Maryland struggles, dropping series opener 9-0 to No. 17 ECU

After struggling to keep No. 17 East Carolina (13-5) off the board early, Maryland (10-6) failed to overcome the run deficit and dropped the series opener 9-0 on Friday in College Park. The Terps’ pitching staff fought for outs against the East Carolina lineup all night, while Maryland’s bats stayed cold in key moments.

Maryland pitchers held the Pirates to a six-run lead through seven, after East Carolina took a one-run lead in the first, off a sacrifice fly from first baseman Alec Burleson, and then put up a five-run third inning, including a three-run blast from Jake Washer, extending their lead to 6-0. 

In the top of the sixth, East Carolina’s designated hitter Spencer Brickhouse stepped to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second. Then, a balk from Maryland’s starter Hunter Parsons moved both runners into scoring position, and Brickhouse had the chance to extend the Pirates’ 6-0 lead.

But, a heads-up play from the Terps’ designates hitter-turned first baseman Maxwell Costes shut down the two-out rally from the Pirates. Brickhouse sent a hard grounder down the first base line, which bounced straight up off the base.

Costes maintained his composure, however, fielding the ball and tossing it to Parsons, who beat the runner to the base for the final out of the inning.Parsons went six innings on Friday, during which he struck out two, walked two and hit two, giving up six runs on nine hits.

When freshman Sean Heine relieved Parsons to start the seventh, he faced the Pirates’ leadoff Burleson, who entered the game batting .469. Heine announced his presence on the mound and struck out Burleson swinging.

But, when Heine stayed in the game for the eighth, the top of East Carolina’s order took advantage of the young pitched, putting up a three-run inning. With two outs, a pair of hits brought one run across the plate after a double from Bryant Packard down the left-field line fell in front of a sliding Caleb Walls––the Terps’ junior left fielder. 

Then, with one on and two outs, Spencer Brickhouse stepped to the plate. Four innings earlier, the East Carolina dug in the box in a similar situation; With a runner on first and one out, the designated hitter faced Parsons, looking to extend the Pirates’ lead.

When left-handed batter swung and missed a low pitch, Vought smoothly transferred the ball to his throwing hand, catapulting it to second where shortstop A.J. Lee snagged the ball, getting the second out of the fourth inning as a cheer arose from Maryland fans in the stands.

It was a different situation in the eighth, however, and Brickhouse sent a line drive over the right-field wall to give East Carolina a 9-0 lead.

Heine went 1.2 innings, giving up three runs on three hits and striking out one. Billy Phillips closed out the game for Maryland, pitching 1.1 innings, giving up one hit while striking out three.

Though the Terps struggled to put a run on the board, it wasn’t for lack of trying. It was shortstop A.J. Lee’s first game back from a calf injury that benched him for seven games, and the senior nabbed Maryland’s first hit of the night with a line-drive single to center field in the bottom of the third.

Maryland’s offense continued to warm up in the bottom of the fourth, after back-to-back singles from Taylor Wright and Maxwell Costes led off the inning. But East Carolina starter Jake Agnos recorded three straight outs, including two strikeouts, to keep the Terps off the board.

Six different Terrapin batters contributed to Maryland’s hits column in the series opener, each with a hit apiece. The Terps struck out 11 times, however, and struggled to connect against the Pirates’ pitching staff.