Maryland’s offense can’t capitalize against No. 18 East Carolina, drop series opener

Maryland baseball continued to compete in close games against quality teams on the road—receiving a good start from right-hander Taylor Bloom and recording double-digit hits—but the Terps weren’t able to capitalize on their numerous offensive opportunities against No. 18 East Carolina.

Although they doubled the Pirates in hits, The Terps hit 2-for-18 with runners on base to get shutout, 4-0, in the first of three games this weekend at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

“We couldn’t quite string [hits] together, whether that was us not running great plans off or whether that was just [East Carolina starter Trey Benton] being good,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “Really good pitchers have a tendency to go give up a hit, get two guys, then give up another hit, but kind of spread them out.”

The Terps picked up hits in each of the first four innings off Benton, who entered the contest having allowed just six earned runs in over 25 innings pitched on the season. But coming off an one-run, eight-inning performance last weekend against Charlotte, he allowed nine hits in under seven innings to Maryland hitters. The sophomore, though, was able to hinder Maryland’s scoring production thanks to great defensive plays behind him and a lack of execution from the Terps.

“He pitches on Friday nights for a really good team. He’s got good stuff,” third baseman Taylor Wright said. “He did a good job of working all three pitches for strikes. It’s tough to hit when a guy can throw three good pitches for strikes.”

Unluckiness emerged for Maryland in the first inning when first baseman Kevin Biondic hit a ball that would’ve cleared the wall if it wasn’t for Pirates left fielder Drew Henrickson, who made a leaping grab to rob the almost two-run homer. In the fifth inning, designated Tommy Gardiner nearly started his evening 2-for-2, but third baseman Connor Litton made a diving grab and throw to first to keep the freshman off the bases.

The Terps hit the ball hard throughout the game, unlike in other losses, but were on the wrong end of the pair of quality defensive plays. Other times, though, hits just didn’t come in the right situations. Maryland went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Gardiner and shortstop AJ Lee each singled and stole a base early in the game, but both were left standing on second base. Junior second baseman Nick Dunn led off with a double in the sixth inning, but was thrown out trying to steal third. Just pitches later, Biondic doubled, a hit that would’ve scored a run.

The following inning, Maryland loaded the bases with just one out on singles from Wright, Justin Morris and Gardiner. Benton struck out Zach Jancarski before reliever Ryan Ross entered to face Dunn, who grounded out to second to leave the bases full of Terps.

Offensive opportunities were in Maryland’s favor, but East Carolina was able to take advantage of its limited chances. Second baseman Brady Lloyd reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the third inning, giving the Pirates life after Terps right-hander Taylor Bloom retired the first six hitters he faced on just 14 pitches. Designated hitter Bryant Packard later singled up the middle to score the game’s first two runs.

“We hung up 10 hits. I think they hung up five,” Wright said. “And really they won the game because theirs just came at better times.”

The only other runs Bloom conceded was on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning and a solo homer in the eighth. The senior allowed just five hits in eight innings to a Pirates offense the entered the game with a .280 team batting average. It was arguably his best start of the month, but he didn’t receive the run support he needed.

Maryland was retired in order in the top of the ninth, a trip to the plate that included the team’s 12th strikeout.

“We’ll come back tomorrow and try to string some of these at-bats together a little more,” Vaughn said. “If you look back through some of the charts we keep, we had two good at-bats in a row but not much more than that … I tell these guys, three in a row. Three in a row is usually a run.”

The second game of the series between Maryland (9-8) and East Carolina will start tomorrow at 4 p.m.