Late rally comes up short as Terps fall to High Point, drop series

For the second time in as many nights, the Maryland Terrapins had the tying run in scoring position in the ninth inning, but couldn’t cash in, as they lost to High Point, 7-4, Friday night. Maryland (33-19, 15-9 Big Ten) has now lost four straight for the first time this season, and falls to 4-6 in the month of May. The Terps have lost four straight series, with their last series victory coming Apr. 21-23 in a sweep of Michigan State at home.

The High Point bullpen held the Terps in check for most of the ballgame, as they managed just three hits through the first seven innings. Maryland’s bats came alive late, plating three in the eighth and one in the ninth, but Will Watson struck out with two men on in the ninth as the Terps couldn’t complete the comeback.

Maryland starter Tyler Blohm struggled for the third straight week, allowing three runs, all earned, over just four innings. The freshman left-hander was in a hole early, as Josh Greene’s RBI groundout gave High Point a 1-0 lead in the first. The Panthers struck again in the second, when Hunter Lee tripled to lead off the frame and scored on a wild pitch. Blohm, looking for his first scoreless frame, retired two in the third on a double play before Carson Jackson drove a pitch deep over the left-field wall to put the Panthers up 3-0.

Ryan Hill, who relieved Blohm, worked a scoreless fifth, but ran into trouble in the sixth after the Terps had cut the deficit to 3-2. The right-hander surrendered a walk and a single, and worked a 2-1 count on the next hitter, Jordan Sergent, before John Murphy replaced Hill. Murphy walked Sergent, but after allowing one run to score on an infield hit, struck out the side.

Murphy struggled opening the seventh, however, allowing two to reach on a walk and an error, and Ryan Selmer came in but provided little relief. The normally reliable right-hander surrendered three runs on a single, a perfectly executed squeeze bunt, and another single as the High Point lead swelled to 7-2.

While Maryland’s pitching struggled throughout, High Point’s dominated early on. Starter Drew Daczkowski baffled Maryland through the first three innings, allowing just one baserunner, Watson, on a hit by pitch. With the Panthers gearing up for the Big South tournament Tuesday, however, the freshman right-hander was pulled after three frames due to an inning limit.

Happy to see Daczkowski gone, the Terps jumped on his replacement, left-hander Cooper Jeffers, in the top of the fourth. Brandon Gum led off the frame with a single to right, and Marty Costes followed with a one-out single, putting a Terp in scoring position for the first time in Friday’s contest. After Nick Dunn flied out, Watson walked to load the bases for Kevin Smith, the team leader in home runs this season. Jeffers promptly uncorked a wild pitch and Gum scampered home, putting Maryland on the board, but Smith struck out, stranding two in scoring position.

Down 3-1 in the fifth, Maryland struck again off Jeffers. Madison Nickens was hit by the first pitch of the frame and Kevin Biondic, making his first start since March, flared a single into shallow right to put runners on the corners. Gum followed with a rocket to deep left that found Austen Zente’s glove for a sacrifice fly, cutting the deficit to just one run. Biondic advanced to second on a balk, but AJ Lee struck out swinging to end the frame.

The High Point bullpen held the Terps silent until the eighth, when, down by five, Gum again led off with a single against Muhammed Eid. AJ Lee followed with a two-run homer to left, his seventh of the season and just the second extra-base hit of the series for the Terps. With the deficit now just three runs, Nick Dunn singled with one out, prompting Eid’s exit. The new pitcher was Rion Murrah, who dominated Maryland for two innings Thursday night. Watson greeted him with a single, the third time the outfielder had reached base in the contest, bringing the tying run to the plate in Kevin Smith. After a fly out, pinch hitter Nick Cieri drove home Dunn to make it 7-5.

Still trailing by two in the ninth, Biondic opened the inning with a single to right and moved up on a wild pitch. Gum popped out, and Lee followed with a rocket to right-center field that Greene made a diving catch on, but Biondic tagged and advanced to third with two outs. A second wild pitch brought him across to cut the Terps’ deficit to just one run. Costes and Dunn both reached, putting the tying run in scoring position, but Watson struck out on three pitches to end the game.

Maryland is back in action Saturday at 1 p.m. against High Point, looking to avoid being swept for the second time this season.