WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Nick Dean versus Rhett Lowder figured to be a pitcher’s duel, a contest with little offense as two hurlers dominated like they each had in recent weeks. Dean sported a 3.48 ERA since conference play began while Lowder’s won two consecutive ACC Pitcher of the Year awards.

Lowder did what was expected, holding Maryland baseball to three scores and exiting with a six-run lead. His mid-90s fastball paired with a sweeping slider and a diving changeup were unlike any mix the Terps have faced.

“A guy like that, when he can command his three pitches and throw it in any count, I think that’s the biggest thing,” Nick Lorusso said. “He fooled me a couple times.”

Dean’s start clashed with his opponent’s. The right-hander, pitching after nearly a five-hour weather delay, was immediately pounced on and never recovered. His six earned runs in the first three innings created a deficit too difficult to erase for a floundering Maryland offense that couldn’t counter the dominance it faced on the mound.

Coach Rob Vaughn’s team desperately wanted to avoid the losers bracket, knowing the difficulty of escaping it. That desire slipped away at the hands of one of the nation’s top pitchers in a 21-6 loss to the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.

“Going up against the No. 1 team in the country, they played like it,” Vaughn said.

[Maryland baseball notebook: Kyle McCoy ruled out for Winston-Salem regional]

The Terps now have to win three consecutive games, including two against Wake Forest, to win the Winston-Salem Regional. Maryland (42-20) will play George Mason on Sunday at 2 p.m. in an elimination game.

The Demon Deacons’ right-hander entered Saturday having allowed more than three runs just once this season and Wake Forest (49-10) hadn’t lost any of his starts. It was strength on strength against a Terps’ offense that was near the top of the nation in runs.

Lowder, who finished with 11 strikeouts to one walk, was perfect through 3 ⅔ innings before Lorusso crushed a hanging slider for an opposite-field solo blast that marked his 25th homer of the year — a new Maryland single-season home run record.

The pitcher moved past that blip and worked two more scoreless frames before stumbling in the seventh inning. Lorusso took Lowder deep again, this time a two-run shot, then the next two Terps reached base and forced Wake Forest to use its bullpen.

“Top of the order, probably one of the best I’ve faced all year,” Lowder said. “I came out firing, so I was just attacking them early. I knew I wanted to try to keep them off the bases. … I know I left a couple pitches over the plate to Lorusso and he did some damage, but it didn’t hurt us too bad.”

[Nick Lorusso, Maryland baseball’s pitching down Northeastern in NCAA tournament, 7-2]

That two-run inning cut Maryland’s deficit to 9-3, its first sign of life of the night, but still too steep of a hole after its own pitching shortcomings.

Dean, who never found the same level of effectiveness as his opponent, rebounded from his troublesome opening inning and pitched into the fifth, preventing the bullpen from covering an exorbitant amount of innings but far from the length Vaughn hoped for.

The right-hander exited after recording his first out of the fifth and left two in scoring position for Nigel Belgrave, who let both score. The Terps’ bullpen allowed six runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings as Wake Forest extended its already large lead. Dean’s final line included eight earned runs, a season high, and eight hits, his most allowed since March.

Dean’s season was trending upward before failing to solve Wake Forest in Saturday’s defeat, while Lowder’s year is littered with starts like these. The latter’s latest efforts handed Maryland its first loss of the regional and have left the Terps one defeat away from a third consecutive season ending in an NCAA tournament regional.

“Now that you’re on the other side, you just survive and advance,” Vaughn said. “We’re gonna do what we gotta do to win game one.