UPDATE: This game has been postponed until a later date (TBA) due to inclement weather.
By Jacob Weinberger
Maryland is coming off a three-game weekend series against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The Terps went 1-2 in the series, dropping Friday’s opener by the score of 3-1, won Saturday’s game by the score of 9-5, and fell in the finale on Sunday, 5-1.
Junior catcher/DH Nick Cieri had a strong opening weekend. The Terps’ cleanup hitter has already collected four hits in ten trips to the plate (.400, 4-10) on the season, including a home run. Cieri also knocked in three runs and scored two.
RHP Ryan Selmer was stellar out of the bullpen in his two appearances this past weekend. The 6′ 8″ sophomore defused a 7th inning rally by the Tide by striking out the one batter he faced. In the second game of the series, the Selmer pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, allowed 2 hits, no runs, no walks, recorded 3 punch-outs and the save.
The VCU Rams enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history (40-25) in 2015. Although finishing the regular season in fifth place (14-10) in the Atlantic 10 Conference, the Rams won the conference tournament and therefore an automatic bid into the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. In 2015, the Rams earned their first NCAA Super Regionals appearance after upsetting #1 seed Dallas Baptist in the Regionals. The two teams met twice last season, and the Rams won them both, winning 2-1 in 10 innings at home and 3-1 in College Park, Maryland.
This season the Rams are 2-1 following a three-game road trip in Georgia. The club wasn’t lacking any offense in its 15-11 and 8-6 victories over Kennesaw State and Georgia State, respectively. However, the Rams’ bats were quieted in a 9-1 defeat at Georgia Tech.
VCU lost two key players to the MLB Draft and graduation this past offseason. Vimael Machin was the Rams’ best hitter, batting .339 with 53 RBIs. The Puerto Rico native was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 10th round of the draft. Also absent from the Rams’ 2016 roster is their ace from last season, Jojo Howie. Howie, a southpaw, recorded an 8-7 record with a 2.77 ERA. The senior also tossed two complete games and one shutout, and shined against the Miami Hurricanes in the NCAA Regional, allowing no earned runs on four hits in 6.1 IP.
The Rams do return other key members of their lineup. Outfielder Logan Farrar hit .317 last season with three home runs, 31 RBIs and 49 runs scored. The junior, who was a mainstay at the top of the lineup for the Rams last season, has moved down in the order to bat third, and enjoyed a productive opening weekend, batting .333 while scoring four runs, drawing five walks and stealing two bases. Also returning to the lineup is Matt Davis. Davis was excellent in 2015, putting up a .323 average with seven home runs and 43 RBIs. The shortstop has struggled at the plate to start the season, hitting a mere .154, but did go deep in his first at-bat of the season.
The new leadoff hitter for VCU is leftfielder James Bunn. The senior went 4-10 over the weekend with two triples and a home run, good for five RBIs and four runs score. Bunn has also walked four times and stolen a base. All four of his hits came in the season opener, and he went 0-5 in the following two games, but Bunn’s hot start is second to none on the team.
The main weakness for the Rams to open 2016 appears to be their pitching staff. Through 3 games, VCU pitchers have a 7.62 team ERA, and opponents are batting .397 against the staff. The Rams have used 9 different pitchers in 3 games, and only 1 did not allow an earned run. Only 3 pitchers have allowed less than 2 earned runs in any appearance. The lone bright spot has been junior relief pitcher Sam Donko. Donko has made 2 appearances out of the bullpen, pitched 1.2 innings, struck out 1 batter, allowed no hits or runs and recorded a save.
STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP
WED AT 3:00 PM
Fr. RHP John Murphy (0-0, 0.00) vs. Fr. RHP Benjamin Dum (0-0, 18.00)
The freshman New Jersey native Murphy will get his first career start for the Terps tomorrow. The big righty (6-foot-4 and 240 lbs.) finished with a 5-2 record, 1.83 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 46 innings pitched in his senior year at Gloucester Catholic, the same high school fellow Terp Mike Shawaryn attended. In fact, Murphy has more career wins at Gloucester Catholic than Shawaryn. Murphy features a low-90s fastball and an exceptional curveball.
Dum is making his first career start for the Rams on Tuesday, but it will not be his first appearance. In Sunday’s 9-1 loss at Georgia Tech, the freshman pitched 1 inning and struck out 1 batter, but surrendered 4 hits and was tagged with 2 earned runs. Dum was ranked as a top-5 right-handed pitcher in the state of Pennsylvania in 2015. Scouts say that his fastball ranges anywhere from 87-90 MPH, and that he has good command of the strike zone.