Back-to-back homers push Terps past Nittany Lions to open series

By Gillian Vesely

The Maryland Terrapins pulled off a dramatic, 2-1 come-from-behind win over the Penn State Nittany Lions Friday to complement a career pitching night by right-hander Brian Shaffer.

Shaffer, who finished with a career-high 11 strikeouts, pitched eight and one-third innings, giving up just four hits including the solo home run by Penn State’s Ryan Sloniger.

The Terps, however, couldn’t find much offense through the first eight innings, struggling to put a run on the board against the Nittany Lions’s Sal Biasi. Maryland (22-11, 7-3 Big Ten) trailed Penn State 1-0 going into the ninth, but back-to-back homers by Zach Jancarski and Brandon Gum allowed them to walk off with the first win in the three-game series.

“Our guys have been very resilient,” head coach John Szefc said after the win. “Whether it’s coming from six or coming from one, the better teams that I’ve been around over the years have been able to come from behind.”

Gum gave the Terps their first hit of the game with a single into left center in the first inning, but Maryland wasn’t able to capitalize on the offense. Biasi retired the side in the next two innings and was able to prevent run damage from base runners who reached on a walk, a hit-by-pitch and an error in the next three innings, respectively.

Besides the long ball in the fifth, Shaffer was dominant on the mound as well. He worked efficiently — starting the seventh inning with a pitch count of 68 — and recorded 27 first-pitch strikes on 32 batters faced, an aggressive technique he said he aimed for.

“That’s my main goal every game,” Shaffer said, “come out and attack hitters. Throwing strikes, that’s going to win you a ballgame.”

After replacing Shaffer with Andrew Miller (2-1) in the ninth, Szefc tapped Danny Maynard to pinch hit to open the inning. Maynard struck out looking to give the Terps just two outs to work with and the game on the line.

Jancarski, who finished 1-for-4 from the plate, followed Maynard by knocking a solo shot over the left field wall to tie the game. After the mob of Maryland players cleared the field, Gum stepped to the plate and hit his own homer off the first pitch he saw, clinching the win for the Terps.

Gum’s hit sealed the game for Maryland, but it was Jancarski whom Gum praised after the game, noting improvements in Jancarski’s offense and his approach to leadoff at-bats.

“He’s gotten so much better,” Gum said. “In the fall he was just kind of molding into his role as a leadoff hitter and I think he’s done a heck of a job. He’s swung the bat really well.”

The Terps will continue their series with the Nittany Lions Saturday at 2 p.m.