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Terps make offensive statement in series opener, shutout Boilermakers

Behind a five-run first inning, Maryland overpowered Purdue to shut out the Boilermakers 11-0 in the series opener Friday from Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.

The Terps attacked Purdue starting pitcher Calvin Schapira right away with a leadoff triple by Chris Alleyne. A Matt Shaw RBI sacrifice fly brought the speedy Alleyne home to quickly make the score 1-0.

“When [Alleyne] is going our offense is just different,” coach Rob Vaughn said.

But Maryland wasn’t done in the inning, as a Ben Cowles single, a Bobby Zmarzlak single along with a Tommy Gardiner walk loaded the bases with two outs allowing the hot-hitting Justin Vought to come up to the plate. 

Vought, who hit three home runs Sunday against Illinois in game two of the doubleheader had a chance to break the game open early. He didn’t wait to continue his hot home run streak. 

Vought hit the first pitch he saw from Schapira out to center field for a grand slam to give the Terps the early 5-0 lead. It is the big hit the Terps are looking for with runners in scoring position at this point in the season when there is no room for error in putting opponents you’re supposed to beat away early.

“The Grand Slam was huge,” Vaughn said.

Taking the mound in the second with a 5-0 lead was all starting pitcher Nick Dean needed on the evening. Dean pitched six scoreless innings giving up only six hits on 93 pitches putting together another quality, stress-free outing on his season. Purdue’s only chances in the day came on leadoff doubles in both the second and fourth inning trying to put together some offensive production to get back into the game but Dean had no trouble working around both. 

“When we have that big of a lead, it’s just really like important not to nibble around guys and just go right at them attack the zone and make them earn everything,” Dean said.

The Terps offense didn’t just settle and stop producing runs after the first inning. A Cowles RBI single added a run in the second inning. The Terps would add two runs in the fourth inning via a sacrifice fly and an RBI single push the score to 8-0. In the fifth inning, Shaw picked up his third RBI of the game on a double that brought Alleyne home to make it 9-0.

In the seventh inning, Cowles on a 2-1 pitch homered to deep center field for a solo shot to give Maryland its 11th run of the ballgame. It was Cowles Big Ten-leading 15th home run of the season and also extends his streak of homering in every series so far this season.

“It’s just business as usual,” Cowles said.

Coming into the game, Maryland sat on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament needing a strong series to give themselves a shot of making their first NCAA Tournament since 2017. They delivered their most complete game of the season behind its offense, Dean’s quality outing and stellar defense across the board. 

And now they’ll have a chance to take care of business and win the series tomorrow behind the Big Ten freshman of the week, Jason Savacool taking the mound. 

“That’s what winning baseball looks like, and they did a phenomenal job taking care of business tonight,” Vaughn said.

Series Preview: Purdue Boilermakers

The Maryland Terrapins (21-14) look to continue their series-winning ways this weekend as they return home to Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, to take on a struggling Purdue Boilermakers squad (11-21), giving the Terps an opportunity to further boost their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. 

Coming off a series win over Illinois, the Terps have won four straight series, have eight wins in their last nine games, have won 15 of their last 20 games, and are getting hot at the right time looking to make a push at making the NCAA Touranment for the first time since 2017. D1 baseball currently has Maryland among the last five teams in the projected field of 64 leaving no room for error.

“We’re in a position to where we control our own destiny, and that starts [with] this weekend,” Coach Rob Vaughn said.

Despite being shut out 2-0 in the first game against the Fighting Illini. The Terps bats combined for 17 runs in both games of the doubleheader en route to a 5-3 and 12-4 wins to win the series. 

Star shortstop Ben Cowles continues to stay hot with his 14th home run of the season leading the Big Ten and has homered at least once in each series this season. The Terps hit six home runs in game two of the doubleheader against the Fighting Illini. Catcher Justin Vought, who was named Big Ten Player of the Week, went 4-5 at the plate in the series. He accounted for three of those home runs in game two of the doubleheader. Vought is the first Terp since Tyler Bennett in 2009 to hit three home runs in a single game.

For the third time this season, pitcher Jason Savacool has been named Big Ten Freshman of the week. Savacool (6-1) went 8 1/3 innings and gave up four hits, three runs, and one walk with a career-high seven strikeouts that kept the Fighting Illini the best offense in the Big Ten contained. 

Purdue is coming off a 5-1 loss against Ohio State in a one-game midweek matchup Tuesday. Their previous series against Northwestern was postponed, as the Wildcats continue to pause team activities due to health and safety concerns within their program.

First pitch of game one of the series is Friday night at 6:30 P.M., followed by game two on Saturday at 2:00 P.M. and game three on Sunday to close out the series at 1:00 P.M. 

Purdue Boilermakers (11-21)

Last season: (7-7)

Purdue finished the shortened 2020 season with a 7-7 record with loses to three ranked ACC teams Duke, NC State and North Carolina in the 2020 Cambria College Classic.

Infielder Evan Albrecht led the team with a .364 batting average, 14 RBI and .442 on-base percentage.

On the mound, the Boilermakers were led by Jett Jackson who finished 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA in four appearances. 

This Season:

The Boilermakers currently sit in 12th place in the Big Ten standings. Things have not been bright for the Boilermakers on the road where they hold a 2-8 record. The Boilermakers also started off slow on the season (1-8), putting them in an early hole. The Inconsistency continued with a five-game win streak in April followed a five-game losing streak right after.

