Maryland had its ace at the top of his game Thursday but High Point’s bullpen outdueled him.
Panthers relievers held the Terrapins hitless for five straight innings upon entering the game in the fourth, stifling Maryland en route to a 2-1 series-opening win in High Point, North Carolina.
The Terps got their first hit against the High Point bullpen in the ninth inning, with third baseman AJ Lee singling up the middle. A bloop single by left fielder Will Watson drove him in with two outs, giving Maryland its first run. The Terps couldn’t push across the tying run however, leaving right fielder Marty Costes stuck at third.
The Panthers, likely in preparation for the upcoming Big South Tournament, pulled starter Andrew Gottfried early to give a handful of relievers some work. Winning that bracket is likely High Point’s lone shot at the NCAA Tournament, so the Panthers opted to grant Gottfried extra rest.
The strategy paid off against the Terrapins’ hitters, who faced a new pitcher just about every trip to the plate.
Before his departure, Gottfried threw three scoreless innings with two hits and three strikeouts. Matt Hodges retired the six he faced down in order, and Rion Murrah kept up the pace by sending down his first four and striking out three.
Five relievers combined for six innings, two hits and one run while striking out five.
Maryland, on the other hand, had no need for its bullpen, as starter Brian Shaffer went all eight innings while surrendering two runs (one earned). The righthander allowed five hits and struck out seven.
A pair of mistakes hurt the Terps. With a runner on third and two outs in the opening frame, second baseman Nick Dunn lost his grip on a ground ball and required an extra pump before throwing to first. That gave center fielder Josh Greene enough time to beat out the toss at first, allowing shortstop Conner Dunbar to score High Point’s first run.
A fourth-inning error by catcher Justin Morris moved Greene to third and right fielder Carson Jackson to second. That set up the Panthers for another infield RBI, as Greene scored on an unassisted first base putout.
Shaffer settled back in and threw four perfect innings after that, but the Terps offense couldn’t get him off the hook for the loss.
Shortstop Kevin Smith saved one run for the Terps to end the third inning with a runner on third. Smith fielded a grounder to his right and converted a difficult cross-body throw to first.
Maryland lost its third game in a row and its fifth in seven games to begin its final series of the regular season. The Terps take on the Panthers again Friday at 6 p.m.