Bats go silent as Terps fall to High Point for third straight loss

In a season marred by shaky pitching, Brian Shaffer has been the one consistent Maryland starter, leading the Big Ten in innings pitched and ERA. The Terrapin ace turned in another strong start Thursday, tossing an eight-inning complete game, but a late rally fell short as Maryland lost 2-1 on the road to the High Point Panthers. The Terps (33-18, 15-9 Big Ten) have now dropped three in a row for the first time since being swept by LSU Feb. 24-26 in Baton Rouge.

Shaffer (7-3) struggled early, surrendering runs in the first and fourth, but settled in, retiring the last 15 hitters he faced and completing eight innings for the third straight start. The junior right-hander struck out seven Panthers, pushing his season total to 98, while allowing five hits and throwing just 93 pitches.

Meanwhile, a Maryland lineup that had scored at least five runs in three of the last four contests was held to one run or less for just the third time this year. The Terps managed just four hits on the day, and plated their lone run of the game in a late ninth-inning rally.

Down 2-0 with just two outs remaining, AJ Lee lined a sharp single to center and Marty Costes followed with a walk. After Nick Dunn flew out, Will Watson put the Terps on the board with an RBI single. With the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first, Nick Cieri flied out to center to end the game.

The Terps’ only other scoring opportunities came early in the game, as they had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs in each of the first two innings. Brandon Gum, making his first start of the season in the leadoff spot with Zach Jancarski out of the lineup, reached on a hit by pitch to open the game. Lee, moved from sixth in the lineup to the two-hole, then struck out, but the ball got away from High Point catcher Spencer Brown, allowing Gum to advance to second. Costes and Dunn then flied out and grounded out, respectively, to strand Gum at second.

Will Watson led off the second with a line drive double into the left-field corner, putting himself in scoring position with no out. Danny Maynard struck out, but a Kevin Smith groundout moved Watson to third with two out. Madison Nickens came up and tried to drive in his fellow Louisiana native with a bunt, but was thrown out at first to end the inning.

Gum hit a one-out single in the third but was subsequently picked off to end the rally. High Point starter Andrew Gottfried was pulled after just three shutout innings, but the bullpen shut down the Maryland lineup for the next five frames. Matt Hodges, Rion Murrah and Austin Heinz set the Terps down in order for four of the five frames, with the only blemish being Nick Dunn’s one-out walk in the seventh. Heinz was replaced by Garrett Letchworth in the ninth, but he was pulled after walking Costes, and left-hander Jeremy Johnson closed out the game to pick up the save.

Meanwhile, High Point jumped out to an early lead in the first inning. Conner Dunbar lined a double over the first-base bag with one away and moved to third with two out. Josh Greene then hit a ball that Dunn made a diving stop on, but the Maryland second baseman threw to first just too late to get Greene, and the run scored. The Panthers struck again in the fourth, when Green and Carson Jackson led off with back-to-back singles and moved up on catcher Justin Morris’ throwing error. Shaffer retired the next three, however, starting his string of 15 straight, although one was a Jordan Sargent groundout that plated Greene for High Point’s second run.

With the loss, the Terps fall to 4-5 in the month of May, and 8-13 on the road. They take on High Point again Friday at 6 p.m. looking to even the series.