Maryland sophomore AJ Lee (6) prepares to throw the ball to first base during the Terps' 6-5 loss to Northwestern in College Park on Sunday, May 14. (Paige Leckie/ The Left Bench)

Big Ten tournament loss to Iowa sends Terps to elimination game with Purdue

Kicking off their Big Ten Tournament runs, Maryland and Iowa sent their ace pitchers to the mound with the hope of shutting down the opposing offense.

Naturally, both starters gave up three home runs and set season highs with eight runs allowed.

The lone run scored against either bullpen proved to be the winner.

Iowa’s third sacrifice fly of the day pushed the Hawkeyes past Maryland for good in the ninth, and Iowa held on for a 9-8 win in the opener of the Big Ten Tournament in Bloomington, Indiana, on Thursday.

Terps closer Ryan Selmer entered with runners on first and third and one out in the ninth. He induced a shallow fly to right field on his first batter. Marty Costes tracked the ball, but backpedaled as he received it, sapping his momentum as he threw home. Catcher Tyler Cropley beat out the throw as it skipped for a third time on its way to the dish.

Maryland went down in order in the ninth after it failed to cash in on a bases loaded, one-out opportunity an inning before. Iowa reliever Josh Martsching struck out one and got another to pop out to escape the eighth-inning danger. He earned the win with a perfect ninth.

Big Ten pitcher of the year Brian Shaffer gave up eight runs for the Terps, seven of which were earned. In his 6.1 innings, three Hawkeyes homered off the righty, two of which led off the inning.

While the leadoff round-trippers allowed Iowa to capitalize early in their innings, the Hawkeyes also did plenty of damage early in the count of individual at-bats. In Iowa’s biggest inning—a four-run second—three of four hits came on the first pitch, including two extra-base knocks.

The four runs Shaffer allowed in the second tied his season high for a full game. In that outing he gave up four runs to Illinois in early May, only two were earned.

Iowa starter Nick Gallagher, owner of the fourth-best ERA in the Big Ten, took a similar beating. The right-hander served up 14 hits and eight earned runs in six innings. The Hawkeyes sent him back out to start the seventh, and Costes homered leading off to tie the game at eight runs apiece.

Maryland fell behind 6-1 by the middle of the third, but second baseman Nick Dunn pulled the Terps back into the game with a three-run homer. The right field corner displayed a distance of 330 feet from home but Dunn’s blast landed beyond the 408-foot sign that hung on a lightpole well past the wall.

Shaffer retired the Hawkeyes in order in the fourth, punctuated by a sliding snag by left fielder Madison Nickens that ended the frame. Nickens rushed off the field with an enthusiastic yell.

The energy created by the catch carried into the Terps’ half of the inning, as catcher Justin Morris belted a two-run bomb that tied the game. Maryland pulled ahead on Brandon Gum’s third hit of the day, a flare to center that brought Zach Jancarski home.

But Iowa quickly eliminated Maryland’s advantage, leading off the next half inning with a home run by right fielder Robert Neustrom. The Hawkeyes took an 8-7 lead the next inning when left fielder Chris Whelan went yard.

Much of Iowa’s production against Shaffer came from the bottom of the order. The top three hitters in the lineup went 2-for-10 against Shaffer, including an 0-for-4 performance by Big Ten Player of the Year Jake Adams.

By dropping their opening game in the Big Ten Tournament, the Terps must play Purdue Thursday night. First pitch for that contest will be around 7:30 p.m.

Connor Mount

Connor Mount

Senior Staff Writer at The Left Bench
Connor Mount is an analytics enthusiast, which is polite for "sports nerd." Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, Class of 2017.
Connor Mount
About Connor Mount 164 Articles
Connor Mount is an analytics enthusiast, which is polite for "sports nerd." Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, Class of 2017.