Shaffer struggles, Terps fall to WVU in NCAA Tournament opener

Entering the NCAA Tournament, Maryland ace Brian Shaffer had given up just six home runs all season. But the junior right-hander struggled Friday, surrendering five more long balls as the Terps fell to West Virginia, 9-1, in the opening game of the Winston-Salem Regional.

Shaffer, who labored through his last start as well, lasted just five frames, surrendering seven runs on seven hits, while striking out seven Mountaineers. His struggles with the home run ball put the Terps in a hole that, despite loading the bases twice in the early innings, they couldn’t climb out of.

“His last three outings he has not really located as much as he has the whole season,” Head Coach John Szefc said about Shaffer. “It’s tough, he has been very consistent for us all year.”

The Mountaineers got the scoring started early against the junior righty with three runs in the second. WVU started the inning with a double, and Kyle Davis hit a two-run home run two batters later. Jimmy Galusky soon followed with a long ball of his own to make the score 3-0.

Alek Manoah, who the Terps saw earlier this year when the Mountaineers traveled to College Park, started Friday for West Virginia. The big freshman right-hander did not have his best stuff, but was able to work around his wildness and minimize damage in the early frames. 

Manoah hit four batters and allowed three hits in 3.1 innings, but only allowed one run. Madison Nickens walked with one out in the third, and after moving up on a ground out, scored on a bloop single to right by Zach Jancarski, who collected three of Maryland’s seven hits Friday. 

The Terps loaded the bases later in the inning after Manoah hit AJ Lee and Brandon Gum. Only down 3-1 at the time, they had a chance to pull even, but Marty Costes grounded out to end the threat. 

After Will Watson was hit by a pitch and Kevin Smith singled, Manoah was pulled with one out in the fourth in favor of West Virginia’s usual Friday starter, BJ Myers. Nickens greeted him with a perfectly placed bunt up the third base line to load the bases, but Justin Morris fouled out, bringing Jancarski to the plate with two away. The Terps’ lead off hitter was hit by a pitch, but it was ruled that he did not get out of the way, and was sent back to the batter’s box. He went on to fly out and the threat was squandered for the Terps.

After this, Maryland struggled to mount any rally against the West Virginia ace. At one point, Myers set down eight in a row, and finished going 5.2 innings, not allowing a run.

“I think our at bats were okay for the most part,” Jancarski said. “We just did not capitalize in big situations.”

West Virginia added two more runs in the fifth on a Cole Austin home run. The Mountaineers finished the scoring in the eighth, as Jimmy Galusky hit his second home run of the day.

Ryan Hill came into the game to relieve Shaffer, and went two innings allowing one run. Jamal Wade pitched the eighth for the Terps, and allowed one run.

Maryland will go on to face the loser of Wake Forest vs. UMBC in an elimination game Saturday.