After struggling to a 1-2 record in the season-opening Clearwater Tournament, things don’t get any easier for the Maryland Terrapins. This weekend, they head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take on the No. 5 ranked LSU Tigers (4-1).
The Terps opened the season as the No. 22 team in the country, according to D1 Baseball, but their pitching staff, most notably the bullpen, faltered in the first three games of the season. In the season opener Friday night, Brian Shaffer no-hit Ball State through four innings, and left after five with the Terps holding a 3-1 lead. But the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead, surrendering seven runs in four innings, including a five-run sixth, as the Terps fell 8-3. The following night, Taylor Bloom struggled in his first start, allowing six runs (three earned) in three innings. Hunter Parsons had a rough time polishing off the frame for Bloom, but settled down and held Louisville scoreless for the rest of his outing. Maryland salvaged the series Sunday with a 9-7 victory over Alabama State, but the bullpen again struggled, giving up four runs in the ninth before Andrew Miller closed it out. More so than the pitching, it was the defense that plagued the Terps all throughout the weekend. Maryland committed seven errors on the weekend, including five in Saturday’s contest against Louisville.
While the Terps struggled in parts on the mound and in the field to open the season, they quickly found a rhythm at the plate, scoring 19 runs in the three games. Marty Costes (.500, 3B, 2 RBIs), Brandon Gum (.500, 2B, 2 RBIs) and Nick Dunn (.357, 2B, HR, 3 RBIs) set the pace for Maryland at the plate, and will look to carry their hot bats to Baton Rouge. While Madison Nickens (.000) and Zach Jancarski’s (.091) batting averages suggest they didn’t fare well, both drew three walks and have on-base percentages north of .333. Kevin Smith did struggle, however, going 1-12 with seven strikeouts to open the year, including a performance against Louisville that saw him go 0-5 with five strikeouts and leave seven runners on base.
But the Terps’ bats will have to face an LSU pitching staff that allowed just three runs over 23 innings in their opening weekend. LSU opened the season with back-to-back shutouts against Army, 9-0 and 6-0 in the day game and night-cap, respectively. Senior left-hander Jared Poche, who the Terps will see this weekend, tossed the sixth no-hitter in school history in the night-cap Saturday, striking out four and allowing just one baserunner on a error in the seven-inning affair. The Tigers played only seven innings in each game of the double-header, something that is allowed at the collegiate and minor league levels. They finished off a perfect opening weekend with a 10-3 victory over Air Force Sunday afternoon. The Tigers split their midweek games, falling to New Orleans Tuesday but rebounding to defeat Hofstra Wednesday.
Dominant on the mound, the Tigers are no slouches at the plate, either. They slashed .295/.385/.422 a year ago, and had four starters hit over .320. While center fielder Jake Fraley was drafted and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, the other three returned this year: second baseman Cole Freeman, outfielder Antoine Duplantis and shortstop Kramer Robertson. Through four games this season, LSU is hitting .339 at the plate, with Robertson (.500, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 5 RBIs), Freeman (.462, 2 2B, 3 RBIs) and right fielder Greg Deichmann (.333, 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs) leading the way.
STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP
FRI 8:00 pm EST
Jr. RHP Brian Shaffer (0-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Alex Lange (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Terps right-hander Brian Shaffer impressed in his first start since taking over the Friday night ace spot, throwing four no-hit innings before surrendering a run on three hits in the fifth. It wasn’t his most efficient start, but his final line – 5 IP, 1 R (1 ER), 6 K – was nonetheless a strong start to the season for the man taking over for Mike Shawaryn.
Alex Lange threw five shutout innings in LSU’s season opener against Army Saturday. The junior right-hander has done nothing but impress in his time in Baton Rouge. He posted a 1.97 ERA his freshman season, and while his ERA jumped up significantly last year (3.79), he finished second in the SEC in innings (111.2) and fourth in strikeouts (125).
STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP
SAT 3:00 pm EST
Jr. RHP Taylor Bloom (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs. Sr. LHP Jared Poche’ (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
An integral part of the three-headed monster that was the Terps’ starting rotation a year ago, right-hander Taylor Bloom led the team in ERA (2.46) while walking just nine hitters in 102.1 innings. His first start of 2017, however, was not as stellar, as the junior gave up six runs on six hits and three walks over three frames.
He will look to get back on track Saturday when he faces off against southpaw Jared Poche, who is fresh off the first individual no-hitter by an LSU pitcher since 1979. Poche has a solid track record with the Tigers, as he has won nine games in each of his three seasons, posting an ERA under 3.35 every year.
STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP
SAT 12:00 pm EST
Fr. LHP Tyler Blohm (1-0, 3.60 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Eric Walker (1-0, 1.80 ERA)
Freshman Tyler Blohm, a highly touted prospect out of high school, picked up the win in his first collegiate start last Sunday against Alabama State. The southpaw allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits over five innings.
LSU will counter with freshman right-hander Eric Walker, a Texas native who put up impressive numbers (7-3, 1.24 ERA, 95 K) his senior year of high school. He, like Blohm, picked up the win in his first collegiate start Sunday, going five innings and allowing two runs (one earned) while striking out six.