Series Preview: Northwestern Wildcats

Looking to close out their home schedule strong, the Maryland Terrapins take on the Northwestern Wildcats this weekend in College Park for their final Big Ten series of the season.

In last weekend’s series against Illinois, Maryland (32-15, 14-7 Big Ten) turned in two losses after Friday’s 9-4 victory. On Friday, the Terps’ offense backed up another solid Brian Shaffer performance, totaling 11 hits, led by Kevin Smith’s two hits and three RBIs. However, the bats could not bail out Tyler Blohm or Taylor Bloom, who struggled Saturday and Sunday, respectively.  On Sunday, the offense put together a ninth inning rally with big hits from Nick Dunn and Will Watson to tie the game, only to lose on a walkoff home run in the bottom of the frame.

However, the Terps got back on their feet earlier this week when they kicked off their final homestand with a 6-2 win over the UMBC Retrievers on Tuesday.  Breaking out of the struggling midweek pitching trend, left-hander Tayler Stiles recorded their best midweek start of the season, tossing five shutout innings with six strikeouts. This win brought the Terps to 19-1 at home.

While the Terps lost their last weekend series, Northwestern (19-27, 8-10 Big Ten) clinched a series victory last weekend with an 8-7 victory over Purdue. The Wildcats collected 13 hits in the series finale, led by freshman second baseman Alex Erro’s four-RBI performance and senior outfielder Joe Hoscheit’s four hits.

The Wildcats had the most successful month of April for their program since 2010, posting 11 wins, six of which were conference wins. Since, they have split their last four games. Despite taking the series in West Lafayette, the Wildcats still own a 10-15 record on the road.

They have struggled at times both on the mound and at the plate this season, with a 5.21 team ERA and a .249 average. Hoscheit, Erro and Matt Hopfner have been the most consistent Northwestern Hitters this season. Hoscheit leads the team with a .333/.412/.516 slash line, five homers and 39 RBIs, while Hopfner leads in doubles (15), runs (35) and total bases (81). Erro is hitting .295 and is tied with Hopfner for the team-lead in hits with 54.

Left-hander Sam Lawrence has been the most reliable pitcher out of the bullpen for Northwestern this season, leading the team with 18 appearances and ranking second in ERA with a 3.55 mark. His 38 innings are the most for any Wildcat pitcher that has not made a start this year. Tyler Lass has been shaky out of the bullpen, allowing a .319 average over 14 appearances, but is averaging a strikeout per inning pitched. Pete Hoffman owns a lofty 4.99 ERA in 17 relief appearances, but leads the team with three saves and has struck out 37 batters in 30.2 innings pitched.


Starting Pitching Matchup 

FRI 2:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Brian Shaffer (6-2, 1.78 ERA) vs. Sr. LHP Cooper Wetherbee (2-2, 2.91 ERA)

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In Brian Shaffer’s last start against Illinois last weekend, he set his career high in strikeouts (83) for a single season.  Although the junior allowed eight hits, he struck out the same amount and held Illinois to two earned runs.  Shaffer remains the Big Ten leader in ERA and innings pitched, and ranks second in strikeouts.

Shaffer’s opposite number, Cooper Wetherbee, has also put together a fine season. He has bounced back and forth between the bullpen and rotation this season, leading the Wildcats in ERA while also picking up a save. Despite only making six starts, the right-hander has tossed 46.1 innings over 16 appearances, and ranks eighth in the conference in ERA. In his last start against Purdue, Wetherbee allowed just three hits and two runs while striking out five, through six innings of work.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

SAT 3:00 p.m. EST

Fr. LHP Tyler Blohm (8-4, 3.17 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Hank Christie (3-4, 4.31 ERA)

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Tyler Blohm has been dominant since becoming Maryland’s Saturday starter, leading the Big Ten in wins and ranking second on the Terps in strikeouts (53). Even after struggling Saturday against Illinois (2.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, L), the freshman southpaw ranks in the top ten in the conference in ERA, strikeouts, and opponent’s average (.225).

Hank Christie will be on the other side of Saturday’s freshmen pitcher’s duel.  The right-hander has been a fixture in the Wildcats rotation, as he is the only pitcher to make 12 starts this season. As a result, he leads Northwestern in innings pitched (62.2) and strikeouts (42). Christie has had an up-and-down season, but has been impressive of late, allowing just one earned run over his last three starts, spanning 20 innings. He had one of his best starts of the season last week against Purdue, allowing six hits and one unearned run through eight innings, but got a no-decision as Northwestern fell in 12 innings.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

SUN 1:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Taylor Bloom (5-2, 4.26 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Josh Davis (3-2, 3.76 ERA)

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Taylor Bloom led the Terps in ERA a year ago, but has had an up-and-down 2017. In his last start, Sunday at Purdue, he gave up five hits and four earned runs through 4.1 innings, but got off the hook for the loss when Maryland came back to tie it in the ninth. He’ll look to get back on track Sunday.

Like Wetherbee, Josh Davis has switched back and forth between the bullpen rotation this season. He has made seven starts this season, but his last appearance was in relief, when he pitched 1.1 innings out of the bullpen against Purdue Sunday. His last start came May 2 against Notre Dame, a six-inning, three-run performance. Opponents are hitting .261 against him this season, but his control has been impressive, as he has walked just nine hitters in 40.2 innings.