Nebraska is the best team Maryland has seen this season (barring one game with UCF) and will provide the first and maybe the toughest test of 2015. This weekend’s series pits the Big Ten’s top offense (Maryland) against the conferences best pitching staff (Nebraska) – something has to give.
Nebraska is as hot as it gets – winners of 15 of their last 16 games – including a three-game sweep of a ranked Texas team last weekend.
Their pitching staff is lights out. Nebraska’s weekend starters have a combined ERA hovering around 2.60 and their bullpen is even better. Maryland will not survive if they fall behind this weekend. With rain expected in an already-pitching-friendly College Park, the Terps will have to grind out wins in competitive, low-scoring games.
Nebraska reached the NCAA Tournament as the lone at-large Big Ten team last year. They finished third in their Regional, defeating Binghamton and falling to Cal State Fullerton twice. The Huskers posted a final record of 41-21, reaching their first NCAA Tournament since 2008.
Historically, Nebraska is a been a hotbed for pro talent. Seven Cornhuskers are expected to break Spring Training as Major Leaguers and several more populate the Minor Leagues.
Head Coach Darin Erstad enters his fourth season in Lincoln. Known for his offensive prowess as a part of the 2002 World Series Champion Anaheim Angels, Erstad has built a national power at Nebraska. An alum of the school, Erstad was a former No. 1 overall pick and a two-time MLB All Star.
Nebraska features a left-handed heavy lineup, led by sophomore centerfielder Ryan Boldt. Boldt leads the team with a .339 average and five stolen bases. The Huskers have four other starters batting above .300. However, they are starved for power, only hitting six home runs as a team all year.
They’ll beat you with pitching defense – the Huskers rank first in the Big Ten in both ERA (2.30) and fielding percentage (.983).
Maryland Notes: The Terps are undefeated at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium this season (7-0) – Kevin Mooney is the seventh Terps pitcher to start a game in 2015 – Mike Shawaryn is now 17-4 to begin his college career – that 17-win plateau puts him in a tie for third place in school history and three wins off the school’s all-time mark
SATURDAY AT NOON
So. RHP Mike Shawaryn (6-0, 2.11) vs. Sr. RHP Chance Sinclair (4-3, 3.45)
Shawaryn continues to dominate. Fresh off 7.1 innings of one-run ball against Michigan, the New Jersey righty continues to lead the Big Ten in strikeouts and wins. With the rest of the rotation in constant flux, Maryland needs Game 1 on Saturday with Shawaryn on the mound.
While Shawaryn hasn’t lost in 2015, Nebraska ace Chance Sinclair hasn’t lost a Big Ten game in his career – he’s 7-0 in his 9 career Big Ten starts. Sinclair was First Team All-Big Ten and Third Team All-American last year after going 9-1 with a 2.15 ERA over 100 innings. He was the first Cornhusker since 2008 to eclipse triple digits in innings. He’s a former JUCO transfer and does not strike out many, but pitches deep into games and eats innings.
SATURDAY AT 3:30PM
So. LHP Tayler Stiles (2-2, 3.81) vs. Sr. LHP Kyle Kubat (4-0, 1.33)
Stiles returns to the weekend rotation after an incredible run in the Terps’ bullpen. He is coming off of a seven-inning outing against Michigan where he held the Wolverines to two hits. Stiles also showed the ability to get out of key jams and had become one of the most important arms in the Maryland bullpen. After a tough start to the season in the weekend rotation, Stiles and the Terps are hoping he straightened things out in the bullpen and that Take 2 in the rotation goes better.
Kubat has been the best pitcher for Nebraska this season. The Waterloo, Neb. native is looking for career win No. 20 Saturday, and is coming off consecutive nine-strikeout outings (career highs). A former Freshman All-American, Kubat ranks top 10 in the Big Ten in ERA (1.88), wins (4) and opponents’ batting average (.211), and is tied for second with 47.1 innings pitched. He’s also gained a reputation as a big-game pitcher, which Saturday certainly qualifies as. Kubat has brought home multiple postseason accolades.
SUNDAY AT NOON
Jr. RHP Kevin Mooney (8 IP, 0.00) vs. So. RHP Derek Burkamper (4-1, 2.87)
Mooney, Maryland’s all-time saves leader, left his heralded spot as the team’s closer on Wednesday. The right-hander threw 39 pitches in two scoreless innings of work to help beat JMU. Mooney has yet to allow a run in eight innings of work in 2015 and has the stuff to beat anyone – which is why the Terps’ coaching staff is turning to him to serve as the band-aid to a battered weekend rotation.
Burkamper was drafted by the Red Sox out of high school and is in his first year in the weekend rotation. The 6-foot-2 inch righty from Iowa is coming off an excellent outing against Texas. He reached the ninth inning, allowing only two runs and five hits. He did not walk a batter as Nebraska won 6-2. It was the longest outing of Burkamper’s career.