Shaffer’s gem carries Maryland past Princeton

Another near flawless performance by Maryland ace Brian Shaffer, paired with a four-run sixth inning by the offense, propelled the Terrapins to a series-opener win over Princeton 4-0.

Shaffer picked up right where he left off a week ago against Bryant, running through the Princeton lineup, retiring 24 of 27 batters faced, with a career-high 10 strikeouts. Shaffer surrendered three hits over eight innings Friday, holding the Tigers without a hit for a four-inning span stretching from the second to the eighth.

Despite having a career day, Shaffer maintained a mental and corporeal steadiness that has allowed him to be so consistently good over his last two games.

“It’s just kind of the same state of mind as every other game,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer has quickly settled into the Friday ace role this season and has steadily improved his play and duration each outing.

Including Friday’s contest, Shaffer has pitched 15 innings, allowed one run on eight hits, with 18 strikeouts in his last two starts.

“I think its just experience,” Shaffer said. “Like last year, it was the same way. You start going five, then work your way up to six, and then go late into games. I think its just kind of getting the rust off still and hopefully see more of that from here on out.”

After five scoreless innings, Maryland finally broke through in the sixth with four runs. Three consecutive base hits by Brandon Gum, Nick Cieri, and Will Watson turned into the Terps’ first run and a three-run home run by Kevin Smith, who was without a hit up to that point, two at bats later blew the game open.

“I came up, I think the last two times with runners in scoring position and didn’t come through, so I was just looking for a pitch I could drive,” Smith said. “I should’ve came through a little earlier in the game, kind of kicking myself for that. So, going up there, getting another chance, I really wanted to come through for the guys because they had been getting good at bats and getting on base for us.”

Early on it appeared as if Maryland would never score, after multiple failed attempts to bring home base runners from third base. In the second, Princeton starter Chris Giglio overthrew his first baseman on a Madison Nickens’ bunt. Nickens reached safely and Watson, on base following a single, advanced to third on the error. But Giglio retired Smith the next at bat to end the scoring threat.

Maryland stranded base runners on the corners again in the third inning, but the Terps’ sixth inning offensive output was enough to give them their tenth win of the season, and its ninth in its last 10 games.

“This far into the season, its been more big innings than not,” Smith said. “So, we’re still going to stay aggressive. I mean, if they put pitches down the middle and we end up missing them, we might have a quick inning. But at the same time, if we hit them it might be a three-spot really early. So, it’s just kind of the tempo of our offense and [Giglio] kept us off balance but we came through when it really mattered.”

“Like last week, it’s just a matter of when its going to happen,” Shaffer said. “I wasn’t worried at all about the score being zero-zero. It’s just of matter of when they were going to do it. And they finally did.”

Giglio was a surprise starter for the Tigers, filling in for an ill Chad Powers, Princeton’s usual Friday starter. It was the senior’s first start of the season. He had been used exclusively in the bullpen through the Tigers’ first eight games.

Giglio pitched well through five innings, but was on the hook for three of Maryland’s runs in the sixth. He was pulled after 5.1 innings, giving up seven hits and striking out one.

Maryland and Princeton meet again tomorrow for game two at 2 p.m. at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium. Taylor Bloom will pitch for the Terps’ and Princeton is expected to start freshman James Proctor.