Albany starting pitcher Connor Eisenmann, on his 102nd and final pitch of the game, induced an infield pop up from Maryland leadoff hitter Luke Shliger. As the Great Danes’ shortstop caught it, Eisenmann turned to his dugout and let out a screech of excitement.
The pitcher held a Terps offense that was enjoying an explosive past two weeks to a mere three runs over six innings. Maryland’s lineup went cold in a 6-3 loss to Albany, spoiling a six-game win streak with its second home loss of the season.
The Terps outhit their opponents but still fell. Three hits in the first inning failed to produce a run. Nick Lorusso was stranded after a leadoff double in the fifth as was Matt Shaw after a single with one out in the seventh.
Maryland left nine runners on base and failed to compensate for a subpar Nick Dean start.
“In the first inning we strung three really, really good at-bats together,” Vaughn said. “After that, I don’t know if we did it the whole rest of the way. I don’t care who you’re playing, you’re going to lose when you do that offensively.”
Most of the pitcher’s struggles through his first five starts stemmed from an inability to locate his curveball and slider for strikes. Maryland coach Rob Vaughn cited them as the primary reason for the number of barreled balls and walks Dean gave up during his last start versus Maine.
That issue arose again Saturday as the pitcher walked a season-high five batters and threw 95 pitches in only 4.1 innings.
“He just didn’t throw enough strikes,” Vaughn said. “Anytime Nick Dean’s out of the game before the fifth inning’s over, that’s not what we need. We just need more consistency, more length.”
The senior worked tirelessly over the winter to add velocity to his fastball and the work’s paid off — it’s been a pitch that gives opponents fits. But the Great Danes largely ignored the heater and lasered in on Dean’s changeup and breaking pitches.
Albany attacked those pitches and produced several hard-hit balls early.
“He was behind hitters from the jump,” Vaughn said. “It’s just really hard to pitch when you’re constantly behind guys.”
It scored the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly out to deep center field following two walks and a line drive single. Maryland retook the lead but the Great Danes tied the game in the fifth inning with a triple to right field and a Kevin Keister error on a sharp grounder.
Dean walked the next batter and then surrendered a three-run homer that put Maryland in a 5-2 deficit to cap a four run inning — the pitcher’s last.
Maryland is now 2-3 in Dean’s starts this season. After a shutout in his season debut, he has allowed 18 earned runs in his past four outings.
Vaughn’s squad trimmed its deficit to two runs in the sixth on a Bobby Zmarzlak RBI fielder’s choice but those scores were immediately answered the next half inning with Albany’s second homer of the game.
The Terps continued to threaten after Eisenmann exited, getting runners into scoring position in the seventh and the eighth innings.
But back-to-back Matt Woods and Kevin Keister swinging strikeouts left Shaw on second in the seventh and a double play killed a promising start to the eighth with runners on first and second. Down three entering the ninth, Shliger, Lorusso and Shaw were retired on 11 pitches.
“They played cleaner defense than us, their starting pitcher was better than us and they swung the bat way better than we did,” Vaughn said.