With conference play in full swing and warmer weather heading toward College Park, the Maryland Terrapins host the Purdue Boilermakers this weekend, looking to turn things around after a rough week.
After posting a .500 record through two Big Ten home series, Maryland hit the road last weekend, traveling to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to take on the Wolverines. The Terps all sorts of obstacles in the series, from starting pitcher injuries to cold weather delays to travel curfews. With the temperature at or below freezing for most of the weekend, the teams managed to only play two of the three scheduled games, both of which were Terrapin losses. Maryland returned to College Park on Tuesday, but fell to VCU, 14-3, to split the season home-and-home series with the Rams.
The Terps (16-20, 3-5 Big Ten) continue to struggle offensively; they have put up 14 total runs in their past five contests, going 1-4 in that stretch. As a team, Maryland is hitting .229 on the year, good for third-to-last in the Big Ten, and is faring just slightly better in conference play, with a .239 mark.
Nick Dunn is the only Terps regular hitting over .300, and he leads the team in most offensive categories, including batting average (.331), home runs (7), runs scored (27) and RBIs (25). Kevin Biondic’s .272 average is the next best mark on the team, and the senior first baseman ranks second with five homers and 21 RBIs as well. Marty Costes has not been able to replicate his dominant sophomore year at the plate, although the outfielder did notch two hits, including his third homer of the season, in Tuesday’s setback. Randy Bednar, Justin Morris and Taylor Wright have all showed signs of breaking out at the plate recently, with Bednar launching a two-run homer – his fourth of the season – against VCU.
On the mound, Maryland has faltered of late, although some of these struggles can be blamed on injuries over the weekend. Friday night starter Taylor Bloom was hit in the head during warmups before Friday’s contest in Ann Arbor and could not start, so Rob Vaughn had to piece the series opener together with redshirt freshman Mike Vasturia and four relievers. In Sunday’s weather delayed series finale, left-hander Tyler Blohm left after one inning with an injury, as usual Sunday starter Hunter Parsons had to toss five innings of relief in the loss.
Kevin Biondic continues to be the best bullpen arm for Rob Vaughn’s squad, leading the Terps with a minuscule 0.50 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18 innings of work. John Murphy has 30 strikeouts in 20 innings, but his control issues (17 walks, 6 hit by pitches) has led to a lofty 4.05 ERA. As a team, the Terps rank third from the bottom of the Big Ten with a 5.27 overall ERA.
The Boilermakers (16-16, 4-4 Big Ten) come into town stumbling, having lost six of their last seven contests. They split a home-and-home midweek set with Indiana State this week, but got stomped at home last weekend by Minnesota, losing 22-7 and 18-8 before the third game was cancelled. Three of their four Big Ten wins this season came in a sweep of Penn State in University Park, with the other coming in the series opener against then-No. 10 Indiana in the series opener two weeks ago.
Purdue ranks near the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in both batting average (.261) and ERA (4.47). While the Boilermakers have a big advantage over the Terps in average, they just barely best Maryland in slugging (.363 vs. .361) and on-base (.359 vs. .350). They average nearly five runs per game, but do it without much in the power department, hitting just 16 long balls in 32 games.
Jacson McGowan has been the Boilermakers’ most dangerous hitter this season, leading the team with nine homers, 39 RBIs, 24 walks, a .427 on-base percentage and a .593 slugging percentage. His .310 average is second best, behind only Skyler Hunter’s .328 mark. Nick Dalesandro is hitting .305 with a team-high nine doubles and 10 of the team’s 40 stolen bases. Ben Nisle (five homers, 22 RBIs, .484 slugging) is also a power threat for the Terps to be wary of.
Left-hander Ross Learnard is the go-to arm in Purdue’s bullpen. The senior has allowed just two runs (both earned) in 17.2 innings of work, for a 1.02 ERA, while striking out 17 hitters. Freshman right-hander Bo Hofstra leads the bullpen with 26.2 innings of relief work (not including a three-inning start early in the season), posting a 3.64 ERA in his 15 appearances. Trent Johnson owns a 1.88 ERA in nine appearances (five starts), but has been slotted into the rotation in recent weeks.
The Terps and Boilermakers met only once last year, in the Big Ten Tournament. Maryland came out victorious, 5-2, thanks to five shutout innings from Taylor Bloom and an eighth-inning bases loaded double by Kevin Smith. The Terps took two out of three from Purdue in College Park in 2016.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Friday, 6:30 p.m. EST
Sr. RHP Tanner Andrews (3-3, 2.50 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia (1-2, 5.92 ERA)
Senior right-hander Tanner Andrews takes the ball for Purdue on Friday night. He leads the Boilermakers with 50.1 innings pitched and 43 strikeouts, even after a rough outing last time out against Minnesota. Last Friday, he made it through just 3.2 innings against the Golden Gophers, surrendering six runs (three earned) on six hits and five walks while not recording a strikeout. Unearned runs have been a common theme for the 6-foot-3 right-hander this season, as only 14 of the 26 runs he has allowed have been earned.
With Taylor Bloom still recovering from being hit in the head last week in Michigan, right-hander Mark DiLuia will get the nod for the Terps in the series opener. The freshman has seven midweek starts and nine total appearances under his belt, but this will be his first career weekend (and conference start). DiLuia’s past two starts have been the best of his young career. He tossed seven innings of one-run ball last week at James Madison, a week after holding William & Mary to one run over six innings. He did not receive a decision in either outing, and will look to pick up a win with another strong start in conference play.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Saturday, 2 p.m. EST
Jr. LHP Gareth Stroh (4-2, 5.67 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Hunter Parsons (3-2, 3.18 ERA)
Entering Big Ten play, Gareth Stroh was putting together a strong junior campaign. Through seven starts (including one conference start against Penn State), he owned a 3.12 ERA, and had completed five innings five times. However, his past two outings, against Indiana and Minnesota, have been a different story. He lasted a combined five innings in the two starts, allowing 15 runs (13 earned) on 11 hits and seven walks to raise his ERA by more than two runs. The left-hander got the start against Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament last year, allowing two runs over 5.1 innings of work.
With eight starts (and ten appearances) under his belt, Hunter Parsons has been the Terps’ best starter this season. The right-hander leads the team in ERA and innings (and ranks fourth in the conference with 56.1 innings pitched). He didn’t get a start last weekend due to the weather-shortened series in Ann Arbor, but contributed five strong innings of relief in Sunday’s loss, allowing just two runs while striking out seven Wolverines. This will be his first Saturday start, after occupying the Sunday spot in the rotation up until this point.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST
Fr. RHP Trent Johnson (1-1, 1.88 ERA) vs. So. LHP Tyler Blohm (4-2, 3.99 ERA)
Freshman Trent Johnson has worked himself into the Purdue rotation in the past month, as Sunday’s outing will be his fourth weekend start in the last five weeks. His last time out, Tuesday against Indiana State, Johnson threw three hitless innings, allowing just two walks while striking out three. Against Penn State on March 31, he turned in the best start of his career, striking out six in five scoreless frames, but then allowed three runs in 3.1 innings against Indiana the following week. The right-hander has whiffed 26 hitters in 25 innings of work, and opponents are hitting just .173 off him, but has struggled with control at times, walking 16 batters.
A week after leaving his start after one inning due to arm discomfort, Tyler Blohm will take the hill Sunday this weekend, rather than in his usual Saturday role. In his last full start, two weeks ago against Illinois, the southpaw was brilliant, striking out nine over 6.1 innings of one-run ball, and he will look to return to that form against Purdue. Blohm leads the Terps with 46 strikeouts in 45 innings, and opponents are hitting .244 off him.