Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Kevin Smith stepped up to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning of a tied elimination game in the Big Ten tournament.
The shortstop doubled down the left field line and cleared the bases, giving the Terps a 5-2 lead over Purdue.
With the season potentially on the line, Smith’s double lifted the Maryland baseball team over Purdue and kept their hopes alive in the Big Ten tournament. A loss would have likely put the Terps on the bubble for an NCAA tournament bid.
Designated hitter Brandon Gum led off the top of the eighth inning with a walk and right fielder Marty Costes followed him at the plate. Costes was hit by a pitch in the right shoulder, but he was told by the umpire not to leave the batter’s box. It was ruled a ball.
A livid head coach John Szefc stormed out of the dugout, giving the home plate umpire an earful. It wasn’t long before Szefc was ejected. All the commotion amounted to the same result, though, as Costes drew a walk and earned a free trip to first anyway.
Second baseman Nick Dunn laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Gum and Costes to second and third. The red hot AJ Lee came to the plate with a 13-game hitting streak already secured with a single and double earlier in the game. The third baseman was intentionally walked to load the bases. Smith came up a batter later to break the 2-2 tie.
The Terps struck first in the top of the second inning. Lee led off the inning with a single and then stole second. Left fielder Madison Nickens drove him home with a single and then catcher Justin Morris doubled to give the Terps a 2-0 lead.
After a shaky fifth inning, pitching coach Ryan Fecteau pulled starter Taylor Bloom when he allowed a pair of leadoff hits to start the sixth. Bloom left the game with no earned runs, thanks to a pair of throwing errors that allowed a run to score and put a runner on third. The right-hander only allowed four hits.
Reliever John Murphy entered with runners on first and second and no outs. They executed a double steal to both reach scoring position. In response, Murphy struck out three of the four batters he faced and left the mound unscathed. It became familiar territory for Murphy, who allowed runners to reach second and third in the seventh inning, as well. The right-hander shut down the Boilermakers in the next inning, sending them down in order.
Ryan Selmer came out for the ninth inning and saw some trouble of his own. After ceding a double, Selmer fielded a grounder to the mound but had no play, putting runners on the corners with two outs. With the tying run at the plate, Selmer induced a grounder to second base to secure another game for the Terrapins.
Maryland will play again Friday at 8:30 p.m. The Terps will take on the loser of the Nebraska-Iowa game.
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