Hitters to watch:

Senior outfielder Miles Simington comes into the series with a .339 average, .955 OPS and leads the team with 21 RBI. Simington has also reached base safely in 21 straight games and during that stretch has hit .350 with more walks than strikeouts. Fifth-year catcher Zac Fascia has a .314 batting average himself with a .791 OPS and 17 RBI. Outfielder Ben Nisle has a .289 batting average, .983 OPS and 19 RBI. Outfielder Mike Bolton Jr. is also a name to watch on the base paths as he is perfect 11-11 on the season in stolen bases. Overall the Boilermakers ranked 12th in the Big Ten in batting average hitting .245. 

Pitchers to watch:

Purdue has not fared well pitching-wise ranking 12th in the Big Ten with a 6.10 ERA. Overall there’s not one pitcher who’s stood out this season for the Boilermakers but Calvin Schapira, Trent Johnson and Cory Brooks are their go-to guys to start. Eric Hildebrand is the go-to guy out of the bullpen pitching in 13 games with a team leading 3.60 ERA on 15 innings pitched. 

Starting pitching matchups:

Friday: RHP Nick Dean (2-1, 3.07 ERA) vs Calvin Schapira (0-5, 4.34 ERA)

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Dean is coming off a great outing last week against Illinois despite taking the loss. The right-hander went 7 ⅔ innings, gave up two runs (one earned) on only five hits and one walk against the top offense in the Big Ten. Dean has now pitched four consecutive quality starts — going at least six innings and surrendering three or fewer earned runs in each outing. Dean also leads the Big Ten in fewest walks allowed only giving up seven walks on the season. 

Schapira was roughed up in his last outing against Ohio State on April 30. He gave up five runs on seven hits in only three innings of work. His best outing of the season came against Michigan State where he pitched eight innings of one-run ball and recorded seven strikeouts on April 17.

Saturday: RHP Jason Savacool (6-1 5.02 ERA) vs RHP Trent Johnson (2-4 4.35)

vs.

For the third time this season, Savacool was named Big Ten Freshman of the week. Savacool went 8 1/3 innings and gave up four hits, three runs and one walk with a career-high seven strikeouts against Illinois. Savacool ranks 8th in the Big Ten in innings pitched with 57 ⅓ total innings and is tied for most wins on the season.

   Johnson pitched an inning of relief against Ohio State Tuesday and recorded three strikeouts. If you’re looking for a strikeout guy on the Boilermakers staff Johnson is your guy with 56 strikeouts on the season and a 1.51 WHIP.

Sunday: RHP Sean Burke (2-3 4.20 ERA) vs RHP Cory Brooks (2-2 6.31 ERA)

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Burke is coming off a 2 ⅔ inning outing against Illinois where he struggled and gave up six walks and allowed one earned run. Despite that, Burke still ranks 6th in the Big Ten with 75 strikeouts and batters are only hitting a .187 batting average off Burke on the season. Of course he is also No. 44 overall in Baseball America’s latest MLB Draft rankings as of last week. 

Brooks pitched three innings Tuesday against Ohio State where he gave up three runs on only three hits and took the loss. Brooks has started five games this season but has also pitched out of the bullpen in six other games. Opponents are hitting a .307 batting average off of Brooks making him hittable for the Maryland lineup. Brooks does not have a tendency to give up free bases either ranking 10th in the Big Ten in fewest walks allowed with only 13 on the season. 

Baseball is what Maxwell Costes does, it’s not who he is

A panic attack once turned into an anxiety attack at the same time for Maryland baseball star Maxwell Costes, and with several other factors the first baseman realized he needed to seek help.

“After, I would kind of sit there like I need some help or something because I can’t keep going on like this,” Costes said. “This gets to a point now where it’s affecting my play, it’s affecting me and my ability to just be a regular human being.”

The panic attack that turned into an anxiety attack occurred during a weekend series at Minnesota in the spring of 2019, Costes’ freshman season. Costes had so many different stresses going on in his life at the time and it all culminated with an attack on his mental health. He had trouble sleeping, trouble paying attention in school and trouble enjoying just doing anything. 

Costes was the 2019 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and an All-Big Ten First Team and All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection. The Baltimore native also earned Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball. He led Big Ten freshmen in slugging percentage (.547), RBI (49), home runs (15), doubles (15) and total bases (117). The slugger hit five home runs in the season’s final six games, including three in the Big Ten Tournament.

After the series against Minnesota where Costes dealt with some of his mental health struggles, he expressed to his head coach Rob Vaughn and his hitting coach Matt Swope what was occurring and also that he needed help with it.

“The spring of his freshman year is when it kind of came to light,” Vaughn said. “You look at him and you’re like ‘what are you talking about, you’re hitting .350 with 14 home runs, what do you mean you struggle with some of this?’ Having that conversation and seeing what internally he actually felt and bringing that to the surface was a major step.”

There is a clear stigma within sports that keeps many athletes hesitant from speaking out about their mental health.

“He’s not afraid to express how he feels, which in sports is just not something that is the norm,” Swope stated.

Vaughn and Swope have both been an incredible help to Costes’ improvement with his mental health struggles, in addition to the University of Maryland Athletic Department’s Clinical and Sport Psychology Services, which has been directed by Dr. Michelle Garvin since 2017.

“Dr. Garvin is literally the most wonderful human being in the world,” Costes expressed.

Garvin has really helped Costes learn what mental health is and she’s helped him find ways that work in coping with some of his struggles. In their weekly meetings together, Garvin has helped Costes realize that these struggles did not begin at that Minnesota series, but these are some things he dealt with in high school at the Gilman School.

