Hoosiers can’t solve Shawaryn in 5-3 loss to Terps

Indiana players have spent the last week living out of suitcases in Nebraska. Another empty offensive showing in Omaha guarantees the Hoosiers a ticket home.

IU couldn’t solve Maryland ace Mike Shawaryn in its Big Ten Tournament opener, leaving the three-seed Hoosiers on the brink of elimination after their 5-3 loss to the six-seed Terrapins on Wednesday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

Shawaryn struck out 16 in a dominant, complete-game win for the Terps (29-25), who advance to face No. 7-seed Michigan State. Relegated to the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament, the punchless Hoosiers will get No. 2-seed Nebraska at 10 a.m. Thursday.

“We can pitch and defend, we just have to start getting some hits and getting some timely hits,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “We can match-up tomorrow and play, but it’s been a long 10 days of not a lot of offense. Our guys have to find some way to get that off their back and have some good at-bats tomorrow.”

Indiana (31-20) has now dropped five in a row — including a weekend sweep in Lincoln — as their NCAA Tournament hopes rest on thin ice. The Hoosiers won’t be able to qualify for a program-record fourth consecutive NCAA appearance unless they receive the Big Ten’s automatic bid. Earning that from here would set a precedent. Since the tournament expanded to eight teams in 2014, no program has made the championship game out of the loser’s bracket.

Indiana broke a 20-inning scoreless streak in the bottom of the third, using a walk, an error and a fielder’s choice to bring Austin Cangelosi home and tie the game at 1-1. But the Hoosiers mostly appeared to be without a plan at the plate, otherwise.

Granted, Shawaryn is an All-American capable of making hitters look silly, but Indiana showed no signs of snapping out of the offensive funk that has followed the team during the course of the last two weeks.

IU managed only four hits against Shawaryn, who tied a ballpark record with six straight strikeouts to start the game. Most impressively, he needed only 22 pitches to do so.

“Tip your hat, obviously,” Lemonis said. “He’s got one of the best arms in the country, and one of the best arms in Big Ten history, probably, with what he’s done. Also, on the flip side, we’ve had about a 10-day period where a lot of our at-bats look like that, too. We’re fighting a little bit, offensively. Hopefully, we can come out tomorrow and put some good swings together to get us rolling. 16 strikeouts, that goes a little bit to us for not taking care of business.”

Shawaryn finished one strikeout shy of the Big Ten Tournament single-game record, while becoming the only pitcher in Maryland history to win 30 games, record 300 strikeouts and pitch more than 300 innings in a career.

He had help at the plate, too, including three hits and three RBIs from Nick Dunn. Maryland freshman Marty Costes supplied further damage against IU’s Kyle Hart, finishing 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles, a triple, an RBI and three runs scored.

Hart struggled with his fastball location and was hit hard in the first and fifth innings, allowing the Terps to take an early lead on Dunn’s one-out, first-inning single to left that scored Costes. Indiana’s senior lefty later settled in and retired 10 in a row between the second inning and the start of the fifth.

“I didn’t have my best fastball today and I was kind of searching for that the whole game,” Hart said. “I did have a good changeup that I thought kept them off balance, for the most part, against those right-handers. I just ran into that (fifth) inning where I left some pitches over the middle and they did what they were supposed to do with them.”

That included four consecutive one-out hits for Maryland, which took a 2-1 lead on Costes’ run-scoring double to left-center. Dunn added to the advantage with the second of two RBI singles, while a run-scoring groundout by Kevin Smith gave the Terps a 4-1 lead by the end of the fifth inning.

That was enough to chase Hart, who at that point had scattered eight hits, while throwing 56 of his 78 total pitches for strikes.

“You could tell he was struggling,” Lemonis said. “He just didn’t have his best stuff today.”

Indiana scored twice against Shawaryn in the bottom half of the fifth. The Hoosiers collected an RBI double by Bloomington North product Colby Stratten, who later came home on a sacrifice fly by Logan Sowers.

But that was all for the Hoosiers, who watched Dunn cap the scoring with a two-out double off IU reliever Jonathan Stiever with two outs in the seventh. Shawaryn went on to retire the final nine Hoosiers he faced to send Indiana to the verge of elimination.