Miller sends IU to 6-5 win over Maryland

Luke Miller crushed the pitch.

Then tempers flared.

Miller’s three-run homer in the bottom of Thursday’s eighth inning sent Indiana to a 6-5 come-from-behind win over Maryland on a rainy night at Bart Kaufman Field, helping the Hoosiers secure their fourth consecutive victory.

For Miller, it was his second home run of the night, a no-doubt-about-it shot that keeps Indiana’s momentum rolling into the weekend.

For Maryland, it was a frustrating moment that caused bubbling tension between the two teams to boil over.

When Terrapins reliever John Murphy stepped to the rubber for the next pitch, he sailed it behind the head of IU’s Ryan Fineman, leading both dugouts to spill onto the field. It was the second time in as many years that IU and Maryland have left their dugouts to confront one another on the field after a Hoosier home run. It happened last season in Bloomington after Craig Dedelow’s seventh-inning grand slam helped IU to the series victory.

Save for Maryland catcher Justin Vought shoving Fineman, there were no punches thrown. But it sent a jolt of energy into the rest of the weekend series, which continues Friday at 1 p.m.

“Definitely, there is always a little bit of tension there,” Miller said. “Especially (because) we’re always competitive with them and they’re competitive with us. There’s tension, yeah.”

Miller was sitting on the pitch from Murphy, a 1-0 breaking ball that hung over the plate. He used his whole body for leverage, sending it over the right field fence for his 10th home run of the year.

It came after IU (35-15, 12-9) largely struggled to string hits together and rally, as the Terps (24-28, 9-12) out-hit the Hoosiers 12-8.

Indiana entered the eighth inning trailing 5-2 before quickly turning the tables. After Jeremy Houston worked a leadoff walk, Logan Kaletha delivered a quick single — the kind of rallying-fueling hit IU seemed short on most of the evening.

“Those pieces were huge because we almost had them the inning before,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “We just felt like, if we could get a rally going we had a chance to do some damage. Luckily we were able to get the right guy at the plate.”

Kaletha came around to score on Matt Lloyd’s single, and after back-to-back strikeouts by Matt Gorski and Logan Sowers, Miller stepped to the plate and sent the second pitch from Murphy deep into the night.

“I just saw he threw (the curveball) to Logan and Matt before me, so I thought I’d probably see the same thing. I was sitting on it. I thought it had a chance.”

IU’s rally came after a weather delay of one hour and 53 minutes in the top of the seventh inning, resetting what had been an opportune Maryland start to the evening.

During the delay Lemonis was blunt with his players, telling the team that when play resumed, they would win.

“Coming out of that locker room, let’s win the last three innings at-bat by at-bat,” Lemonis told his team during the delay. “Luke will swing for that every time if you let him. But you just had to get some guys on base and get the momentum going, and we were able to do that.”

The Terrapins jumped on IU starter Jonathan Stiever in the top of the second, taking the early lead on Zach Jancarski’s two-run homer to left field. Maryland pounded seven hits against Stiever, squaring up against the junior right hander early in his outing.

Stiever largely limited damage, finishing with seven strikeouts, four walks and throwing 60 of his 103 pitches for strikes across his six innings of work.

The Hoosiers got a run back in the second when Miller smacked a solo shot to left field, then tied the game in the fourth with aggressive baserunning by Gorski.

Gorski took off from first on Sowers’ line drive single, which was nearly misplayed by Jancarski in centerfield. Sowers thought of taking second on the play, but was caught between bases. At the same time, Gorski kept running, charging toward home as Sowers kept Maryland busy with the rundown between first and second.

Stiever appeared headed for trouble in the firth, starting the frame by hitting A.J. Lee and walking Nick Dunn on five pitches. But Stiever escaped without taking damage when IU turned a 1-6-3 double play behind him.

Maryland took advantage of Stiever’s two walks in the top of the sixth, when Taylor Wright singled through the left side to score Will Watson from second base and give the Terps a 3-2 advantage. Maryland added an RBI sacrifice fly in the seventh and a run-scoring single in the eighth to extend its advantage to three runs.

But with a four-run bottom of the eighth, the Hoosiers responded with the come-from-behind win they needed to keep their re-discovered momentum rolling forward.

With the win, IU clinches its spot in the Big Ten Tournament. Maryland, meanwhile, is trying to stay in the postseason mix.

“It’s big for confidence, but it’s also big for the series,” Lemonis said. “When you’re able to get out there and get into their bullpen and shake their bullpen up a little bit too, I think it helps for the series.”

One comment

  1. Was the Maryland pitcher expelled from the game? Throwing at a player’s head can not be tolerated, regardless of the level of baseball being played. The Big Ten needs to suspend that Maryland pitcher.

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