Maryland halts Illinois' 27-game win streak behind Brian Shaffer's gem
MINNEAPOLIS -- Freshman RHP Brian Shaffer was dominant over seven innings, allowing just one run and striking out seven to push the fourth-seeded Maryland baseball team past top-seeded Illinois 2-1 in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament at Target Field Thursday night.
The Terrapins (38-20) did all of their damage offensively in the second before turning the game over to Shaffer, who notched a career high in innings pitched and tied his career high in strikeouts. Junior Kevin Mooney nabbed his second save in as many nights to finish off the contest.
Shaffer’s only struggles came in the first. Ryan Nagle singled to right center before Reid Roper followed with a single of his own. Jason Goldstein plated Nagle with a single to give the Illini the lead after one.
Maryland responded with its only two runs of the game in the second. Junior Kevin Martir picked up a bloop single to center to set up junior Jose Cuas, who reached on a throwing error by the pitcher. Junior Anthony Papio then singled home Martir to tie the game.
Papio scored the winning run on the next at bat. Sophomore Nick Cieri grounded one to Illinois starter Drasen Johnson, who flipped the ball over to Ryne Roper at third to get the force there. Roper’s subsequent throw to first was off the mark and allowed Papio to score all the way from first.
From there, Shaffer took control. He worked out of the second and fourth innings with two strikeout frames and eventually equaled his career-high total of seven. The freshman ended with 107 pitches, 77 of which went for strikes.
Maryland threatened in the third, but Cuas could was unable to drive in sophomore Brandon Lowe from third. Papio made it to second in the fourth, but consecutive strikeouts from freshmen Kengo Kawahara and Kevin Biondic ended that frame.
Biondic’s biggest contribution came in the field. The freshman robbed David Kerian of extra bases in the seventh with a spectacular catch of a sharp line drive to first.
Junior Robert Galligan relieved Shaffer and struck out Casey Fletcher with one on to end the eighth. Maryland loaded the bases in the ninth, but freshman Kevin Smith ended the inning with a double play.
That set up Mooney, who induced a pop up from Pat McInerney to start the inning and fanned Kerian for the second out. The junior then struck out Matthew James on three pitches to close out the game for the Terps.