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Bullpen dooms Northwestern in semifinal loss to Maryland, setting up rematch tonight

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The Wildcats will need to beat Maryland tonight to advance to tomorrow’s championship game.

BTN

That’s why it’s a double-elimination tournament.

Northwestern baseball came back from an early 3-0 deficit on Saturday afternoon in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals to take a 5-3 lead, but shaky work from a taxed bullpen buried the Wildcats in a 9-5 loss to Maryland.

But, since the loss was just the Wildcats’ first of the tournament, these teams will play again later tonight with the winner advancing on to tomorrow’s Big Ten Championship. They’ll play after Minnesota-Iowa, the winner of which will play either Northwestern or Maryland on Sunday.

Josh Davis dug Northwestern in an early hole, giving up three solo home runs — one each to Marty Costes, Will Watson and Kevin Smith — in the first two innings. But, he was able to settle down for the next few frames as the Wildcats did what they’ve done all season, and all Big Ten Tournament: Come back from deficits.

After Maryland starter Tayler Stiles held the Wildcats to just a few singles in the opening three frames, Northwestern was able to time up the soft-tossing lefty in the fourth, pushing across three runs — all with two outs to draw even.

Connor Lind, the hero in Friday’s win over Minnesota, came through with a hard double to left that drove in Matt Hopfner and was followed up by Leo Kaplan, who knocked in two with a single.

A Joe Hoscheit two-run shot in the fifth off Ryan Hill gave Northwestern its first lead of the day, and it was the result of another two-out rally. Ben Dickey and Alex Erro flew and lined out, respectively, to start the inning before Jack Dunn singled and stole second.

Hoscheit was up next, and took a 3-2 pitch over the short fence in left field to put the Wildcats ahead 5-3. However, the lead would be a short-lived one, as Davis ran into trouble in the fifth.

He gave up a leadoff single to Justin Morris, who advanced to third on Zach Jancarski’s double. That would be it for Davis, who was replaced by Tommy Bordignon with still no one out. Things didn’t go so well for the rarely-used Bordignon, as Morris scored on a Jack Claeys passed ball and Jancarski crossed the plate when Brandon Gum singled to center.

That tied the score at five, and prompted Spencer Allen to go to Richard Fordon out of the bullpen. He coaxed a double play grounder from Nick Dunn but hit back-to-back batters to load the bases. Josh Levy then became the fourth Wildcats pitcher of the inning, and he struck out Kevin Smith to prevent any further damage.

Jamal Wade and Levy traded zeroes in the sixth, and John Murphy set down the Wildcats in order in the top of the seventh before the Terps broke this game wide open in the bottom of the inning.

Levy loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of infield singles that sandwiched a walk. Then, he hit A.J. Lee in the back to force Gum in and break the tie. JR Reimer entered and walked the first guy he faced before giving up runs on a sacrifice fly and fielder’s choice.

By the time the dust settled, Maryland added four more runs to take a 9-5 edge, one that even an extremely resilient Northwestern team couldn’t come back from. Murphy gave up just one hit — a double to Alex Erro — in the final three innings to notch the save.