The Maryland baseball team already had a program record for wins. Its 44th of the season was its biggest yet.
The No. 14 Terps’ 18-7 victory Friday over host Purdue, combined with Michigan’s 9-7 win over Rutgers, delivered Maryland its first Big Ten Conference regular-season championship in program history. The Terps (44-10, 18-5), who have won seven straight games entering Saturday’s regular-season finale, will head to next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska, as the top seed.
Maryland entered this season as one of two Big Ten programs never to win a league title in the sport, along with Rutgers, which also joined the conference after the 2014 season.
“You don’t build something overnight, and it’s a special group of dudes that have been here in the past, and man, this is a special group of young men we have here,” coach Rob Vaughn said. “So very fitting that they’re the ones that get to do something pretty special. So obviously, it’s a great feeling, but I think the one thing about this group that makes them pretty special is, it’s kind of on to the next one. Obviously, we’re excited, fired up, but this group’s got big things coming in the next few weeks, so we’ve just got to keep our head down and keep it going.”
The Terps last won a conference title in 1971, when they repeated as Atlantic Coast Conference champions, their fourth league title overall. Maryland’s best finish in the Big Ten came last year, when it finished behind only Nebraska and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Vaughn.
Maryland’s blowout win Friday continued a dream season in College Park. The Terps have one of the Big Ten’s best weekend-starter trios — Ryan Ramsey threw a perfect game last month, Jason Savacool is a contender for Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors, and Nick Dean turned in five solid innings Friday on short rest — but their explosive offense has fueled their latest surge.
The Terps have scored at least 10 runs in five straight games, their longest such streak since 2007, and reached double digits in eight of their past 11 games overall. Center fielder Chris “Bubba” Alleyne and shortstop Matt Shaw both homered twice Friday, and catcher Luke Shliger and designated hitter Ian Petrutz added deep shots at Ross-Ade Stadium. Maryland, which entered Friday behind only Southeastern Conference champion Tennessee in home runs, now has 121 in 54 games.
“They’re tough,” Vaughn said. “They’re resilient. They don’t ever shut it down. They’re pretty relentless when it comes to this stuff. So it’s one of those things that, there’s really no different mindset. And I think that’s what makes this group great. When they step on the yard, we play our game, and fortunately, quite a few times this year, we’ve come out on the right side of it.”
Maryland is expected to submit a bid to host an NCAA Tournament regional, which has never been held in College Park. The 64-team tournament field will be unveiled May 30, and regional play will begin June 3. The Terps, who advanced to the super-regional round in 2014 and 2015 as underdogs, will be expected to return there as favorites next month.