by John Vittas
Maryland did what they had to this weekend – win all three games against the bottom-dwelling Purdue Boilermakers. Here are the redeeming qualities of the series:
1. The weekend rotation is solidified…for now.
The Terps have finally found the winning combination with the trio of Shawaryn-Galligan-Drossner.
Rob Galligan had shown that he could pitch several effective innings at a time, but finally got the chance to do so as a starter this weekend. The lefty from Long Island struck out a career-high 10 and allowed only two runs over seven innings as the Terps swept Friday’s doubleheader.
Jake Drossner was dominant last Sunday against Cal State Fullerton, turning in a career performance. Getting his second Sunday start yesterday, Drossner was good, but not great. The good news was that he only gave up one earned run and Maryland won the game. But Drossner walked three and didn’t get out of the fifth inning, which sounds a lot like the old Jake.
But at least for now, Maryland seems to have figured out the biggest conundrum of 2015 – the weekend rotation. However, the upcoming weekend series with solid Indiana and Ohio State teams will be much more telling.
2. The lineup is still thin.
After getting held to two runs over their previous three games, Maryland exploded for 19 runs in Friday’s doubleheader. So problem solved, right? Not exactly. First of all, Purdue is one of the worst three pitching staffs in the Big Ten, posting a 5.55 team ERA and allowing teams to bat over .300 against them. Secondly, the bottom part of the Maryland lineup is Thin with a capital T.
The bottom third of the Terrapins batting order went 3-for-32 (.094) this weekend. No matter what John Szefc does, there is bound to be at least two hitters in his lineup batting below .200. If a couple of the main guys struggle on a particular day, the offense quickly becomes anemic. Maryland once led the Big Ten in hitting, they’ve now dropped to ninth (.270).
The bottom line – the freshman have to step up. Whether it be Justin Morris, Kevin Biondic, Kengo Kawahara or Jamal Wade, one or two of those youngsters will have to elevate their game down the stretch for the Terps to be a complete club.
3. As success is sustained, the milestones are starting to come.
The two faces of the franchise, John Szefc and Mike Shawaryn, accomplished major milestones this weekend.
Shawaryn broke the Maryland all-time wins record Friday, and John Szefc became the quickest Terrapin coach to reach 100 wins on Sunday.
Maryland can now say they have the greatest starter (Shawaryn), closer (Kevin Mooney) and coach (Szefc) in school history on the same team. That’s remarkable, considering they’ve been playing baseball at Maryland since 1893. The records and milestones will only continue to come as the Szefc era carries on in College Park.
4. Maryland is getting their mojo back.
The Terps showed no life against VCU, getting trounced twice in the midweek. But even with the flaws that still exist, Maryland seems to have gotten their swagger back this weekend. After pounding out double-digit runs on Friday afternoon, the Terps enjoyed a fun practice in the pouring rain, sliding across the Alexander Field tarp on Saturday.
They followed it up with an exciting comeback win on Sunday. For the second time in as many weeks, the Terps scored three runs in the ninth to stun the opposition on their home field.
While the sweep does come with an asterisk (they beat the worst team in the league), this weekend’s road trip was the most enjoyable of the year for the players. Terps fans can only hope the added chemistry carries over into May.
And don’t forget, it was right around this time last year that Maryland flipped the switch and began their torrid run to the Super Regionals.