Behind one of the best pitching performances of the season by Brian Shaffer and a power surge in the middle innings, Maryland baseball cruised to a 7-1 victory over Northwestern in the first game of the Terps’ final home series of the season.
Shaffer pitched eight innings, throwing only 89 pitches, allowing the one run, and striking out eight Northwestern batters. Kevin Smith and AJ Lee went a combined 6-for-8 with four RBIs, five runs scored, and two home runs. The Terps continued their hot streak at home, improving to 20-1 at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
The first three innings of the game went by quick, as only two total runners reached base, and the offenses combined for only one hit, an A.J. Lee single in the second inning.
Shaffer was electric through the first three, striking out six of the first nine Northwestern batters he faced. Wildcats starter Cooper Wetherbee was equally up to the task, only letting up the Lee single.
The Wildcats didn’t get a hit until the fourth, as Jack Dunn and Joe Hoscheit singled to start the inning. However, Shaffer was able to get a lucky break as Dunn was picked off at second by Maryland catcher Justin Morris, and Matt Hopfner hit a line drive right to Brandon Gum at first, who stepped on the bag to complete the inning-ending double play.
In the fifth, the Terps finally got on the board. Zach Jancarski’s bases-loaded single gave Maryland a 1-0 lead. Wetherbee then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Kevin Smith to score. The Terps had a chance for more, but Morris was thrown out at the plate by Northwestern center fielder Jake Schieber on a questionable call by the home plate umpire.
Shaffer continued to cruise along, getting out of a jam in the sixth inning, as the Terps turned their second double play of the game.
In the bottom half of the inning, Maryland further increased the lead. Nick Dunn singled and Will Watson walked, putting two on for the Terps, with one out. Wetherbee picked off Dunn at second, but Watson then stole second and Lee singled him home to put Maryland up 3-0. Watson looked out at home, but the home plate umpire called him safe. Smith followed with a no-doubt two-run home run to left-center field, putting Maryland up 5-0.
The Terps tacked on another in the seventh as Marty Costes got involved in the run-scoring party, driving home Jancarski on an RBI single and giving Maryland a 6-0 lead.
Northwestern kept fighting, getting a run on the board in the eighth. Connor Lind got on base with a single, and pinch hitter Grant Peikert drove him home with a double off the wall in left-center, just out of the reach of Madison Nickens. Shaffer would stop the rally, adding another strikeout to his impressive outing.
Maryland increased the lead back to 7-1 in the bottom of the inning, as Smith hit his second home run of the game and 10th of the season.
In the ninth, John Murphy came in and shut the door on Northwestern, as Maryland (33-15, 15-7 Big Ten) finished off the win with their fourth double play of the game.
Game two will start Saturday at 3 p.m. ET and will be available on BTN Plus and the Maryland Baseball Network.