Shaffer Shines For Struggling Terps

Analysis

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, with conference tournaments less than a week away, Maryland and High Point found themselves in two very different positions. The Panthers have had a good second half and carried a 27-20 record into the weekend, but they ranked just 131st in the RPI, so they had no shot at an at-large bid. That means this weekend is all about setting up pitching and tuning up for next week’s Big South tournament, which HPU needs to win in order to make a regional. So the Panthers opted to script Thursday’s series opener against Maryland with six pitchers, ensuring none of them were taxed too heavily just a few days before the conference tourney begins.

Maryland, on the other hand, had a strong enough RPI (No. 35) to land an at-large bid, but the Terps have also struggled down the stretch and started to slip toward the bubble. So every game matters for the Terrapins, who are trying to bolster their at-large credentials. The Terps did not consider taking it easy with ace Brian Shaffer in Thursday’s opener because they really needed to win, and because they have managed Shaffer carefully all spring. His season high for pitches is 115 back on March 24, and he threw just 89 over eight innings last week against Northwestern, and just 38 pitches in a rain-shortened two-inning start two weeks before that.

So Maryland planned to ride Shaffer on Thursday night, and the junior righthander certainly did his part. He went the distance for Maryland, needing just 93 pitches to log an eight-inning complete game. He allowed just two runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks while striking out seven, and he retired the final 15 High Point batters of the game. But he took a tough-luck loss, because Maryland’s offensive struggles continued, and the Panthers earned a 2-1 victory.

“We’re just gonna have to respond tomorrow to kind of a poor showing on our part in general,” Maryland coach John Szefc said. “Not Shaffer, but you can’t come on the road and score one run on a Friday night behind him. But that’s the way it went.”

Multiple crosscheckers were on hand to watch Shaffer, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound righty with a chance to go in the top three rounds this June. And he certainly did not disappoint.


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