Junior right-hander Hunter Parsons churned out a fourth straight great start—allowing one earned run in seven innings—but three defensive miscues and many more squandered offensive opportunities plagued the Terps for their fourth loss in six days.
Although Maryland’s opportunities outnumbered No. 18 East Carolina’s for the majority of the game, the Pirates found ways to manufacture runs. The Terps failed to avoid a sweep, losing 4-0.
Maryland lost all four games this week to fall back below .500, going 7-for-62 with runners on base during the losing streak.
“With a pitching staff like [East Carolina’s], they’re talented,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “They’re very good. If you don’t do the little things right, they make you pay. And that’s what they really did to us all weekend.”
After Parsons conceded a leadoff single in the bottom of the first, catcher Justin Morris threw a strike down to second base trying to catch Bryant Packard stealing. Packard slid into AJ Lee’s glove, dislodging the ball from the shortstop. Packard moved to third on a errant pickoff attempt that skipped into center field, and he scored on a weak groundout to give the Pirates a lead.
For a while, the unearned run allowed by Parsons was the only blemish in his outing. He tossed four scoreless innings after the first frame, setting down 11 straight hitters at one point.
“Hunter [Parsons] did a great job grinding things out,” Vaughn said. “He didn’t have his best stuff and you saw that in the first inning and that guy just continued to compete for us and gave us a chance to win.”
Parsons allowed eight runs in a one-inning start against Tennessee to start the season—giving him a 72.00 ERA—but exactly one month later, that number has dwindled to 4.20 after a seven-inning performance with just one earned run.
“Rewind six weeks ago to Tennessee and we were sitting there wondering what the heck he was going to do,” Vaughn said. “You look where he is now, he’s handling adversity, he’s attacking people, he’s got great mound presence and he’s really done a great job responding they way we want.”
With Maryland still trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth, first baseman Kevin Biondic corralled a grounder, stepped on first base and proceed to plunk a Pirate on the back on the runner’s way to second. This was the second time it happened Sunday.
Unlike the first time—when the runner stayed put on second,—the ball ricocheted into center field, allowing Packard to advance to third. He scored on a sacrifice fly, giving East Carolina a second unearned run without exerting much effort.
Biondic received another chance to complete a 3-6 double play in the bottom of the seventh. The same throw—in its third attempt of the game—completed its course to Lee, who successfully caught the ball and placed down a tag. Second base umpire Jeff Ellis ruled the runner safe, a questionable call that extended the inning long enough for East Carolina to add a third run on a single.
“They just put the ball in play and when they get runners in scoring position, they execute,” Parsons said. “That’s what they did better than us this weekend.”
In between the defensive miscues, Maryland’s offense continued to come up short with runners on base. The Terps left seven on the base paths in the loss.
In the fourth, Nick Dunn and Biondic started the inning with back-to-back singles. When AJ Lee didn’t make contact on a bunt attempt, Dunn was caught off second and thrown out. East Carolina starter, right-hander Tyler Smith, struck out two in a row to escape the jam.
Maryland mounted a rally in the sixth, receiving two-out hits from Morris and center fielder Zach Jancarski. With the pair of Terps in scoring position and the chance to take the lead with a single, designated Tommy Gardiner went down on strikes.
“We’re scuffling a little bit,” Parsons said. “But I full-heartedly believe we’ll come back this next week and play better baseball, get some more hits.”
Maryland (9-10) is scheduled to continue its spring break road trip Tuesday at 6 p.m. against North Carolina.