“Now that I’ve really learned about mental health and the symptoms and effects of it, I realized I was dealing with this stuff all throughout high school,” Costes said. “I had really, really bad anxiety throughout high school, I didn’t deal with stress well and I was depressed. I am glad to say that I figured all this stuff out young, so now I know what to work on so when I get into my 30s and 40s this isn’t something that has been affecting me to the point where it affects my actual physical health.”

Vaughn and Swope, along with Maryland pitching coach Corey Muscara and assistant coach Anthony Papio, have instilled meditation and visualization into the Maryland baseball program. Every single day before hitting at practice, Swope has the players meditate for three minutes to clear their minds.

Swope brings this aspect of baseball to his team everyday because it helped him cope with some of the biggest tragedies during his life. His brother passed away when he was in high school, his sister died from cancer when she was in her 30s and his mother is currently battling cancer. Meditation is something that worked for Swope in getting through hard times, so he brings it for his players to try at practice.

“We talk about meditation and visualization all the time and I think the thing about our staff is that we’ve seen it work,” Vaughn said. “Coach Swope has dealt with a lot of stuff in his life, a lot of pain and emotional stuff. Meditation and visualization are so real to him because it has allowed him to address some of this stuff. Swope has been extremely diligent in saying, ‘if the head is not right, we don’t need to just dive in and start hitting and if the head is not right, nothing else is going to work right.’”

Looking up to Swope and having a great relationship with him has allowed Costes to adopt meditation as a major part of his mental health battle and his routine before games. 

“Right before we come out for infield-outfield warm ups, I always spend 10 to 15 minutes doing mindfulness meditation,” Costes said. “It’s not because I need to stop bad thoughts, it’s not so I stop feeling anxious and stop feeling nervous. It is more so to just recognize it, like ‘hey I feel like this right now, what do I need to do to be able to function the best.’” 

On top of the meditation that Costes does, he also turned to writing poetry as an avenue to help him mentally because it helps him get his thoughts out.

“I first started writing poetry because I had so many thoughts and things running through my head that I could never calm down,” Costes stated. “Sitting down and just writing my thoughts out is what turned into poetry.”  

Writing down his thoughts and feelings helped Costes form a journal that he writes in everyday, which he says started as a joke. Swope signs off on Costes’ journal before each practice or game and they joke that he is signing Costes’ permission slip to go hit. Over time, this became more serious and helpful for Costes’ mental health.

“I think it originally started with him knowing that it’s okay to express some of this stuff and it doesn’t take away from the fact that you could still be a really good athlete and do that,” Swope said.

Swope believes that sometimes you can go too far to the other side mentally and analyze the game of baseball and your performance too much. All of that works hand-in-hand with mental health. So, since the beginning of April, Costes has been jotting down his thoughts in his journal, which helps him express his thoughts and allows Swope to be connected to Costes’ mental health. 

“It’s just as important that he’s been able to start to express himself as a person, but making sure that he still has something that’s applicable to that day,” Swope said. “So I sign off on his journal before every game. He writes down what the starting pitcher is doing or what his plan is going to be and I had to start signing off on it because sometimes it was too cerebral. For his overall maturation and development as a person, I think it’s a lot bigger than just the game for sure.”

For Costes, sitting down with Swope and developing something that he could follow is what has helped him mentally.

“I’m not stepping into the batter’s box like ‘what’s going on?,’” Costes said. “I have a path to follow and sometimes it’s wrong, but at least I have something to base my at-bats on and something to guide me through my at-bats.”

Vaughn, Swope, Muscara, Papio and the rest of the Maryland baseball program are extremely approachable and welcoming in talking about mental health. As a coaching staff, they try to be super transparent and have specific conversations about mental health on a personal level. Costes has been lucky to have coaches believe in him and see what he is going through, which helps him open up more.

Costes and Vaughn have known each other beyond Costes’ time at Maryland because his older brother Marty Costes played at Maryland from 2016 to 2018. This allowed Vaughn and Maxwell to create a relationship early on and Vaughn has raved about him ever since.

“He is an extremely intelligent young man,” Vaughn said. “The dude could have gone to play at the Ivy League schools if he wanted to. Maxwell was very outspoken and very passionate about a lot of what we’re seeing today, before it was a new thing and before Black Lives Matter had the slogan. When he was a freshman I told him, ‘you’re going to change the world and it’s going to have nothing to do with baseball.’ I hope he plays baseball as a profession, but he’s so passionate about more.”

One of Vaughn’s messages to Costes during the early parts of his freshman year has allowed him to be more comfortable with himself as a person and open up more about his mental health struggles.

“Baseball was clearly what he does, not who he is,” Vaughn said. “He didn’t necessarily know that and we helped him grow into learning that and actually being able to appreciate that, so when he does start losing himself on the baseball field he can come back to it. But, he’s always been an incredible human being. He has serious depth to him and he cares about people. You can’t say enough about Maxwell, he’s an incredible person.”

Savacool, Vought lead Terps to doubleheader sweep 

A cloudy day in Champaign did not stop the Terps from shining both at the plate and on the mound, propelling Maryland to a doubleheader sweep of Illinois. 

Starter Jason Savacool had a memorable outing in game one, only to be topped by his battery-mate Justin Vought in game two. 

Starter Nick Dean set the bar high with an outstanding performance on Friday night, but Savacool was up for the task. The freshman phenom shined on the mound for the Terps in game one, falling just two outs short of his third complete game of the year. He recorded a career-high seven strikeouts and allowed just four hits against an Illinois offense that came into the day leading the conference in batting average.

