The usual suspects in the Terps’ lineup came through and Maryland scored in four consecutive innings in Friday afternoon’s 7-1 win over Northwestern.
Third baseman AJ Lee, shortstop Kevin Smith, center fielder Zach Jancarski and right fielder Marty Costes combined to go 10-for-16 at the plate, with each driving in at least one run.
Lee was recently moved up to bat sixth in the lineup, putting Smith right behind him. Each player went 3-for-4 at the plate, with Smith homering twice.
“We don’t care where we hit in the order,” Smith said. “We take pride in trying to score wherever we are and contribute to the team.”
It’s not often the team home run leader bats seventh in the order, but Lee said he feels the bottom of the order gives way to some of the Terps’ explosive outings this season. He said it really helps when productive batters hit behind him.
“He’s an established hitter and I know a lot of teams aren’t really going to want to pitch to him a lot, so I know that they’ll come at me with good pitches to hit,” Lee said. “You’re going to see a lot of strikes, a lot of fastballs and that plays right into my approach and what I want to do.”
The third baseman kicked off a scoring run in the bottom of the fifth inning with a leadoff single. Smith followed suit with a single of his own, sending left fielder Madison Nickens to the plate with no outs. Nickens laid down a picturesque sacrifice bunt, advancing both runners to scoring position.
Catcher Justin Morris hit a hard grounder to Northwestern first baseman Matt Hopfner, who threw the ball to home plate, even though the runners held. The play loaded the bases for the leadoff hitter Jancarski. The center fielder drove in one run with a single through the left side and then a wild pitch scored another run to make it a 2-0 Terps lead.
The Maryland offense carried this momentum into the sixth inning, tacking on three more runs to its lead. Designated hitter Will Watson put himself in scoring position after walking and then stealing second. Lee stayed hot and slapped a single up the middle, scoring Watson for a 3-0 Maryland advantage.
That wouldn’t be all for the Terps, though. Smith swung at a 3-2 fastball over the middle of the plate and clubbed a no-doubt home run over the fence to add two more runs on the scoreboard. Two innings later in the eighth, Smith crushed another home run to give him 10 on the year. He is the first Terp to hit double-digit home runs since Jose Cuas in 2011.
“That first one, that was a moonshot,” Lee said. “That was one of the farthest balls I’ve seen hit here in awhile.”
In the seventh inning, Jancarski started a rally of his own. The junior singled, stole second and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. After first baseman Brandon Gum walked, right fielder Marty Costes singled to bring home Jancarski.
On the mound, Brian Shaffer logged yet another stellar performance, pitching eight innings and striking out eight. He surrendered just one run—off a double in the bottom of the eighth inning—to lower his conference-leading ERA to 1.72.
“It’s a typical Friday night from Shaffer,” Lee said. “He’s a bulldog on the mound.”
The victory improves Maryland’s record to 33-15. The Terps are now 20-1 at home. The second game of the series is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday in a freshman pitching duel as Tyler Blohm is set to face off against Hank Christie.
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