By Jake Eisenberg
After a loss to UC Irvine on Wednesday, the Terps travel 30 minutes north to Fullerton to take on the No. 23 Cal St. Fullerton Titans in matchup between two 2015 postseason teams. The Terps fell to the eventual national champion Virginia Cavaliers in the Super Regionals, while the Titans made it to Omaha, but were eliminated after losses to Vanderbilt and LSU.
The two teams met last season in College Park, and Maryland was able to take two out of three from the perennial baseball power. RHP Mike Shawaryn got the better of RHP Thomas Eshelman in a Friday night pitcher’s duel for a 2-1 win. The Saturday game was an emotional one for the Terrapins. Two pitches into his start, LHP Tayler Stiles took a line drive the face sustaining a scary season-ending injury that he’s since returned from. RHP Robert Galligan come on in relief and kept the Titans at bay, helping the Terps to a 9-5 win. Sunday’s contest feature LHP Jake Drossner’s best career start as a Terp, as he held the Titans scoreless over eight innings. However, Fullerton’s staff matched Drossner zero for zero and scored in the ninth to come away with a 1-0 win.
Cal St. Fullerton (10-6) got off to a shaky start in 2016, with a .500 record through 12 games. But, the Titans have found their stride as of late, and ride a four-game winning streak into the weekend. It’s the pitching that has been the Titans’ strength. Fullerton’s team ERA of 1.92 ranks fourth in the country, and the staff’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is ninth in the nation at 147:43. To top things off, the Titan’s arms have allowed the fewest hits-per-game in the nation (5.2) and boast a stellar .168 opponent’s batting average.
The Titans are coming off a sweep of Wichita St. and mid-week win over San Diego St. Over the four game winnings streak, the Titans allowed one run in three of the four games, outscoring their opponents 29-3. Leading the offense is senior outfielder Dalton Blaser, batting .375 with seven RBIs. However, Blaser is the only member of the team with a batting average over .300. The team scores 4.4 runs per game despite a team average of .238 thanks to an ability to manufacture runs. The Titans have laid down 16 sacrifice bunts on the season and swiped 17 bases. The stolen bases could become a major factor in the Titans’ offensive strategy this weekend, as the Terps catchers have thrown out just four would-be base-stealers in 23 attempts.
The Terps (7-9) enter this weekend’s series looking to continue strong weekend pitching. Last weekend against Bryant, the Terps starters tossed a combined 23 innings, good for two wins and a loss, and a collective ERA of 1.96. Through 16 games, the Maryland offense has been strong, with a team batting average of .278 while scoring 5.6 runs per game. Additionally, after tinkering with the lineup at the beginning of the season, it seems the coaching staff has settled on a definitive starting nine, penciling in the same lineup in each of the last four games. The team is 2-2 over those four games, batting .260 and scoring 18 runs.
The surprises thus far for the Terps have been the bats of Marty Costes and Justin Morris. Costes has now made 11 straight starts, earning the job in left field after swinging a hot bat. Morris was tabbed to platoon at catcher with Nick Cieri, who serves as the team’s DH when not behind the dish, but Morris has made strides at the plate. After ending 2015 with a .133 average, the sophomore is hitting .281 with an on-base percentage of .410 thanks to seven walks.
While the offense has been producing, the defense has let the Terps down on more than one occasion. The defense has logged 23 errors on the season that have led to 18 unearned runs. Maryland has committed at least one error in each of the last seven games (last game without an error was 8-1 win over SE Louisiana).
The Terps, who are yet to be ranked across the five main polls, have played just one game against a ranked opponent, losing to #16 ECU 4-3 (Alabama was not ranked during the season-opening series, but have been in and out of the top 25 since). The series with Cal St. Fullerton offers an opportunity to the Terps to get their season back on the right track, while taking down a ranked opponent (ranked 23rd in D1baseball.com’s latest poll) in the process.
STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP
FRI AT 10:00 PM ET
Jr. RHP Blake Quinn (3-1, 2.35 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Mike Shawaryn(2-1, 3.31 ERA)
Shawaryn wasn’t at his best in his last start, but was able to earn his second win of the season. The righthander tossed seven innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits. However, the junior logged more walks than strikeouts for the first time in his career, allowing five free passes to two punchouts. Shawaryn dazzled against Fullerton last season, producing the best start of his career and getting the best of 2nd Round draft pick Thomas Eshelman in a pitcher’s duel in College Park. Shawaryn tossed eight shutout innings, recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts and walked none.
Quinn has been strong in each of his last two starts, recording wins against Texas Tech and Wichita St. The junior has logged 11.2 IP over the two starts, allowing one run, five hits and striking out 16, including a career-high 10 against Texas Tech. Quinn didn’t pitch last season due to NCAA transfer rules, coming to Fullerton by way of Freso St. The righthander picked up Freshman All-Amerian honors with the Bulldogs in 2013 and then went 0-1 in three starts (11 appearances) with a 4.45 ERA in 2014.
STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP
SAT AT 9:00 PM ET
So. RHP Connor Seabold (1-1, 1.10 ERA) vs. So. RHP Taylor Bloom (2-2, 2.25 ERA)
Bloom has shined in his past three starts, and has emerged as Maryland’s best pitcher statistically—his 2.25 ERA, 28.0 IP and 24 strikeouts all lead the team. The sophomore took a tough-luck in his last start, despite pitching a complete game, allowing two runs and striking out five. Bloom has now eclipsed 7.0 IP in each of his last three starts, not allowing a walk in his past 23.o innings. He’s also struck out at least five in his last three starts (19 total), including a career-high nine against Rhode Island. Bloom’s main concern is allowing hits, as he’s allowed 26 in 28 total innings, with an opponents batting average of .243.
Seabold took over the Sunday starting job for the Titans last season after Justin Garza was lost to injury, making 11 starts in the second half of the season. The sophomore started the season in the bullpen, but has since moved to the rotation after a stellar relief appearances against Indiana, in which he allowed no runs, hits or walks over 4.1 IP and struck out seven. In his only start of the season—last weekend against Wichita St.—the righthander earned his first win of the year, allowing just one hit over six innings, striking out six.
STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP
SUN AT 4:00 PM ET
Fr. RHP Colton Eastman (4-0, 1.38 ERA) vs. So. RHP Brian Shaffer (1-1, 4.12 ERA)
Shaffer struggled to begin the season, which could’ve been a product of rust, as the righthander battled elbow issues throughout the offseason. Shaffer earned his first win of the season last weekend against Bryant, allowing one run over seven innings, striking out six and walking just one. The sophomore has had only one poor start this season—a 2.1 inning start against Rhode Island where he allowed four runs. In each of his other three starts, Shaffer has allowed two runs or fewer and pitched at least 5.o innings.
Eastman has shined in the Sunday slot for the Titans. The freshman was drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in the 30th round, but passed up the chance to go straight to professional baseball to come to Fullerton. Eastman has gone at least 5.0 innings in each of his four starts this season, and allowed no more than one run in each of his last three starts. He leads the team in innings pitched (26.0), wins (4) and trails only Seabold in ERA. The righthander tossed seven shutout innings in a win against Wichita St., striking out four and walking one, improving his strikeout to walk ratio to 21:4.