B1G regional recap: Maryland can hit away from home, and the B1G can play ball at NCAA regionals
Outside of the Big Ten, there may be some skepticism over just how dominant the Maryland baseball offense really is.
A 90-pound weakling could hit the ball out of cozy Turtle Smith Stadium, which plays just 385 feet to dead center. That makes it easy to discount Maryland ranking 2nd nationally in home runs and 3rd in slugging percentage.
“OK, let’s see them do it on the road,” is likely a common refrain from anyone casting a critical eye towards Maryland’s gaudy offensive output.
The self-styled “Dirty Terps” were up to the task in their regional opener, beating Northeastern 7-2 and advancing in the winner’s bracket.
Though Northeastern is the 3-seed in the Wake Forest Regional, the Huskies entered the NCAA Tournament with the 2nd-best ERA in the nation. Northeastern was also 7-2 against NCAA Tournament competition, including a 9-2 win over the Terps on May 9.
The Huskies are the real deal.
And so are the Terps.
Nick Lorusso sent an early message with his two-out homer to give Maryland a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, and never stopped sending them. Lorusso finished a double shy of Maryland’s first cycle since 2001 — and would have gotten it without an over-the-shoulder catch by Northeastern second baseman Luke Beckstein all the way near the foul line in shallow right field.
Lorusso tacked on to his nation-leading total of 103 RBI. He’s the first college baseball player to cross the century mark in RBI since the height of the nuclear-bat driven “gorilla ball” era in the early 2000s.
And there’s no telling how many more he would have if he wasn’t batting directly behind Big Ten Player of the Year Matt Shaw, who has cleared the bases with 23 homers and 67 RBI of his own.
Even if a handful of homers are cheapies, there’s no fluking your way to that. It’s pretty clear that Maryland’s hitting plays anywhere.
But more importantly, Maryland’s pitching staff could be quite capable when it escapes the short porches of its home park.
In the roomy confines of Charles Schwab Field, Maryland never allowed more than 2 runs in the Big Ten Tournament. The Terrapins kept that streak going as they improved to 5-0 this postseason.
Ace Jason Savacool did what was needed, getting through 6 innings while striking out 7 and allowing 2 runs. And with the offense adding late insurance runs, the Terps didn’t need to burn their best bullpen arms to finish off the Huskies.
It was perfect complementary baseball, which is what it takes to advance in college baseball’s unique double-elimination format. On the first day of regionals, it’s not just about winning — it’s about how well you set up the rest of your path.
For Maryland, mission accomplished. And the Terps may have a few more missions to go, beginning with Saturday’s game against national No. 1 seed Wake Forest.
But Maryland isn’t the only Big Ten team capable of doing damage this postseason. All 3 B1G teams opened the NCAA Tournament with wins on Friday.
Indiana turns a lemon into lemonade
Catchers are the most remarkable creatures on a baseball diamond.
When Indiana ace Luke Sinnard spiked a 78-mph pitch some 5 feet short of home plate, Hoosiers catcher Peter Serruto immediately sensed something wasn’t right. He headed to the mound and called for Indiana’s trainer.
Sinnard threw a warmup pitch, and it was ominous enough to end his day in the third inning with concern about his elbow.
Truly, a nightmare scenario for the Hoosiers.
Not only is it a harbinger of a potentially serious injury to Indiana’s best pitcher, but the Hoosiers still had to cobble together a win against 2nd-seeded West Virginia.
Somehow, they did.
Indiana only needed to use a couple pitchers out of the pen, as Brayden Risedorph weaved through 3 2/3 challenging innings before unexpected hero Ty Bothwell slammed the door on the Mountaineers over the final 3 1/3.
Bothwell, who entered with a 7.03 ERA, allowed a run on 2 hits while striking out 5. And they were high-leverage innings, too. The game was a nailbiter until Indiana broke it open with 5 runs in the top of the ninth for a 12-6 win.
With Risedorph and Bothwell eating up the rest of the game following Sinnard’s unexpected exit, Indiana now has a chance in this regional.
The Hoosiers face host Kentucky in a renewal of one of the best rivalries in college sports, even if it’s grown cold over the past decade. And isn’t quite the right sport for that rivalry to truly express itself.
But it’ll do for now.
Iowa’s great escape
Iowa starter Marcus Morgan was as advertised — an electric arm that occasionally starts a brushfire because nobody knows where the ball is going.
But even though 40 of his 95 pitches were balls, Morgan allowed just a single North Carolina run in his 5 innings of work. The Hawkeyes were in cruise control for much of the game, taking a 5-1 lead into the ninth.
Then things got more than a little scary.
North Carolina shaved the lead down to 5-3 before an out was recorded, and Iowa coach Rick Heller unexpectedly needed closer Luke Llewellyn to bail the Hawkeyes out.
The Heels tagged on another run and had runners at second and third before Llewellyn closed the door with back-to-back strikeouts against North Carolina’s No. 4 and 5 hitters.
Though it wasn’t the ideal scenario — Iowa might only be able to use Llewellyn once more this weekend — it certainly beat the alternative. And with hard-throwing Brody Brecht on the mound Saturday, Iowa finds itself in an ideal position to reach the regional final.
Photo by Chris Lyons/Maryland Terrapins