Game Preview: VCU Rams

After losing the first two games of their home-opening series against Army, Maryland (3-4) salvaged the series finale Sunday with a 6-3 victory. Now, the Terrapins will try to get back to the .500 mark Wednesday at 3 p.m. when they travel to Richmond to take on the VCU Rams (3-5). It is one of two matchups between the Terps and Rams this year; Maryland will play VCU in College Park on April 17.

The two teams last met in a home-and-home set in March 2016. The Terps won both contests – 8-1 in College Park and 7-1 in Richmond. Maryland has won six of the last eight meetings, dating back to 2013.

The Terps seemed unstoppable at the plate to start the season, scoring 20 runs in three contests at Tennessee on opening weekend. Since then, they’ve cooled off dramatically, however, tallying just 13 in four games since, and are now slashing .215/.339/.391 on the year. After awakening from the slumber to score six in their win Sunday, the Terps will look to continue their offensive resurrection at VCU.

Second baseman Nick Dunn leads the Terps with a .292/.469/.750 slash line, three homers and six RBIs. Center fielder Zach Jancarski leads the team with eight hits, and launched two homers last Wednesday at William & Mary. AJ Lee, who is tied with Dunn for the team lead in walks (7), homered over the weekend, as did Randy Bednar, who hit his first collegiate long ball. Maryland will look to awaken the bats of Marty Costes, Will Watson, Kevin Biondic and Justin Morris, all of whom are hitting under .200.

After some early struggles, Maryland’s bullpen snapped into shape over the weekend, tossing 9.1 innings without allowing an earned run. Sean Fisher tossed three scoreless innings, and Biondic pitched three innings at the back end of Saturday’s contest, allowing one unearned run. Closer John Murphy has not surrendered a run in four innings of work so far. 

Like the Terps, the Rams have battled inconsistency so far this spring. They lost three straight at Liberty to open the season, then won three straight against William & Mary and West Virginia, before falling twice on Sunday – once to Illinois and once to Coastal Carolina.

The Rams’ offense has been strong early on, hitting .277 as a team and averaging 5.4 runs per game. They have scored at least four runs in all but one game this season. Infielder Zac Ching has led the way, pacing the team with a .433 average, .526 on-base percentage, and six runs batted in. Brett Willett boasts a .385 average through eight games, as well as a team-best .462 slugging percentage. Outfielder Haiden Lamb is hitting just .233, but brings an element of speed to the Rams lineup, stealing a team-high four bases in five attempts.

While the offense is potent, they are lacking in the power department. They are slugging .356 on the year, with just three homers in eight games. Paul Witt, Mitchel Lacey and Jack Schroeder each have one home run, with Lacey and Schroeder going deep in their most recent contest, a loss to Coastal Carolina Sunday.

VCU’s pitching (6.26 team ERA) has been the its downfall, giving up at least seven runs in three of their first eight contests. They surrendered a season-high 15 on Sunday against Coastal Carolina, a week after Liberty plated 14 against them opening weekend.

Right-handers Connor Gillispie and Sam Ryan are VCU’s best starters early on, albeit neither has been able to pitch deep into games. Gillispie owns a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings, spanning across three starts, striking out 12 with a .167 opponent’s average. In two starts (seven innings), Ryan has not given up a run, and opponents are hitting just .130 off him, though he has walked six batters.

Benjamin Dum is the workhorse out of the VCU bullpen. His ten innings are tied with Gillispie for most on the team, and he’s posted a sparking 1.80 ERA with 12 strikeouts and no walks. Right-hander Mac McCarty leads the team with four appearances and three saves, despite a lofty 8.31 ERA.

This matchup will be VCU’s first home game of the season. The Rams played four straight road games to start the season, before traveling to Conway, South Carolina, for three neutral-site games against Illinois and West Virginia, and a true road game against Coastal Carolina. The Terps have played four road games to date, going 2-2 in those contests.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Wednesday, 3 p.m. EST

Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia (1-0, 7.20 ERA) vs. So. RHP Sam Ryan (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo   vs.  

Freshman right-hander Mark DiLuia will get the ball for the Terps, making his first career start. The projected midweek starter at the beginning of the year, DiLuia was skipped the first time around after he tossed 3.2 frames against Tennessee the Sunday before. After struggling early on at Knoxville, the Illinois native settled down on Sunday, tossing 1.1 scoreless innings against Army.

Right-hander Sam Ryan has been VCU’s best pitcher early on this season, as he has not allowed a run in his two starts (seven innings total). He struggled with his control in his first start opening weekend at Liberty, walking five and uncorking a wild pitch over three innings of work. The Fairfax County, Virginia, native looked much better last time out, allowing just one hit and one walk in four innings against West Virginia. Opponents are hitting just .130 off him this season.