Terps baseball takes series against Appalachian State behind big innings

Terrapins baseball second baseman Brandon Lowe connected on a pitch and drove it to center field in the fifth inning Sunday. The ball ended up in the outfielder’s mitt for an out, but it went deep enough to allow Terps first baseman Justin Morris to tag third base and scamper home safely.

Lowe’s sacrifice fly was the final tally in a three-run frame, one of three big innings the No. 16 Terps relied on this weekend to secure a series victory over Appalachian State in Emerson, Georgia. In their two victories, the Terps scored 12 runs over those three innings and leaned on solid starting pitching to maintain leads.

The Terps created those big innings by taking advantage of pitching and defensive miscues like walks, errors and hit by pitches, coach John Szefc said. The fifth inning Sunday was a perfect example. The first run scored on an error, while Morris’s run was unearned.

“We talk about it an awful lot where guys are trying to stay in the moment and work to put together a three-run inning,” Szefc said. “It gives you a much better chance to win a game if you put three-run innings on the board.”

The Terps set the tone for the weekend early Friday with a four-run third inning. Lowe started the rally when he reached base on a hit by pitch. Third baseman Jose Cuas drove him in with a three-run homer, and first baseman Andrew Bechtold singled in the final run of the inning.

Those four runs were all the Terps (7-2) needed. Right-hander Mike Shawaryn notched a career-high 12 strikeouts and at one point retired 14 straight Mountaineers (4-5). The sophomore threw seven innings of one-run ball, and the Terps cruised to a 4-2 victory.

“We’re all about developing the big innings,” said center fielder LaMonte Wade, who went 6-for-12 with two walks this past weekend. “That way we get runs for our pitchers.”

On Saturday, though, the Terps surrendered a big inning to their opponent. While the Terps scored three runs in the first inning, the Mountaineers overturned the 3-1 deficit with three runs in the third inning and five in the fourth. The Terps couldn’t come back from the six-run hole and lost, 9-7.

For the second straight week, left-hander Tayler Stiles failed to pitch past the fourth inning and gave up at least five runs. The Mountaineers roughed him up for six runs on 10 hits and a walk.

While Stiles struggled again, right-hander Brian Shaffer had a bounce-back performance Sunday in his second career start. A week after he gave up six runs in three innings, the freshman allowed two runs in six innings.

“I threw strikes both weeks,” Shaffer said, “but this week I executed a lot better than last week.”

The Terps offense also provided Shaffer with plenty of run support. In addition to the three-run fifth inning, the Terps took advantage of five walks in the third inning to score five runs.

“[The coaches] preach having 27 tough outs and never break our swing down with less than two strikes,” Wade said. “It seems to be working, especially those big innings.”

Szefc is excited the Terps exploited the Mountaineers pitching this weekend and took advantage of mistakes, but he still believes the Terps offense can improve in other areas.

“[We are] trying to be successful in situational opportunities, which we really haven’t been that good at thus far,” Szefc said. “We have a long way to go offensively.”

TERPS NOTE: Freshman Andrew Bechtold injured his left thumb Saturday sliding into a base. He is scheduled to be examined today.

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