- - Sunday, May 24, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — Michigan needed to win the Big Ten tournament if it wanted to keep playing. Maryland allowed it to do so.

Jacob Cronenworth picked up his fourth save in four games despite allowing a run, and the Wolverines held off the mistake-prone Terrapins to win the championship game, 4-3, at Target Field on Sunday morning.

A baserunning blunder in the eighth inning and a bases-loaded fly out in the ninth sealed the fate of Maryland, which was participating in the tournament for the first time and will have to wait until Monday for a potential NCAA tournament invitation.

Cronenworth loaded the bases by hitting Kevin Smith with a pitch with two outs, but escaped the jam after Brandon Lowe flied out to right field.

The win gave third-seed Michigan an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which will be its first appearance since 2008.



“Our guys just wrote a page of their own history, when nobody expected them to do so,” said Erik Bakich, who is in his third season as the Wolverines’ coach after three years in the same role at Maryland. “That’s just awesome. Finding ways to win games, they came in here, starting with the last game against Oklahoma State [on May 16] and they were just not going to be denied, and they carried that through all week.”

A four-run fourth inning supported Brett Adcock (10-4), who allowed two hits and a run in 5 2/3 innings for his second win of the tournament. Cronenworth was chosen the tournament’s most outstanding player after hitting .389 in the tournament with three RBI.

He allowed a run and three hits, but saved every game in the tourney for the third-seeded Wolverines (37-23), who tied Minnesota with their ninth conference tournament title.

“I don’t think anybody would’ve ever expected us to win it all, or even to have us and Maryland in the championship at the same time,” Cronenworth said.

Taylor Bloom lasted 3 1/3 innings for the sixth-seeded Terrapins (39-21), walking the first batter he faced in the fourth inning and then committing a throwing error. He was replaced by Robert Galligan, who walked three of the four batters he faced, allowed a run on a wild pitch and then walked in another run before his replacement, Zach Morris, ended the inning.

Maryland scored its first run in the third inning on a sacrifice fly, then pushed across its second in the eighth when, with two outs, Jose Cuas doubled to drive in Smith. Kevin Martir misinterpreted a stop signal while rounding third, pulled up and turned back toward the bag before heading home, causing Cuas to hold up momentarily as he headed for third.

That allowed Johnny Slater’s throw from right field to beat Cuas to third, and the out was recorded before Martir touched home plate.

“Once I saw the right fielder dive, in my head I thought three out of the box,” Cuas said. “I was overly aggressive and I didn’t pick up the coach at all and it cost us.”

Nick Cieri went 2-for-4 for Maryland, while Alex Robinson finished the game by allowing one hit and walking one over 2 1/3 innings. The Terrapins qualified for the NCAA tournament last year in their final season in the ACC and are hoping to return.

“It wasn’t a real great day for us,” Maryland coach John Szefc said. “A little disappointing with the outcome, and we didn’t really play our best baseball today. In college baseball, you really have to stay away from giving away the big inning, and we weren’t able to do that.”

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