Just as most Husker baseball fans feared, the final was between #1 seed Maryland Terrapins and #3 seed Iowa Hawkeyes. On one hand, you don’t want to validate the team that plays its home games and pads its stats at a glorified little league stadium. And then on the other hand, Iowa. You understand, right?
As has been the the standard practice for this park and this tournament in particular, pitching dominated early. Even with both teams going the bullpen route for the championship game. Iowa has had the top bullpen in the conference from start to finish on the season, while Maryland’s has really come alive in Omaha, boasting a sub 2.00 ERA in the tournament.
The first big threat was by Iowa in the top of the 4th. They had 2 on and no outs. The batter looked to be bunting early on in the at bat, but ended up swinging away and grounding in a 4-6-3 double play. A harmless grounder to the second baseman to end the inning.
It would end up being Maryland who struck first of the game. They earned a leadoff walk after an 8 pitch at bat. Number 9 hitter Kevin Keister then launched a 2-1 pitch into the Maryland bullpen for a 2 run home run. That meant their dangerous top 3 of the lineup would face an Iowa reliever potentially reeling.
It didn’t seem that way as it played out though. A 3 pitch strikeout of Maryland catcher Luke Shliger, was followed up by a terrific defensive play by Iowa third baseman Raider Tello, as he dove and snared a line drive by Big Ten Player of the Year Matt Shaw. They wouldn’t make it our unscathed though, as Nick Lorusso lifted a ball high into the Omaha sky, and it hit the metal fence right above the yellow line for his second home run of the tournament, in nearly the same spot as his home run against Nebraska. 3-0 Maryland.
Maryland kept at it in the 6th, as first baseman Eddie Hacopian led the inning off with a double into the right field corner. 3 batters later he would be brought in on an RBI single by Jacob Orr, extending the lead to 4-0 for the Terrapins.
That would be all the Maryland bullpen needed as their dominance in Omaha continued. Iowa never mounted a true threat in the latter stages of the game, and they used 5 pitchers to combine on the five hit shutout of the Hawkeyes. Reliever Kyle Lippman received the win and increased his season record to an incredible 8-1 out of the bullpen.
After the game Maryland coach Rob Vaughn was particularly complimentary of the crowds this week. Commenting about how they won the tournament this year as opposed to winning only the regular season last year, “We played a much better brand of baseball this year. When you get in front of 10,000 Cornhusker fans, it’s easy to flip that switch.” Then talking about how they feel going into the NCAA tournament, “When you play in this environment, it really prepares you for next weekend.”
For the Huskers:
Will Walsh was the pitching star of the tournament, with a 0.00 ERA over 10.2 innings, with 8 Ks and only 5 hits allowed. That includes his 4 hit shutout of Michigan State in an elimination game.
Max Anderson led the tournament with 8 hits. He batted .444 with 1 double, 1 RBI and 1 run scored.
Most Outstanding Player
Maryland Third Baseman Nick Lorusso won Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. He swatted 2 home runs, one in the championship game, and 1 to win the extra inning game vs Nebraska. He scored 2 runs and had 3 RBIs.
In a tournament dominated by pitching, no player had truly great offensive numbers, and so many relievers were used, that MOP award was difficult to select a true overpowering star.