By Ben Harris
Despite another strong outing from workhorse Brian Shaffer, Maryland (14-14) dropped their decisive series finale against High Point University (20-8), falling 4-3 at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
After allowing just two earned runs in his previous 26 innings, Shaffer left a fastball up in the zone to the Big South Preseason Player of the Year Josh Greene, who launched it over the wall in right to give High Point an early 2-0 lead in the second inning.
Shaffer settled in after the mistake, sitting down the next nine batters and 15 of the next 16. Austin Zente, the lone Panther to reach base in that stretch, reached on an infield single.
After Maryland’s first six batters were retired in order, they squandered back-to-back singles from Anthony Papio and Andrew Bechtold to start the third.
A leadoff walk from Nick Cieri and a double from Marty Costes in the fourth marked the second straight inning the Terps had two men on with no outs. This time Maryland cashed in as Kevin Biondic roped a double to right field scoring both runners and knotting the game at two apiece. Two batters later, Papio broke the tie scoring Biondic from second with an RBI single to left – Maryland didn’t have a runner in scoring position for the remainder of the game.
High Point starter Andrew Gottfried and reliever Tyler Britton (5-0) effectively split the contest in half. The freshman Gottfried has had a short leash this year, only pitching past the fifth inning once in five starts. He logged 4.2 innings of work Sunday, allowing all six Maryland hits and three earned runs. Britton no-hit the Terrapin offense over the game’s final 4.1 innings, allowing one walk, striking out three and picking up his fifth win of the season.
“We let their bullpen guy change the momentum,” said head coach John Szefc after the game. “He did a really good job, you got to deserve to win, you can’t throw eight zeroes up on the board like we did. We kind of made our own bed.”
Shaffer had allowed just two hits until Carson Jackson blooped a seventh inning double down the left field line. With runners on the corners after Greene’s second base hit, Shaffer barehanded a dribbler to the third base side of the mound, flipping it home to Justin Morris to cut down Carson Jackson at the plate.
Shaffer’s second of two mistakes on the day came one batter later, allowing a double off the wall in right to designated hitter Drew Fopeano to put the Panthers ahead by the eventual final score, 4-3. Shaffer pitched into the ninth, coming up two outs shy of his third straight complete game. Dropping to 3-2 on the season, he allowed just six hits, four runs, no walks and three strikeouts. In his last four starts, he’s struck out 21 and walked one.
“My slider wasn’t all there, my changeup wasn’t all there,” said Shaffer. “I basically depended on my fastball the entire time. In the end, if you’re going to try to beat a team you can’t have one pitch working for you.”
Notes: High Point and Maryland hit an identical 6-32 on the afternoon (.188). Each team went 1-10 (.100) with two outs and 2-5 (.400) with runners in scoring position. Shaffer didn’t surrender a hit to the top four batters in the High Point order (0-16). Jackson and Greene accounted for four of High Point’s six hits.