The Terps were firing on all cylinders in game one. After being silenced last night, Maryland’s bats came alive and capitalized on many of their chances. Bobby Zmarzlak tallied a career-high three hits and Chris Alleyne drove in three runs. Six Terps recorded multi-hit games. 

The Terps also found success on the basepaths. The team was successful in all seven of their stolen base tries, with Zmarzlak, Troy Schreffler and Ben Cowles swiping two bags apiece. It was a great all-around game for the Terps, who bounced back in a big way after Friday’s tough loss.

The Terps scored their first run of the series in the third on Alleyne’s RBI single. Alleyne scored from first on freshman Matt Shaw’s RBI double down the third base line, giving Maryland a 2-0 lead. That is all the run support Savacool needed.

Sporting No. 45 for Gerrit Cole, the freshman flashed shades of the Yankees right-hander early on, retiring the first nine Illini hitters. Illinois got on the board with an RBI fielder’s choice from Justin Janas but the Illini were unable to tack on any more runs.

Savacool continued to shine, striking out Janas and right fielder Cam McDonald for his career-high seventh strikeout of the afternoon. The freshman sailed through the seventh with only three hits allowed. 

In the eighth, Alleyne extended the Terps lead to 5-1 with an RBI single, his third of the afternoon. Still in search of his first home run of the series, Cowles came up later in the inning but struck out swinging. 

Savacool worked around one hit in the eighth and got slugger Jackson Raper to fly out to center and end the inning. The freshman was back on the hill to begin the ninth, but following a hit batsmen and a single, Savacool’s stellar start ended just two outs short of a complete game. 

Closer Sam Bello entered the game, and things got a little too close for comfort for the Terps. With the bases loaded and the Illini down to their final out, catcher Jacob Campbell hit Bello’s offering off the wall for a two-run double, cutting the Terps’ lead to two. Bello was able to close out the game with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Tom Jurack, and the Terps evened the series at one apiece by taking game one 5-3. 

While the story of game one was the Terps’ success on the hill, Maryland’s offense led the charge in game two.

Down 1-0, the Terps were held quiet until the fourth inning. After being bogged down all series long, the Terps’ bats finally came alive. Maxwell Costes led off the fourth with a single before Tommy Gardiner laced a single into right, moving Costes to third. With one out, left fielder Tucker Flint stepped up to the plate and delivered an opposite-field three run homer to left. 

But the Terps weren’t done. Catcher Justin Vought followed up Flint’s homer with one of his own, a solo shot to left center.

Maryland’s offensive onslaught had just begun.

Vought led off the sixth with his second homer of the day, another solo shot to left. Alleyne followed with a homer of his own, and the Terps went back-to-back for the second time in three innings.

The Illini pushed across one run in the sixth and seventh innings to cut Maryland’s lead to three, but that was the closest they would get.

Vought’s career day at the plate was not over. The catcher unloaded on a 1-1 offering from reliever Ryan Kutt for his third home run of the game, becoming the first Terp with a three-homer game since 2009. Two batters later, Ben Cowles joined the home run party with his Big-Ten leading 14th homer of the season, giving him a home run in each series this season. The two solo home runs gave the Terps an 8-3 lead.

As the rain started to fall, the Terps continued to pour it on. Schreffler came around to score on a wild pitch and give the Terps a 9-3 lead in the ninth. Later in the inning, Vought stepped to the plate with a chance at history: a four home run game. While he did not hit one out, the catcher did lace an RBI single to left field for his fourth RBI of the game. Shaw kept the line moving with a two-run single to give the Terrapins 12 runs on the day. 

The Illini tacked on one in the bottom half, but David Falco shut the door on the Illini’s comeback hopes, giving the Terps another series win.

Maryland has won eight of their past nine and 11 of their last 13. With only three series left in the regular season, the Terps have caught fire at the right time.

The Terrapins will be back at the “Bob” next weekend for a three-game set versus a struggling Purdue ball club that has lost five of their last six.

Terps’ winning streak snapped in 2-0 defeat to Illinois

The Terps (19-14) saw their six-game win streak come to an end on Friday night, dropping a 2-0 pitchers duel to Illinois (16-16).

The starters for both clubs were the stories of the night, with both pitchers going 7 2/3 innings. Illini sophomore Andrew Hoffmann recorded a career high 12 strikeouts, with the first eight coming through the first four innings. Hoffmann threw 80 of his 111 pitches for strikes, giving up only three hits, no runs and no walks. The sophomore’s 12 strikeouts were the most in a game for an Illini pitcher since April 2016. 

Hoffmann got out to a hot start and never cooled off. The tall, lanky right-hander made quick work of the Terps early on, striking out six through three frames. He caught hitters off guard on his breaking ball, which sat about 20 miles per hour slower than his fastball. The two-time transfer student pounded the strike zone all night, getting the Terps hitters to chase. The righty reached two strike counts against each of the first nine Terps hitters.

Dean retired the first seven batters he faced, but faced trouble in the third. Left fielder Nathan Aide came up with the first hit of the game for either side with one out in the bottom of the third. Two pitches later, Freshman Cal Hejza hit an opposite field RBI single to put the Illini on the board. 

Chris Alleyne got things going for the Terps with a leadoff single in the fourth. Hoffmann responded with his seventh strikeout of the night, getting Matt Shaw to strike out swinging. Alleyne promptly stole second for his conference-leading 19th steal of the season. The speedy Alleyne advanced to second on a Ben Cowles groundout but the right hander worked out of trouble and recorded his eighth strikeout, stranding Alleyne on third. 

