An episode of hail roughly 90 minutes before Maryland baseball's Friday evening game against Michigan State threatened to delay the pitching matchup between the Big Ten's ERA leaders, but the storm subsided.
Just as the Terps had the good fortune of starting at 6:30 p.m., they were lucky to catch left-hander Alex Troop when he wasn't at his best. The Terps got out to a hot start at the plate, while right-hander Brian Shaffer stymied the Spartans' bats, leading Maryland to a 12-2 victory at Bob "Turtle" Smith Stadium.
Troop never found a rhythm, surrendering two runs in the first inning after three consecutive two-out hits, only to do so again in the second inning, allowing left fielder Madison Nickens to double and catcher Nick Cieri to hit a home run. He allowed four more runs in the inning before settling down in the bottom of the third. By the time Troop exited after the fourth inning, he had allowed 10 earned runs and his 1.50 ERA ballooned to 2.64.
Cieri said Troop's fastball didn't have too much movement, so it was easy to read. He was ahead in the count, 3-1, when he launched his two-run blast to right-center.
"We had a game plan of attacking fastballs and laying off the other stuff and I think we did a pretty good job of that today," Cieri said. "Everybody enjoys it when everybody's hitting the ball around the ballpark."
Cieri stressed giving Shaffer run support early on, recalling last weekend's game against Penn State, in which the Terps didn't score until the ninth inning. They then hit back-to-back solo home runs to win, 2-1.
After allowing a leadoff single to left fielder Bryce Kelley, Shaffer retired nine batters in a row. He tossed seven innings, allowing one run and striking out seven.
"After we put that 6-spot up, it wasn't cruise control, but very relaxed, confident we were going to win the game," Shaffer said. "It was great. Coach [Rob] Vaughn must have put something in their Wheaties this morning."
After Shaffer was pulled, the Terps (26-11, 10-3 Big Ten) showcased their reserves. Right-hander John Murphy, who has thrown 12.1 innings this season, finished Shaffer's job, while first baseman Kevin Biondic, who has a .140 batting average, muscled a single to left field while pinch-hitting for Brandon Gum in the eighth.
"They're all great players," Shaffer said. "It's great to see Murph come out and do his thing, and Biondic, he's a hard nose. He's always going to grind it out for you and give it all he's got, so you trust him."
Coach John Szefc said one of the keys to the game was Michigan State preserving its bullpen. After Troop's outing, which Szefc called fortunate for the Terps since it was "probably the worst of his career," Szefc said Michigan State coach Jake Boss did a "great job of managing to not utilize the bullpen."
Right-hander Caleb Sleeman had only appeared in two games all season before Friday, both of which weren't tight contests when he entered. He allowed just one run in four innings Friday.
But his solid outing didn't matter, as Maryland broke away early and had a 12-1 lead by the final inning.