Strikeouts, bullpen struggles doom Terps in 6-1 loss to LSU

For the second week in a row, Brian Shaffer turned in a strong start on the mound and came away with nothing to show for it. The right-hander allowed three runs over 6.2 innings, but was out-dueled by LSU ace Alex Lange, as the Terrapins fell to the No. 5 Tigers Friday night, 6-1.

The game was eerily similar to the Terps’ 8-3 loss to Ball State in the season opener. Maryland had plenty of opportunities, racking up nine hits, but couldn’t capitalize, and struggles from the bullpen put the game out of reach late.

A week after taking a no-hitter into the fifth, Shaffer (0-1) was sharp again, as the junior struck out six and worked out of several jams. The Tigers got to him early, however, plating three runs on four hits in a third inning highlighted by Antoine Duplantis’ RBI triple.

Those three runs were plenty of support for Lange (2-0). The junior right-hander whiffed 12 over six innings of one-run ball to pick up his second win in as many tries this season. The Terps managed to get runners on in every frame, but Lange worked around them, using the strikeout to get out of jams. Maryland left 11 men on total, and left two men on in four separate innings.

maryland-vs-lsuThe Terps’ lone breakthrough came in the fourth, when Brandon Gum singled to lead off the frame and moved to second on a one-out walk to Madison Nickens. Kevin Smith followed with a line-drive double into the left-field corner, his first extra-base hit of the 2017 campaign, cutting the deficit to 3-1 and putting men on second and third with just one away. With the opportunity to tie the game with a base hit, Danny Maynard and AJ Lee both struck out, keeping the deficit at two runs.

The Terps had a golden opportunity in the first inning, when Marty Costes doubled with two away, and moved to third when Gum reached first on a dropped third strike. Louisiana native Will Watson struck out, however, as Lange picked up the rare four strikeout frame to open the game.

Still down 3-1 in the seventh, Lee singled with one out, moved to second on a groundout, and advanced to third on a balk by Tigers’ reliever Todd Peterson. But Nick Dunn grounded out, and Maryland again failed to cut into LSU’s lead.

Just as they did opening weekend, the bullpen struggled mightily after Shaffer left the game. Transfer right-hander Ryan Hill came on to finish the seventh for Shaffer, but was pulled after hitting the first batter of the eighth. Tayler Stiles entered, and gave up a single before allowing a three-run homer to Michael Papierski, the shot that put the game out of reach. With still no outs in the inning, Stiles was pulled in favor of Jared Price, who retired the side around a walk and a hit batsman.

Maryland’s final comeback attempt in the ninth failed, as Lee and Dunn both walked to put a man in scoring position, but Costes took strike three looking to end the game. The Terps outhit the Tigers, 9-8, but struck out 16 times in total. Now 1-3 on the season, Maryland will look to even the series with LSU Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. EST. Taylor Bloom (0-1, 9.00 ERA) gets the ball for the Terps, while Jared Poche’ (1-0, 0.00), fresh off a no-hitter last week, will take the mound for the Tigers.