terps dropped to fourth in the Big Ten standings with a 15-9 record heading into the final week of conference play.
“Not one of our guys after this is going into next weekend feeling like we’re in a slump right now,” Jancarski said. “We’re ready to throw down right now if we could.”
Maryland fell to 33-17 and will gets its chance to “throw down” as it closes out the regular season with a three-game series against High Point beginning on Thursday.
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