Series Preview: High Point Panthers

After losing two of three to Northwestern in their final home series of the season, the Maryland Terrapins wrap up the regular season with a three-game road series at High Point, starting Thursday. With the series loss to Northwestern, the Terps (33-17, 15-9 Big Ten) have lost three straight weekend series dating back to April 29-30 at Indiana, and own a 4-4 record in the month of May.

Despite recent struggles, Maryland’s offense has been strong for most of the year. The Terps have scored 300 runs this season, good for fourth in the Big Ten, and their 51 home runs trail only Illinois and Indiana. They have also been a threat on the basepaths, stealing 92 bases in 50 games, their highest total since swiping 94 in 2013.

The top three in Maryland’s order – Zach Jancarski, Brandon Gum and Marty Costes – have been instrumental in the team’s success, as each ranks in the top ten in the conference in on-base percentage. Costes leads the team with a .343 average, .430 on-base percentage and 37 RBIs, while Jancarski is hitting .324 with a team-high 19 steals. Infielders AJ Lee and Kevin Smith have also come on strong of late. Smith leads Maryland in homers (10) and slugging (.550) while Lee collected multiple hits in each game against Northwestern to raise his season average to .336.

While the offense has been solid for the most part, the Terps’ pitching has been shaky recently. Friday night starter Brian Shaffer continues to dominate, leading the Big Ten in ERA and innings pitched, but the bullpen struggled over the weekend. Jamal Wade and Ryan Hill, two key relievers, allowed a combined seven runs in .2 innings Saturday, raising both of their ERAs above four. Ryan Selmer and Andrew Miller, John Szefc’s go-to guys at the back end of the bullpen, each surrendered a run in Sunday’s loss, but still own sub-3 ERAs. Miller has posted a 1.96 ERA in 20 innings out of the bullpen with a .153 opponent’s batting average, while Selmer is tied for the team lead in appearances (22) and leads the team with seven saves. John Murphy has figured into the bullpen rotation recently, and the right-hander leads Maryland pitchers (min. 20 innings) with a 1.27 ERA.

Maryland has struggled of late, but High Point has been hot. The Panthers (27-20, 12-11 Big South) dropped two of three at Radford over the weekend, but won five straight prior to that. They also own a 15-8 record at home, and have won four in a row on their home field. High Point has been solid, but not spectacular, both offensively and on the mound this season, hitting .257 as a team and pitching to a 4.33 ERA.

Junior Blake Schunk leads the team with a .338 average, and has hit safely in six of his last seven contests. Despite not boasting the high average that Schunk does, the trio of Josh Greene, Austen Zente and Carson Jackson has been the heart of the Panther lineup this season. Greene leads the team with 18 steals in 23 attempts, and is tied with Jackson for second in RBIs (27). The senior outfielder owns a .293/.374/.453 slash line and has appeared in all but four of the team’s games this season. Zente leads the Panthers in homers (9), slugging percentage (.500) and RBIs (31), but is no slouch on the basepaths, swiping 13 bags. Jackson leads the team in hits (50) and doubles (13) while going a perfect 11-for-11 in stolen base attempts.

High Point’s pitching, while not flashy, has gotten the job done this season, as six of the eight Panthers that have tossed at least 20 innings have ERAs under four. Right-hander Rion Murrah and southpaw Matt Hodges are the go-to guys out of the bullpen for High Point, as they have combined for 38 relief appearances. Murrah leads the Panthers with a 2.86 ERA and opponents are hitting a paltry .218 off the junior. Hitters fare even worse off Hodges, managing just a .204 average, as the sophomore lefty leads the High Point bullpen with 41 innings pitched, 42 strikeouts and five saves. Other notable relievers include Jeremy Johnson (3.75 ERA, 36 innings) and Cooper Jeffers (3.96 ERA, 20.2 innings).

The Terps and Panthers last faced off in College Park a year ago, on April  1-3, 2016. High Point took two out of three in that series, winning Friday and Sunday, while Maryland claimed Saturday’s contest, 13-5.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

THU 6:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Brian Shaffer (7-2, 1.72 ERA) vs. So. RHP Andrew Gottfried (3-2, 3.96 ERA)

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Right-hander Brian Shaffer continues to dominate opponents. The Terps’ Friday night ace threw another gem last time out against Northwestern, allowing just one run over eight innings while striking out eight. He leads the Big Ten in ERA and innings pitched (89) and ranks second in strikeouts (91).

High Point will counter Shaffer with right-hander Andrew Gottfried. The sophomore struggled last time out against Radford, allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks over six innings. His previous outing, however, was a gem, as he tossed six shutout innings with seven strikeouts to pick up the win over Charleston Southern. The right-hander only has 40 strikeouts in 50 innings, but he doesn’t give up hard contact, as opponents hit just .202 off him.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

FRI 6:00 p.m. EST

Fr. LHP Tyler Blohm (8-5, 3.25 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Drew Daczkowski (5-4, 2.96 ERA)

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Friday is a matchup of freshmen, with Tyler Blohm taking the hill for the Terps. The southpaw has gotten a decision in all 13 of his starts this season, and leads the Big Ten with eight wins. He ranks eighth in the conference in ERA, and has fooled opponents, allowing just a .219 average against him. He struggled his last time out, however, allowing three runs (two earned) in just four innings. He allowed just two hits, but walked two and threw 75 pitches.

Blohm will share the rubber with freshman right-hander Drew Daczkowski, one of two freshmen in the High Point rotation. Daczkowski has been the Panthers’ best starter this season, leading the team in ERA, innings pitched (70) and strikeouts (67), despite compiling just a 5-4 record. He does struggle with the long ball however, as he has surrendered a team-high nine homers this season. He got tagged with the loss against Radford last weekend after giving up three runs (two earned) over six innings, but threw a complete game the week before.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

SAT 1:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Taylor Bloom (5-2, 4.41 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Trevor Holloway (3-5, 4.08 ERA)

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2017 has been an up-and-down season for Taylor Bloom, who has failed to replicate his dominant 2016 (2.46 ERA, 102.1 IP). The right-hander ranks second on the Terps in innings pitched, but has allowed 82 hits in 69.1 frames for a .300 opponents’ average. He pitched well enough to win last time out, surrendering four runs in six innings, but was tagged with a no-decision after the Terps blew a late lead and lost in extra innings.

Like Bloom, Trevor Holloway has shown signs of brilliance this year but struggled at other points. His 57.1 innings pitched are second only to Daczkowski, but he has struggled with control, walking 33, hitting seven and uncorking 11 wild pitches. Holloway has not been efficient, as he has completed five innings in just one of his last four starts, and hasn’t completed six since April 2 against Gardner-Webb.