This is by far the most important series of the year.
Maryland’s postseason fate relies heavily on what happens this weekend in Columbus. 33 at-large bids are available for the NCAA Tournament, and the Terps are sitting at No. 51 in RPI and No. 28 in the rankings. Excluding the Big Ten Championships, the Buckeyes are the best team left on the Terps’ schedule and are considered a likely postseason team.
Both teams were swept on their home fields last weekend, so you have to think motivation will be at an all-time high for both clubs. The Buckeyes lost all three games to No. 7 Illinois, while the Terps were swept by Indiana.
Ohio State has a rock solid weekend rotation and one of the best closers in the Big Ten. Like Kevin Mooney, Trace Dempsey leads his school in all-time saves, having racked up 36 in his career. This year he ranks fourth in the Big Ten in saves (7), second in wins (9) and tied for first in games finished (21). All the wins are a byproduct of Ohio State’s seven walk-off victories this season. They are 17-7 at home.
The Buckeyes rank in the top half in just about every offensive category, and lead the league in stolen bases (71). This is in large part due to Troy Montgomery, who leads the Big Ten with 29 thefts. Montgomery is having a breakout season. He’s batting .310 while slugging .497 and ranks fourth the conference with 46 runs scored.
Pat Porter and Ronnie Dawson lead the power charge for Ohio State. Both have seven home runs and over 30 RBIs this season. Porter ranks top 10 in five offensive categories.
FRIDAY AT 6:35
So. RHP Mike Shawaryn (10-1, 1.74) vs. So. LHP Tanner Tully (4-3, 3.58)
The Terps’ ace is making his second attempt to tie his own single-season wins record from last season. He suffered his first loss of the year last Friday against Indiana, surrendering five runs for just the second time all season.
Like Shawaryn, Tanner Tully is a reigning Freshman All-American. The southpaw finished second in the nation with a 0.68 BB/9 mark, going 6-3 with a 2.22 ERA. He is coming off his worst outing of the year, an eight run shellacking at the hands of No. 7 Illinois.
SATURDAY AT 3:05
R-Jr. LHP Rob Galligan (2-3, 2.27) vs. So. RHP Travis Lakins (3-3, 3.55)
Galligan is making his third start of his career Saturday in Columbus. The lefty has had one excellent outing and one difficult one. He gutted his way into the fifth against Indiana, but took the loss in what became a 13-2 Terrapin defeat, their largest loss of the year.
Lakins is sophomore who posted a 2.45 ERA out of the bullpen last year and is having a fine sophomore season as a full-time starter. Lakins was an outstanding two-way player in high school in Ohio, and has a good chance to lead the Buckeyes in strikeouts for the second straight year.
SUNDAY AT 1:05
Fr. RHP Brian Shaffer (4-0, 4.97) vs. Sr. LHP Ryan Riga (5-3, 2.30)
Brian Shaffer will be pitching on three days rest on Sunday after beating Towson over five innings of work on Wednesday. Shaffer has been terrific as the midweek starter, having only allowed three runs over his last 22 innings in that role. Sunday will be his third weekend start of the season, and his first since March 1.
Riga is also looking to bounce back from a tough start against Illinois, when he allowed six runs to allow the Buckeyes to get swept. The senior has the best ERA of all the Ohio State starters, and has tossed over 260 innings in his college career.