In a Big Ten tournament elimination game, Maryland benefited from a three-run homer in the first inning. With four more runs in the fourth to help their cause, the Terps spent the rest of the night clinging to the lead in a desperate preservation of their tournament run.
Three-run extra base hits from AJ Lee and Madison Nickens gave Maryland enough runs to hold off and eliminate scrappy one-seed Nebraska 8-5 Friday night in Bloomington, Indiana.
Nebraska lost 2-0 earlier in the day to Iowa and landed in more treacherous waters as Lee’s home run ball came back to earth in the game’s first frame. Refusing to end its tournament stay easily, Nebraska got to chipping away in its half of the first with a leadoff homer from third baseman Angelo Altavilla.
The Terrapins got another three-run jolt in the fourth, this time off the bat of Madison Nickens, who cleared the bags with a triple. Catcher Justin Morris brought Nickens home a batter later with a single, putting Maryland up 7-1.
But Nebraska again responded, as second baseman Jake Schleppenbach sent a ball sailing over the wall in the Cornhuskers’ half of the frame. Nebraska scored in each of the next two innings as well, with a pair of RBI groundouts and a throwing error making it a two-run game.
Right fielder Marty Costes gave Maryland extra breathing room in the ninth however, singling through an infield draw in with a hope of making a play at the plate. Morris scored after leading off the frame with a walk.
Reliever Jared Price faced the minimum in finishing the bottom of the ninth inning, a double play erasing Nebraska’s tournament title aspirations.
Lefty starter Tyler Blohm set a season and career high with 10 strikeouts in just 4.1 innings, blowing Huskers hitters away with a hard fastball humming in the low 90s. The Big Ten freshman of the year did not strike out anyone over four innings in his regular season finale against High Point.
Price continued the Terps’ mowing down of the Huskers by striking out five in 4.2 innings. In earning the win, Price gave up two runs, one of which was earned. Nebraska tacked on three against Blohm.
The Terps had dropped two of three to Nebraska in Lincoln earlier this season, including the game started by Blohm. The regular season series win proved meaningless for Nebraska in a one-game playoff.
Maryland plays Saturday against undefeated No. 7 seed Northwestern at 1:30 p.m. The two teams are fresh in one another’s memories, as Northwestern took two of three in College Park over the May 12 weekend.
A win over the Wildcats would require a rematch later in the day with a tournament final berth on the line.