In the bottom of the fifth, leadoff hitter Taylor Jackson reached third on a three-base error off an errant throw from third baseman Tommy Gardiner. Illinois was unable to drive Jackson home as slugger Jackson Raper ended the inning with a flyout to right.

The Terps were unable to capitalize off of catcher Riley Langerman’s one out single in the sixth, as Hoffman continued to cruise through six. 

Designated hitter Justin Janas got on base to start the bottom half of the inning with a slow roller that hugged the third base line for a single. Tommy Gardiner made up for his fielding blunder in the fifth with a heads-up play. Gardiner intentionally dropped a lineout to third to get the lead runner at second, but catcher Ryan Hampe was called safe at first after a lengthy review, leaving manager Rob Vaughn displeased and looking for an explanation from the umpiring crew. The questionable call did not seem to phase Dean, though. He left Hampe stranded on first and recorded his first strikeout to end the inning.

With one out in the seventh, Maxwell Costes reached first on his 15th hit by pitch of the year, the second most in the conference. It was just the fourth base runner allowed by Hoffmann. The sophomore recorded his career-high 10th strikeout of the game after Tommy Gardiner was caught looking to end the top of the inning.

Both pitchers shined through seven innings, with Dean giving up just one earned run on four hits, and Hoffmann striking out a career-high ten on just two hits while giving up no runs. Neither pitcher allowed a walk through seven innings. Maryland saw only two runners reach scoring position through the seventh. 

Hoffmann recorded his 11th strikeout for the first out of the eighth, which gave him 7 1/3 innings pitched on the night, a new career-high. Hoffmann seemed to get better as the game went on. He recorded four straight strikeouts in the seventh and eighth innings as he climbed over 100 pitches. Catcher Riley Langerman ended Hoffmann’s excellent outing with a two-out bloop single in the eighth, but Cole Kirschsieper came on in relief, getting Alleyne to pop out to shortstop. 

Dean also came back out for the eighth, starting the inning at only 80 pitches. After recording two quick outs, the sophomore walked Branden Comia, the first free pass issued by either team. Five pitches later, Janas hit a single down the right field line to advance Comia to third, ending Dean’s excellent outing. Elliot Zoellner’s first pitch in relief was a wild one, scoring Comia from third and giving the Illini a much-needed insurance run. Zoellner escaped further trouble with a Hampe groundout on the next pitch.

Matt Shaw gave the Terps life with a leadoff walk in the ninth, but Kirschsieper recorded a huge strikeout of slugger Ben Cowles, who looked to be swinging for the fences during his at bat. Kirschsieper followed the Cowles strikeout with a punchout of Costes for the second out of the inning. The sophomore earned his second save of the year by retiring Matt Orlando, giving Illinois a 2-0 win. 

With the win, Illinois gets back to .500 for the first time since starting 6-6. This was only the Illini’s third win this year when scoring five runs or less. Dean took the tough-luck loss, and Hoffman earned his second win of the year.

Due to expected inclement weather on Sunday, the Terps will take on the Illini for two at Illinois Field. The first game starts at noon with the pitching matchup uncertain due to the sudden schedule change. The series finale will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one.

Series Preview: Illinois Fighting Illini

The red-hot Maryland Terrapins (19-13) look to continue their winning ways this weekend as they head to Champaign, Illinois, to take on a Fighting Illini squad (15-16) looking to get back in the win column.

Coming off a three-game sweep of Minnesota, the Terps are in the midst of a historic six-game win streak, matching their longest Big Ten winning streak in program history. Led by a pair of excellent pitching performances over the weekend coupled with timely hitting, Maryland outscored the Golden Gophers 22-10 last weekend at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium. 

The Terps have been swinging the bat great as of late. At the plate, Freshman Matt Shaw led the way with six hits last weekend while Chris Alleyne extended his season-best hitting streak to eight games. Right-hander Nick Dean went seven strong innings, allowing just one earned run and striking out eight while earning his second win of the season last Friday. Freshman phenom Jason Savacool went six innings, allowing two runs on six hits in Saturday’s walk-off win. Star shortstop Ben Cowles will look to add to his Big Ten-leading 13 home runs this weekend and first baseman Maxwell Costes heads into Friday’s contest with a five-game hit streak.

Winners of five of their last seven, the Fighting Illini were originally slated to meet Northwestern and No. 22 Michigan twice each in last weekend’s pod series hosted by Northwestern. However, the Wildcats were forced to pause team activities due to health and safety concerns within the program, leaving Illinois to face Michigan four times instead of the originally scheduled two. Illinois held their own with the Wolverines, salvaging a split but allowing a combined 37 runs in the two losses. 

Opening pitch of the three-game series is set for Friday at 7:00 p.m. on Big Ten Network Plus, while game two will be Saturday at 5:00 p.m. on Big Ten Network Plus. The series finale is set to begin at noon on Sunday on the Big Ten Network.

Illinois Fighting Illini (15-16)

Last Season:

The Illini were off to a great start last season, scoring a pair of top-25 victories as well as securing a road win against Coastal Carolina. The team finished the abbreviated season with an 8-5 record and played multiple collegiate baseball powerhouses including top-ranked West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Infielder Branden Comia led the team with a .426 average and a 1.228 OPS in 13 games. On the mound, Illinois saw Freshman Cole Kirschsieper finish 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA. 

