Coming off a great series win against a ranked Indiana team last weekend, Michigan stayed at home in Ann Arbor to welcome in a blisteringly hot Maryland team. The Terrapins came into the weekend winners of five straight ballgames and had successfully taken 15 of their last 17.
Easily the hottest team in the Big Ten, Maryland trailed Michigan by a game in the standings and both teams were still in contention for a B1G title going into Friday, but by the time Sunday play was over, both teams were tied had been eliminated from outright title contention as a result of Nebraska sweeping their 4-game pod series and clinching at least a share of the B1G Championship. As of writing on Sunday afternoon, it appears to be an outright title for Nebraska due to an unbalanced number of games played between the Huskers and the Terps/Wolverines, but there is the possibility of Nebraska making up a game during the week before the Michigan series next weekend in Lincoln.
This week’s series was filled with some great action from two of the Big Ten’s best offenses all weekend long, though, despite the possibly dashed title hopes by the end of the play. Maryland captured a crazy, high-scoring affair on Friday, Michigan responded with a loud win on Saturday, and a great rubber matchup on Sunday went in favor of the Terrapins. Here’s how things shook out in detail for each game:
Game 1: Maryland 11, Michigan 8 (11 innings)
Friday started the weekend out in wild fashion and was almost three games in one. The first game took place from innings 1-6 and saw Maryland take advantage of sloppy play across the board by Michigan. The Terps plated six runs - only two of them earned - against Wolverine starter Steven Hajjar on just five hits. Hajjar wasn’t completely free of fault, as he did walk three batters and surrendered a trio of extra-base hits in a four-run 4th inning while struggling with command despite still recording eight strikeouts. Isaiah Paige came in to relieve him in the 6th and surrendered a two-run homer to Justin Vought to bring the score to 8-0.
Then the second act began. After failing to send more than one hit in any inning against Nick Dean through six frames, four of the first five batters rapped singles in the 7th and chased Dean from the ballgame. Three of them would score in that 7th inning thanks to a Joey Velasquez single, a Clark Elliot walk, and a Jimmy Obertop sacrifice fly to make the score 8-3. Jack White was exactly what Michigan needed in relief, throwing three hitless, scoreless innings and striking out four to keep the Wolverines in the game. That was key, as the bottom of the 9th inning would prove.
The bottom of the 9th inning began with a double, error, and two popouts to leave the Wolverines with just one out to play with. That final out went as follows: run-scoring wild pitch to make it 8-4, RBI single from Ted Burton to go to 8-5, Griffin Mazur single after a potential game-ending popup was allowed to drop foul, RBI single from Tito Flores to make it 8-6, Jordan Rogers walk, Joey Velasquez two-RBI single to tie the game at 8-8. A perfect encapsulation of head coach Erik Bakich saying you can never count out this Michigan team.
That rally ended there before securing the win, though, and extras belonged to the Terrapins as the final phase of this back-and-forth affair. They loaded the bases in the 10th but failed to score on a sacrifice fly-turned-double play due to some poor baserunning when the runner from third pulled up to a jog and failed to cross the plate before the runner from first was tagged out trying to advance to second. Maryland didn’t make mistakes with runners on in the 11th inning, though, and cashed in with a Matt Orlando RBI double Tommy Gardiner squeeze bunt, and a passed ball to go up 11-8. Ryan Ramey slammed the door with authority, striking out six batters over the two extra innings and only allowing a double by Mazur before sealing a series-opening win for the Terps.
Game 2: Michigan 14, Maryland 3
Saturday looked to be a mirrored version of Game 1, with Michigan jumping out to a large lead through six innings. Joey Velasquez earned his first start of the season with his clutch hitting off the bench in Friday’s comeback and immediately provided two RBIs in the 2nd inning with a double as part of an effort to up 3-0 through two. Michigan scored three more runs on RBI singles from Tito Flores and Jordan Rogers, chasing a very good starter in Jason Savacool from the game after just 2.2 innings on the mound.
Ted Burton provided pop in the 4th inning with a three-run bomb to go up 9-0 as part of an excellent game (3-4, two doubles, one home run, four RBIs, three runs) and weekend to defend his B1G Player of the Week crown, and the rest of the game felt like a formality. Michigan would be up 11-0 before Maryland got on the board with a Chris Alleyne three-run homer in the 7th - their only extra-base hit out of six knocks on the day - but Benjamin Sems immediately responded with one of his own to keep the 11-run difference intact.
Cam Weston was uncharacteristically inefficient on the mound for Michigan and worked some deep counts in his 5.1 innings of work, but did not allow a run on three walks and three hits while striking out six Terrapin hitters. Ben Dragani took things the rest of the way, allowing three runs on the aforementioned Alleyne home run but not much else in a very efficient and effective final 3.2 innings to force a Sunday rubber game.
Game 3: Maryland 7, Michigan 3
Early on, it seemed like we were destined for another high-scoring affair to close out the weekend thanks to a generous breeze blowing out to the left field at Ray Fisher Stadium. Maryland opened up the game with back-to-back home runs in the top of the 1st from B1G homer leader Benjamin Cowles and Randy Bednar to go up 3-0. A Tito Flores three-run blast evened things up at 3-3 in the bottom of the 2nd inning for the Wolverines, but another RBI for Randy Bednar on a groundout put the Terps back on top 4-3 immediately in the top of the 3rd.
A leadoff double and deep flyout to start that inning caused Erik Bakich to go out and get his young starter Jacob Denner and replace him with Blake Beers, who didn’t fare much better. Beers finished the 3rd in tumultuous fashion, working around a hit-by-pitch, wild pitch, and a walk, and couldn’t record an out in the 4th inning after that. He ended up being charged for three earned runs in just 0.2 innings on his Senior Day, unfortunately, but should have a chance to go out on a better outing next weekend and/or in the NCAA Tournament.
By the end of that 4th inning, which was finished off by Logan Wood, Maryland was up 7-3 and cruised the rest of the way. Starter Sean Burke and reliever Elliot Zoellner had their A-game working, striking out a combined 10 Wolverines over eight innings thanks to an electric Burke fastball and filthy Zoellner slider. Anything put in play for Michigan seemed to find a Terrapin glove, as well, and it was a quiet game after the 4th inning that resulted in Maryland making a statement and taking a road series against the technically still-defending national runners-up.
Rob Vaughn has done an excellent job building up this Maryland program and it showed against another well-built program in Ann Arbor this weekend. Both teams should be headed to regional play after next weekend, even if they end up not being able to share a Big Ten title pending Nebraska’s schedule. As for next weekend, Michigan will travel to Lincoln for three games against those Nebraska Cornhuskers while Maryland will look to stay hot against a suddenly-skidding Indiana squad in College Park.