Hoosiers bow out quietly in 3-0 loss to Terps #iubase

Indiana’s season ended with a whimper.

The offensive juice that the Hoosiers found only a day earlier disappeared by Friday evening. No. 3 seed IU managed only two hits in a 3-0 loss to No. 6 Maryland in a Big Ten Tournament elimination game at Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park.

It was the third time in the last five games that the Hoosiers were shut out, failing to do so much as put a runner on second base. Indiana entered play sitting at No. 98 in the RPI, giving the program no chance of qualifying for a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

So IU’s season comes to a close with losses in six of its final seven games, a result of a punchless offensive slump that the Hoosiers ultimately couldn’t shake. They mustered 12 hits on the way to knocking out Nebraska on Thursday, but never threatened with its season once again on the line.

“It was a disappointing loss, a disappointing last 10 days of our season,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “We just didn’t finish the way we would’ve liked. We didn’t put ourselves in a really good spot to come down and not play to the best of our abilities. It’s disappointing to all of us.”

The Hoosiers (32-24) were the highest remaining seed in the conference tournament after early exits by regular season champion Minnesota and No. 2 Nebraska. And yet they couldn’t take advantage of a bad hand dealt to the Terps.

Inclement weather on Thursday night in Omaha forced Maryland (30-26) to play a doubleheader Friday. The Terps fell to No. 7 Michigan State in a mid-morning winner’s bracket contest, but used a complete-game shutout from Brian Shaffer to oust the Hoosiers and advance to Saturday’s tournament semifinals against Iowa.

“It wasn’t really our day,” reliever Jake Kelzer said.

Indiana traveled to Nebraska last week understanding that earning an automatic bid through the Big Ten Tournament championship was its only path to next week’s NCAA Tournament. But Shaffer and the Terps denied the Hoosiers any further opportunities to get it.

Shaffer didn’t dominate with pure stuff like teammate Mike Shawaryn did with 16 strikeouts in Wednesday’s first-round win over IU, but he mixed his pitches and kept the Hoosiers off balance all night.

Shaffer struck out eight and didn’t walk anyone.

“He was just moving the ball around the zone and working with his fastball,” IU reliever Thomas Belcher said. “He just commanded it in and out of the zone, and (threw) his off-speed for strikes. He was confusing our hitters and tying them up in knots. He pitched really well.”

Marty Costes continued to torment Indiana pitching in Friday’s rematch between the programs. In the top of the first, Costes took IU starter Evan Bell deep on a two-run homer — the fourth extra-base hit in his first six at-bats against Hoosier pitchers this week.

“We missed a spot,” Lemonis said of the pitch Costes drove over the left field fence. “… Credit to a good hitter. When he got a pitch to hit, he drove them every time. Not a great job on our part. Evan Bell’s been outstanding all year for us, but he just missed a pitch there in that at-bat.”

Bell lasted only 3 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits, walking two and striking out one, while throwing 32 of his 56 pitches for strikes. Maryland’s third run scored due to a booted ball by shortstop Brian Wilhite with two outs in the seventh.

Luke Miller supplied IU’s first hit with a one-out single in the bottom of the second, but he was doubled up after a liner by Scotty Bradley was caught in right field. Shaffer plunked Ryan Fineman to start the fifth, but held him at first base. Logan Sowers singled with one out in the seventh, but nothing came of it.

And that was the sum of IU’s offense on the final night of the season.

“We’ll get better and we’ll be back,” Lemonis said. “Hopefully, we’ll be playing a little bit better.”