This season:

Illinois got off to a rocky start this season, dropping their first three to No. 23 Ohio State. However, they rebounded with four straight wins. This team lives and dies with a high-powered offense. If Maryland can silence the Illini’s bats, it could be a long weekend for Illinois. Manager Dan Hartleb’s club tends to be streaky — they have a pair of four-game win streaks and a trio of three-game losing streaks. 

Hitters to watch:

Senior Jackson Raper leads the Fighting Illini offense with ten home runs and 38 RBI along with a .350 average. Raper is on the conference’s top ten leaderboard in each of those categories. He became the first Illini since 2013 to hit for the cycle, as he did so in game one of Sunday’s doubleheader against Michigan. First baseman Kellen Sarver has also seen recent success at the plate, tallying at least one RBI in ten of his last 11 contests while hitting .385/.378/.718 with four home runs over that stretch. Comia picked up where he left off last season and leads the Big Ten with a sparkling .497 OBP along with ranking sixth in the conference in hits (40) and fifth in average (.357). As a team, the Illini rank top five in the Big Ten in batting average, hits, runs and OBP. What the Illini lack on the hill they make up for at the plate.

Pitchers to watch:

Illinois has not fared as well on the mound, as the team sports a collective 7.30 ERA. Friday’s starter Andrew Hoffmann has seen the most success on the hill for the Illini this year, but more on him in a minute. The pitching staff has given up at least 11 runs in half of their losses, and gave up a season-high 19 runs in only seven innings on Sunday.

Starting pitching matchups:

Friday: RHP Nick Dean (2-0, 3.51 ERA) vs. RHP Andrew Hoffmann (1-0, 3.96 ERA)

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Dean: The sophomore right-hander has been fabulous on the mound this season, allowing only more than three earned runs once in six outings. Dean is coming off a seven-inning start where he gave up just one earned run and one walk against Minnesota. The righty has outstanding control, walking only six batters in 33 1/3 innings this season. The Terps have been victorious in each of his last five starts. 

Hoffmann: As mentioned before, if you’re looking for Illinois’s ace, you’ve found him. A reliable arm on a starting staff that has struggled for much of this season, Hoffmann is tied for the team lead in innings and has a WHIP just above one. Opponents are hitting a mere .217 off Hoffmann, eighth-best in the conference. The sophomore has made seven starts in 2021, with his most recent on Saturday in a no-decision against Michigan. He limited the Wolverines to three earned runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. Earlier this year, the John A. Logan Community College transfer was rated the 14th-ranked MLB draft prospect in the Big Ten by D1Baseball.

Saturday: RHP Jason Savacool (5-1, 5.33 ERA) vs. LHP Nathan Lavender (5-1, 4.46 ERA)

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Savacool: The freshman had a nice bounce-back outing Saturday in the win versus Minnesota, going six innings and allowing just two earned runs on six hits. After an excellent start to the year that featured a complete-game victory, Savacool cooled down and gave up at least four earned runs in four of his next five starts. The New York native has done a nice job limiting the home run ball and does not tire easily, as his pitch count typically sits in the nineties. The Terps have won all but one of his nine starts this year.

Lavender: Lavender may not have the best stuff on the Illini roster, but he sure knows how to rack up wins. The left-hander has five wins in as many starts, although he has struggled as of late. The Hudson, Illinois native has given up at least four earned runs in three of his past four outings, including being hit by the Wolverines for five earned runs on seven hits Saturday night. The rough start raised his ERA from 3.55 to 4.46. The lefty ranks eighth in the Big Ten with 57 strikeouts. Lavender has an excellent strikeout to walk ratio of 5:1 and will look to get Maryland hitters to chase early in the count. The left-hander missed last season with an injury but has stayed healthy this year.

Sunday: RHP Sean Burke (2-3, 4.24 ERA) vs. RHP Riley Gowens (1-2, 5.14 ERA)

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Burke: The hard-throwing right hander is slated to take the hill for the Terps in the series finale. While Burke has not worked over six innings this season, he has reached double-digit strikeouts three times this season, including a career-high 13 in his season debut against Michigan State. Burke ranks third in the nation in strikeouts per nine (14.68) but is coming off his shortest outing of the year on Sunday, a scoreless appearance over three innings that included only two strikeouts. Burke is comfortable with high pitch counts and threw a season-high 117 pitches at Iowa in late April. The right hander’s electric stuff speaks for itself: he ranks No. 44 overall in Baseball America’s latest MLB Draft rankings.

Gowens: The right-handed freshman finally made his collegiate debut on the mound this season after being sidelined for two years with injuries. He has swing-and-miss stuff, striking out at least six in four outings in 2021. He has done a nice job keeping runners off the base paths and has allowed less than one hit per inning this season. Gowens’s ERA has hovered around six all season, but the bright spot was his seven no-hit innings against Purdue back in late April, earning him Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors. He’ll look to replicate that success against a tough Terps lineup.

Struggles on the mound and plate hinder Terps on route to series win over Minnesota

There have certainly been prettier games played by the Maryland Terrapins, but even so, today’s game ended in success in the form of a 6-3 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers and a series sweep.  

Today’s game was a stark contrast to the previous two played in this Minnesota series. In nine innings of baseball the Terrapins produced just 12 hits and changed pitchers a total of six times.  

Maryland’s pitching staff just couldn’t seem to find their stride today as even consistent starter Sean Burke struggled early in todays game. Burke lasted just three innings and during that time he recorded only two strikeouts. While he may not have given up many runs, he didn’t exactly produce the strong performance that makes him such a standout player among this Maryland Pitching staff.  

