For one night, Maryland’s lineup showed the offensive firepower that had been missing for much of the season. In their 8-4 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes Friday night, the Terrapins exploded for three home runs, more than enough to take their third straight victory and give them an edge in the battle for the final Big Ten Tournament spot.
The first inning was deja vu for both teams, as Maryland jumped out to a quick lead behind Maxwell Costes’ two-run home run, his twelfth of the season and second of the series. Iowa fired back in the third when Izaya Fullard smashed a double off of Zach Thompson to cut the lead in half. Austin Martin came to the plate with a chance to drive Fullard home with the tying run. He worked Thompson all the way to a full count, but the Maryland starter got Martin to chase a slider inside for the third strike to end the inning, keeping the lead intact.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the third, Josh Maguire broke the game wide open and delivered what may have been biggest hit of his college career. The .232 hitter unloaded on a Cam Baumann pitch for his first career triple, clearing the bases and scoring three to make it a 5-1 Terps lead.
In the fourth, Randy Bednar added to the parade of scoring with his eleventh homer of the season, leading Iowa coach Rick Heller to pull Baumann after three and one-third innings pitched.
“We just try to keep things simple,” said Bednar, describing the Terrapins’ mindset for the series. “No matter what or how you’re doing, you’ve just gotta have confidence in yourself up there.”
Baumann’s replacement, Duncan Davitt, fared no better against the Terps’ lineup at first, and the lead swelled to 7-1 after Mitchell Boe’s errant throw to first allowed Taylor Wright to score.
Iowa got one back in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Chris Whelan. When Fullard smacked another double and send Tanner Wetrich hustling around third, the Hawkeyes threatened to add on, but a sharp throw from Michael Pineiro thwarted him just as he reached the plate.
Maryland saw trouble again two innings later, and needed three pitchers just to finish the inning out. After two outs sandwiching a walk, Thompson game way to Elliot Zoellner, who struggled to get the third. In a double-whammy, he walked his first batter, throwing a wild pitch on ball four which allowed lead runner Brendan Sher to advance to third. Sher then scored on a throwing error by Wright, cutting the Maryland lead to 7-3. It was all Iowa could muster before Mark DiLuia took over and retired the side for Maryland.
In less than a minute, A.J. Lee took the run back and, for the second night in a row, broke the Hawkeyes’ spirits with a home run – his sixth of the year – giving the Terps an insurmountable edge. Iowa scraped together one more run in the ninth before DiLuia put away Maryland’s third straight win.
Thompson shined on the mound in his most impressive performance of the season, striking out six over 6 ⅔ innings against the third-best team in the conference. His herculean effort earned him his third win of the season, his first since the April 27th victory over Penn State.
With Ohio State’s victory earlier that day over Purdue, Maryland have edged into a three-way tie for seventh, putting them in much better position to make the Big Ten Tournament. As it stands, the Terrapins officially hold the eighth and final tournament place, trailing Ohio State in the tiebreak due to head-to-head results, as the Buckeyes won the three-game series with Maryland in April.
Other results around the Big Ten complicated matters further. While Rutgers fell out of contention with their loss to Indiana earlier in the afternoon, Northwestern snapped a three-game losing streak to defeat Minnesota and keep their own hopes alive. All three schools hold in-conference records of 11-12.
“We know the situation; we’ve just gotta focus on ourselves,” said Bednar after the game. “If we take care of business, we’re gonna be in a great spot. Moving forward, we’ve just gotta keep doing what we’re doing.”