When left-hander Andrew Miller retired Michigan State second baseman Dan Durkin for the last out of Sunday’s doubleheader, the Maryland Terrapins not only clinched their fifth sweep of the season, but they improved to 18-1 at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
Maryland (28-11, 12-3 Big Ten) currently sits atop the Big Ten standings, in large part due to its success at home. In their three conference series’ in College Park this season, the Terps swept Penn State and Michigan State, and took two of three from then-No. 18 Michigan.
In 2014 and 2015 — the last two seasons Maryland reached the NCAA Super Regionals — the team went 21-7 and 16-9 at home, respectively. With just five home games left this season, the Terps have clinched a home-record finish with single-digit losses in College Park for the third time in the last four years. Currently, Maryland is tied for the third best home record in the country.
After finishing 15-16 away from Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium last season — which includes neutral site games — Maryland is 10-10 in such contests this season. But head coach John Szefc believes the difference between his team’s home and away record isn’t because they necessarily struggle away from College Park.
“I don’t think we play bad on the road, it’s just that the results have been a little bit different,” he said. “The home team usually wins 70 percent of the time in college baseball.”
This statistic is consistent with the Terps’ 70-28 record — 71 percent — in College Park over the past four seasons. During this span, Maryland owns a .551 record away from Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
Maryland’s tough away schedule is a factor in why the team can’t duplicate its home record on the road. Of the Terps’ 10 losses away from home, seven have come against teams ranked in the top 40 in RPI. The Terps lost a game during opening weekend to Louisville (RPI 6) in Clearwater, Florida, were swept by LSU (RPI 13) in Baton Rouge, lost two of three at Nebraska (RPI 38) and dropped a midweek game at North Carolina (RPI 3). The Terps are currently ranked 25th in RPI.
At home, eight of the Terps 18 wins have come against teams outside the top 200 in RPI — Penn State, Princeton, Saint Joseph’s and Richmond. Overall, Maryland has the 82nd toughest schedule of 299 teams. Even though the Terps’ home schedule has been easier on paper than on the road, there appears to be an extra energy Maryland has when it plays at home, to which Szefc attributes to his “veteran squad.” The numbers led credence to the affect it has on the Maryland weekend rotation.
For the second consecutive weekend at home, Maryland’s starters — Brian Shaffer, Tyler Blohm and Taylor Bloom — all lasted at least six innings. As a team, Maryland allowed just 11 runs in their last six home games against Penn State and Michigan State.
Altogether, that makes the Maryland weekend starters a combined 12-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 102 innings at home. The same trio is 5-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 72.2 innings when pitching on the road.
Bloom says that College Park has become a difficult location to play at as a visiting team, helping not only the pitching staff, but the team as a whole.
“I think we’re a really tough place to play just because of the energy we have in the dugout,” Bloom said. “We just supply the energy ourselves and I think it’s just really hard for teams to come in here and beat us.”
Maryland’s energy in the dugout was present for both games of Sunday’s doubleheader, which featured dancing from senior infielder Pat Hisle, loud “U-S-A” chants after drawn walks and abrupt cheers during a streak of 12 straight balls thrown by Spartan pitchers.
“You have to really respect [the bench] because they’re not sitting there pouting because they’re not playing,” Szefc said. “They’re trying to get involved and help the group win. You talk about why you have that kind of success, well that has something to do with it.”
Not only has the weekend pitching flourished at home, but the offense has followed their lead. Maryland’s bats average more runs, hits, doubles and home runs per game at home than on the road.
Even on the base paths, the Terrapins show more aggressiveness on their own turf. The team is 34-for-45 (76 percent) in stolen base attempts in away games and 48-for-53 (91 percent) in College Park.
“Every day we’re here we bring a lot of energy. Our guys just do a good job of battling for nine innings every time we’re out here and we expect to win every time, especially at home,” outfielder Zach Jancarski said. “It definitely gives our guys a confident boost before the game even starts and I think that’s important, too.”
The Terps are currently on an eight-game road trip and won’t play in College Park again until May 9. In its five remaining home games, Maryland will look to continue making Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium a tough and unenjoyable location for any opponent to win ballgames, says Szefc.
“People don’t want to come in here and play,” Szefc said. “There’s some places we go to that I don’t want to go play at. I think [Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium] is becoming one of those kind of places for opposing teams.”