Logan Ott did not fare much better when he entered the game in the fourth inning, and he was pulled midway through the fifth after giving up two home runs, allowing Minnesota on the board. David Falco closed out the fifth before being replaced by Ryan Ramsey for the sixth, marking four pitching changes in nearly as many innings. Connor Staine and Sam Bello finished off the eighth and ninth innings respectively, and while the Terps did end up victorious in the end, the pitching road that it took to get there was anything but successful.  

On the offensive end, Maryland continued to struggle and stray away from the explosive offensive team that showed up in the 12-4 win over the same Minnesota team on Friday. Justin Vought had a standout two-run home run in the second, and the third marked a clutch two-run bases loaded single from Tommy Gardiner to put the Terps ahead by four.  

Besides these few highlights, Maryland continued struggling offensively as a continuation from the problems seen in yesterday’s game. Too many runners were left on base, especially considering the Terps had a narrow lead going into the second half of the game. 12 runners were left on base throughout today’s game, and even just two of those runs could have provided the run support and cushion for the struggling pitching staff, and perhaps could have saved one or two pitching changes from needing to happen.  

The pitching staff and offensive energy will need to wake up and recognize that there is work that needs to be done. With just four weeks of baseball left, if Maryland wants to become a big conversation in the Big Ten Conference they will need to start working on their consistency, because the team that showed up Friday night is not the same team that showed up yesterday and today.  

The Terps will be traveling to Illinois next weekend for a three-game series, and it provides Maryland the chance to play to their abilities and increase that conversation in the conference that is so important as the season starts to come to a close.  

Maryland takes game two in stunning walk-off fashion

Tommy Gardiner just completed all baseball players’ dreams by securing a walk in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, two outs, and a tie ball game to get the win for the Terps, 4-3.  

Matthew Shaw, Maxwell Costes and Luke Shliger were all walked in the ninth inning by Minnesota’s Noah DeLuga prior to Gardiner’s walk off walk, an inning that is sure to jack up his already-high ERA for the season.  

Today’s game looked very different than last night’s game as Maryland’s offense seemed to sleep through most of the game. Save for Chris Alleyne’s leadoff homer on the very first pitch of the game, Maryland was quiet and suffered through four scoreless innings before managing to tack on a second run in the in the sixth inning off an RBI single from Maxwell Costes.  

Despite the win, Maryland’s offense struggled through the game. Last night, Coach Rob Vaughn was proud of his team for managing to score early, often and throughout all innings of the game. But today, the four scoreless innings and lack of offensive energy spelled out a very different story for this Maryland offense.  

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of today’s offensive game was the lack of game coming out of star Senior Benjamin Cowles. Cowles went 0-4 today and dropped his batting average to .318, falling to second on the team behind Shaw’s average of .319. His lack of offensive plays didn’t inhibit the Terps as they still secured the win today, however Cowles is going to need to work himself out of today’s funk for future matchups.  

Minnesota took the lead early in the second for the first time all weekend of RBI leader Ronald Sweeny’s two-run shot. The Gophers offense dealt with a problem similar to Maryland as their star offensive player Zach Raabe went 0-3 with a walk, unusual for the junior who leads Minnesota in numerous categories including batting average, hits and runs, among others.  

Maryland will face off against Minnesota tomorrow afternoon at noon to close out the series, but changes will need to be made to today’s offensive game. Minnesota is a team that has struggled all year to hold their opponents’ offensive game, but Maryland continues to struggle with scoring opportunities and stringing hits together, a problem that needs to be solved to close out this series and to get Maryland back into the conference and post-season conversation.  

Explosive offense, lockdown pitching secures a Terps win

Minnesota’s losing streak just keeps growing, and the way Maryland performed tonight in their 12-4 win over the Golden Gophers, their losing streak is going to take a massive hit the rest of the weekend.  

The pieces have finally started to fall into place for this Maryland offense, and the players have proven that their previous winning streak was anything but a fluke. The bats came alive early and often, and Terps were relentless throughout the game both on the offensive and defensive ends.  

The first half of the game featured numerous hits from a variety of players, truly showcasing the versatility that this Maryland offense has grown into at this point in the season in their ability to score off of different players and score throughout the game. 

The first inning alone exhibited four different players with impressive hits of their own. Matthew Shaw got the offense rolling with a long double, immediately followed by star Senior Benjamin Cowles and his own double and scoring his teammate. Two doubles weren’t enough in the first inning for the Terps as Maxwell Costes returns the favor to Cowles by bringing him in on his own double. Maryland wasn’t finished and Tucker Flint rounded out the first inning with a two-run shot to make their lead 4-0 heading into the second.  

Cowles proved in the second inning why he is the heart and soul of this Maryland offense after sending out a two-run homer to extend Maryland’s lead by two.  

Minnesota’s pitching struggled all night, and in the third a bases-loaded walk from Cowles put another run on the board for the Terps. Bases-loaded walks seemed to be a theme for the struggling Golden Gophers defense as the Maryland offense racked up two more runs off of walks in in the third and the sixth.  

The Terps offense cooled down a bit towards the second half of the game, but the team was still making strong contact against Minnesota. All of the contact happened to go straight to Minnesota players, but it was strong contact nonetheless. 

Nick Dean did not disappoint on the mound tonight, lasting well through the eighth inning before Ryan Ramsey took over. Dean started the game strong, recording seven strikeouts during his time on the mound and countless other easy pop ups for his defense to grab.  

