By Ben Harris
Returning to .500 on the season, Maryland saw their three-game winning streak snapped Friday afternoon in a 7-2 loss at the hands of High Point University (19-7). Traveling outside the state of North Carolina for the first time this season, the Panthers chased Mike Shawaryn after 3.2 innings, the shortest outing of his Terrapin career.
While the Terps (13-13) outhit High Point 7-5, the offense was largely silent all afternoon. Maryland didn’t have multiple runners on base until the fifth inning; however, a Justin Morris strikeout and Madison Nickens foul out stranded the bases loaded.
Head coach John Szefc called his club’s effort “Definitely the worst Friday night game we’ve played all year…the whole game was a debacle for us.”
Through the game’s first two frames, it looked as though vintage 2015 Shawaryn was standing atop the mound for the Terps. The Golden Spikes semifinalist went 13-2 last year, striking out 138 batters over 116 innings while opponents hit just two ticks over the Mendoza line (.202).
While his 3.82 ERA entering Friday’s series-opener paled in comparison to his 1.72 mark from 2015, the mass of major league scouts sitting behind home plate saw the right-hander strike out the game’s first two batters in nine pitches. Shawaryn overpowered the top of High Point’s batting order with his fastball – topping out around 93 mph – and his ability to throw his sweeping slider at any time in the count. The junior right-hander struck out two more in the second inning.
As dominantly as Shawaryn worked through the first two frames, his command vanished in the third.
“That’s certainly not what Mike has been throughout his career,” said Szefc. “Everybody that’s seen him would tell you that. He hasn’t commanded the zone, he can clearly just lose the zone at any given time and he’ll struggle to get back in there.”
Austen Zente, who wore a pitch from Shawaryn, moved up to third on a successful hit and run before scoring on a single from the leadoff hitter Hunter Lee.
The following inning, the Panthers loaded the bases on a walk and two hit by pitches, Shawaryn’s seventh and eighth on the year. A sac fly and RBI double down the right field line put High Point up 3-0 after four.
Of High Point’s seven runs scored, only one reached base on a hit (Lee’s solo homer in the fifth).
“When you’re .500 there’s a reason…this is a good example of what our season has been unfortunately,” said Szefc.
Freshman Marty Costes accounted for Maryland’s two runs on the day, displaying his power with an opposite field homer in the sixth inning.
“Marty’s got a lot of juice, he’s a really good young hitter,” said Szefc. “This is the first time he’s really played baseball for a long period of time because he played three sports in high school and is a true freshman. The guy’s only played college baseball for 26 games and I think when it’s all said and done, he’ll be a pretty good player.”
Costes, who moved into a tie for second on the team with four homers, was the only Terp with two hits on the day.
“He’s a good player now but I think he’ll be a legitimate guy down the road for sure,” said Szefc.
The Terps turn to Taylor Bloom and Brian Shaffer to salvage a series win against the Panthers this weekend. The two sophomore arms have made up for Shawaryn’s disappointing start to 2016.
“Thank god those guys have been so good,” said Szefc. “Hopefully they can stay doing what they’re doing.”
Notes: High Point’s Scot Hoffman (3-2) earned the win, tossing 5.2 innings of two-run ball. Freshman Zach Guth faced the minimum six batters in the eighth and ninth innings, striking out one and picking off a base runner. Shawaryn retired 11 batters on five strikeouts, five fly outs and no ground outs – the eleventh out came on the back half of a 7-5-4-2 double play in the third. A late scratch before Wednesday’s game against VCU, Madison Nickens returned to the lineup after slightly straining his oblique, going 1-4 with a bunt single.