Maryland’s hopes of reaching the 2019 Big Ten Baseball Tournament took another blow after they dropped the rubber match of their series to Minnesota, 2-1, at Siebert Field Sunday afternoon.
Despite the low score and the near-total lack of offense in the late stages – neither team recorded a hit from the sixth inning until the ninth – there was no true pitcher’s duel, as both starters exited before completing six innings. As in Saturday night’s encounter, every run meant so much more, and Minnesota’s two-run fourth inning proved to be too much for the Terrapins to overcome.
The game remained scoreless through three and a half innings, as Tyler Blohm and Joshua Culliver brought their best pitches. In the fourth, however, Minnesota forced Blohm into a jam, putting runners on the corners with one out. Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn, mindful of the shoulder injury that sidelined Blohm for the early part of the season, pulled the left-hander.
His replacement, Trevor LaBonte, could not keep Minnesota off the board. The Gophers scored two in the inning, the first coming on a sacrifice fly by Easton Bertrand, and the second on an R.B.I single by Drew Hmielewski.
Labonte recovered his groove in time and notched four strikeouts. No Gopher would reach base safely for the rest of the game. Though the bullpen did its part to keep the Terps in the contest, the offense once again failed to pick up the slack, as Culliver and Ryan Duffy, who entered with two outs in the sixth, tore through Maryland’s lineup and only allowed two hits through the first eight innings.
With one swing of Randy Bednar’s bat in the top of the ninth, the momentum of the game seemed to turn 180 degrees, and the Terrapins had hope. Bednar’s solo home run cut the Minnesota lead to 2-1, and Trevor Wright’s double brought further pressure upon Brett Schulze, a starter performing relief duty for the second time in less than 24 hours.
However, Schulze would have the last laugh. Two quick strikeouts, and a groundout by Josh Maguire, sealed Minnesota’s 2-1 in the game and the series.
Though LaBonte surrendered the two runs in the fourth, Blohm let them on base, and is thus given the loss – his first of the season. The loss also drops Maryland to 9-12 in conference play. Rutgers and Ohio State, the two teams in direct competition with Maryland for the eighth and final spot in the Big Ten Baseball Tournament, are both idle this afternoon.
The Terrapins next head to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to take on James Madison Tuesday afternoon, then finish their regular season at home with a three-game set against conference rival Iowa – currently fifth in the Big Ten standings.