The ball dribbled to short as Zach Jancarski sprinted out of the box, desperate to reach safely and preserve Maryland’s eighth inning. A toss to second picked up the second out. To beat out the relay throw would mean a tie game in a tournament elimination contest.
Jancarski dove head-first for the bag. The umpire lifted a single arm. Inning over.
Northwestern overcame a furious Maryland late-game rally that included a seventh-inning grand slam, holding on for a 6-5 win and advancing to the Big Ten Tournament final Sunday in Bloomington, Indiana.
Maryland cleared the bases on the strength of first baseman Brandon Gum’s grand slam and loaded them again in the eighth, down two runs. Catcher Danny Maynard walked to drive in a run, but pinch-hitter Nick Cieri popped out and Jancarski grounded into a double play.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 6-0 lead by the end of the second inning, punctuated by a three-run homer from catcher Jack Claeys in the first. A two-RBI single in the second upped the advantage and forced Maryland to turn to its bullpen early.
Ryan Selmer, often the team’s closer, devoured 5.2 innings, giving up just one run after he came in to clean up Hunter Parsons’ mess.
Parsons, a midweek starter at the beginning of the season but a rarely-used member of the bullpen by the end of it, lasted only 1.1 innings. He gave up five earned runs and six hits.
Maryland struggled for the first six innings against Northwestern’s Cooper Wetherbee, managing only a pair of hits. But the Terps’ offense awoke from its slumber in the seventh.
Wetherbee departed with two outs and runners on second and third. Reliever Pete Hofman walked his first batter and then gave up the grand slam to Gum, cutting the score to 6-4.
The Terps beat Northwestern 9-5 Saturday, a game in which they also scored four runs in the seventh inning facing the Wildcats bullpen. Maryland couldn’t find enough runs to win the rematch, and Northwestern moves on to its second Big Ten tournament championship game in school history.
Its tournament run over in the semifinals, Maryland now waits to find out if its season will continue in the NCAA tournament.