The Terps will have two more chances to take the series against the Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend. Game two will kick off tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 P.M., and Maryland will need to continue scoring early and often, as well as continuing to use all aspects of their lineup to secure two more wins this weekend as well as wins in future series.  

Series Preview: Minnesota Golden Gophers

The Maryland Terrapins will be returning to College Park to host a series against a struggling Minnesota Golden Gophers team, a series that promises a chance to improve Maryland’s record and keep their new winning tendencies rolling.  

The Terps are coming off a successful outing in Iowa, taking three of the four games of the pod series against the Hawkeyes and the Northwestern Wildcats. The explosive offensive energy that emerged in Iowa City will be needed this weekend to secure a few wins over a Minnesota team that has seen better years.  

Game one of three will kick off Friday night at 6:30 p.m., followed by game two on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and game three on Sunday to close out the series at 1:00 p.m.  

The Terps struggled early in Iowa last weekend, dropping game one to the Hawkeyes 12-6 after failing to capitalize on runners in scoring position. This issue was a short-lived one, as Maryland shook off the nerves and finished out the series with dominant offensive and pitching performances.  

Maryland will be looking to none-other than Senior Benjamin Cowles to light up the offense against the Golden Gophers. In Iowa, Cowles sent out a three-run bomb to start off the second game of the series against the Hawkeyes and had a critical RBI single in the close win against Northwestern 2-1. He continues to lead the Maryland offense with a .323 batting average and his offensive talent will be crucial in the upcoming series.  

Minnesota is a team that has struggled defensively this season, allowing 250 runs across their 27 games. Just four of those games were wins for the Gophers, and even then, the defense allowed numerous runs on the road to the W. Maryland will have a chance to prove their win streak is not a fluke and wake up their offense this weekend against a team that has had little success this year.  

Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-23) 

Last Season: 

Prior to the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, last year’s Minnesota team had managed to get more wins in nine games than this year’s team. The 2020 Golden Gophers finished 8-1 and possessed a .284/.381/.393 slash line. Their OBP is nearly .300 lower than their 2021 numbers, yet the results of this year’s games are nowhere near the early success of last year’s team.  

This Season: 

The Gophers have seen better seasons and arrive in College Park dragging a ten-game losing streak behind them attached to their 4-23 overall record. The Gophers boast a .236/.679/.352 slash line thus far on the season, impressive numbers that don’t quite match up the sheer amount of losses experienced and runs allowed for this Minnesota defense. Maryland will have a chance to capitalize on their low morale, as their most recent loss to Big Ten rival Indiana ended in a double digit win for the Hoosiers 23-1.  

Hitters to Watch: 

The star of this Golden Gophers offense can be found in Junior infielder Zack Raabe, a player that leads Minnesota in batting average (.379), hits (33), runs (15), on base percentage (.481) and slugging percentage (.609). On March 14, Raabe became one of 45 players across the nation to be named to the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List, and although he struggled in the most recent series against Indiana, his stats this season and his accomplishments are just two reasons he can’t be counted out just yet. Other hot hitters for the Golden Gophers include homerun leader Easton Bertrand and RBI leader Ronald Sweeney.  

Pitchers to Watch: 

Reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Jack Liffrig will be arriving in College Park following a strong showing against Michigan State last week, throwing seven shutout innings to the Big Ten’s only nationally ranked team. Liffrig has secured himself a 4.86 ERA thus far, and Maryland’s bats will need to come alive if they are unfortunate enough to face off against the sophomore pitcher with the skills to back up his award. Minnesota’s pitching staff also boasts a second strong starting pitcher in Sam Ireland, who’s last starting performance against Michigan State saw the sophomore work himself out of multiple dangerous innings. He enters College Park with a 4.10 ERA, the lowest on this Golden Gophers team.  

Starting Pitching Matchups:

Friday: RHP Nick Dean (1-2, 4.10 ERA) vs. TBD

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Nick Dean is making his first Friday start of his career, opening up the series against Minnesota rather than the typical Sean Burke. Dean is in the midst of a four-game pitching win-streak, recording a quality start in his last outing against Iowa as well as a season-high 94 pitches.

Saturday: RHP Jason Savacool (5-1, 5.65 ERA) vs. Jack Liffrig (1-1, 4.86 ERA)

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While Savacool still leads the way for Maryland pitching wins, he’s yet to get back to the level he was at in his first few starts. He’s led the way to two wins in his last two starts, but his ERA over those games stands at 7.59. However, he has been striking out more batters as of late, amassing ten strikeouts in his last pair of starts.

After starting his season with two complete games in three starts, Liffrig has hit somewhat of a rough patch. In his last four starts, he’s surrendered 13 runs over 25 innings, but one of those starts was a stellar seven-inning, shutout outing with eight strikeouts against a strong Michigan lineup.

Sunday: RHP Sean Burke (2-3, 4.53 ERA) vs. RHP Tom Skoro (2-2, 8.02 ERA)

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Burke is moving to the Sunday spot for the first time this season, and it comes after two of his stronger starts of the season. In those starts, he struck out 19 batters while allowing just four runs in 11 2/3 innings. After his first three starts sent his ERA up to 6.46, but his recent run has him sitting at 4.53 ahead of his date with Minnesota.

Skoro has come out of the bullpen for the majority of his appearances, including his last appearance that ended in disaster against Indiana. In a 23-1 loss to the Hoosiers, Skoro came out of the pen for four innings giving up five runs and three walks. This will be his first start since March 13.