Coming off an impressive series victory at Purdue, the Northwestern Wildcats (19-28, 8-11 Big Ten) ran into Maryland ace Brian Shaffer on Friday afternoon in College Park and were only able to muster six hits as the Terrapins (33-15, 15-7 Big Ten) took the first game of the weekend set, 7-1.
Shaffer, who came into Friday’s contest with a 1.78 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 81 innings, struck out eight Wildcats and only walked one over eight strong innings. The righty didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, when Jack Dunn and Joe Hoscheit singled to lead off the inning. Northwestern’s rally was snuffed out when Dunn was picked off and Matt Hopfner lined into a double play.
Cooper Wetherbee matched Shaffer through four, allowing only two hits, but Maryland got on the board with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Two singles were followed by a bunt and then a RBI single from Zach Jancarski to plate the first Terrapin run before a wild pitch brought another home.
Wetherbee nearly escaped a jam in the sixth inning after picking off Nick Dunn with two runners on, but a two-out single by AJ Lee made it 3-0 and a Kevin Smith blast over the fence in left-center broke the game open. Smith had a career day, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and another home run in the eighth inning, this off Danny Katz.
The bright spot for the Wildcats was the return of outfielder Grant Peikert from injury. In his first plate appearance since March 10, the junior doubled home a run as a pinch-hitter, missing a home run by a few feet. Hoscheit had two hits for Northwestern as well, bringing his average up to .338, good for ninth in the Big Ten.
Northwestern now trails Michigan State by a full game for the No. 8 spot in the Big Ten standings, as the Spartans beat Nebraska 6-3 on Friday. The top eight teams in the conference by the end of the season make the Big Ten Tournament, which Northwestern hasn’t participated in since 2010.
These teams will do it again tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 pm EST (1:00 pm CST) as Hank Christie will face off with Tyler Blohm.