Two days after a morale-boosting 6-1 win to snap a six-game skid, the Maryland Terrapins hit the road to begin a seven-game trip away from College Park, facing the Michigan State Spartans in a three-game set.
Rob Vaughn’s Terps will look to use that “complete” victory to rejuvenate a team that has lost six straight conference games. A road series with the Spartans, however, is a tough opportunity to do so.
After starting off 0-5 in the Big Ten, Michigan State has won six straight games, including a two-game sweep of Nebraska and last weekend’s three-game sweep of Northwestern. Overall, the Spartans have won their last five contests, and nine of their last 11.
A major key for their recent success has been their pitching. Michigan State’s pitching staff ranks third in the Big Ten in runs per game, and is led by a pair of solid weekend starters. Ethan Landon, the Friday starter, has had back-to-back starts with at least six strikeouts, while Saturday starter Mason Erla has held opponents to a .216 clip on the year. As a staff, Michigan State has allowed the fewest homers in the conference.
What Michigan State lacks in firepower offensively — it ranks last in the Big Ten in home runs — it makes up for with discipline and small ball. As a team, the Spartans have struck out the second-fewest times in the conference, and have stolen the most bases, thanks in large part to Bryce Kelley, the sophomore two-way player who has swiped 24 bags.
The one batter that provides some pop to the Spartan lineup is senior Zack McGuire, the team leader in home runs (5) and RBI (21). The other catalysts of the offense include Justin Antoncic, who is hitting a team-best .308 and has an on-base percentage of over .400, and Chad Roskelly, a .300 hitter that leads the team in slugging percentage.
Roskelly enters the weekend series as one of the hottest hitters, as he is riding a 14-game hitting streak and an 18-game on-base streak.
Unlike Michigan State, Maryland utilized the long ball often over the past week, as three home runs propelled it to a midweek victory over James Madison. Nick Dunn, Will Watson, and Randy Bednar all homered, and Maryland has three player with at least five home runs. The Spartans have just one.
Another thing to watch for is Maryland right-handed pitcher Taylor Bloom, who could make a relief appearance after he missed his last two starts following an injury. He was struck by a line drive in the head before a game against Michigan earlier this month.
The Terps and the Spartans have met six times in the regular season since Maryland joined the Big Ten prior to the 2015 season. In 2016, the teams split their four meetings (one of which was in the Big Ten tournament), and last season, the Terps swept the Spartans in College Park.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Friday, 3:05 p.m. EST
RSr. RHP Ethan Landon (2-5, 3.25 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia (1-3, 5.93 ERA)
Ethan Landon has had some tough luck on the hill, picking up a team-high five losses in his 10 starts, but the redshirt senior has still been a reliable starter for the Spartan staff. The strike-throwing right-hander has struck out 59 batters in 63.2 innings, and has recorded at least six strikeouts in each of his last two starts. Arguably his best outing came last Friday in the series opening win against Northwestern, where he threw seven innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out eight batters, one shy of a career-high.
DiLuia has made seven midweek starts so far this year, but will get his second crack at a Friday appearance as he looks to keep the Terps afloat while Bloom recovers. In his first weekend start of his career, the freshman threw 111 pitches in six innings, and allowed four runs (all earned). He did, however, struggle with his control, as he has shown erratic tendencies at times throughout the season. He walked five Purdue hitters in the start, but did a good job of escaping trouble, as only one of those baserunners scored.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Saturday, 1:05 p.m. EST
RFr. RHP Mason Erla (5-2, 3.51 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Hunter Parsons (3-2, 3.06 ERA)
Erla has arguably been Michigan State’s most dominant starter this season, and despite some control issues, has had a stellar first season as a main contributor for the Spartan weekend rotation. The righty is one week removed from a six inning outing against Northwestern, during which he allowed just one earned run. Opposing hitters have hit just .216 against Erla, the lowest for any Spartan hurler. One area in which Erla has struggled though is allowing extra base hits. 18 of the 45 hits he has allowed this year have gone for extra bases (14 doubles, four home runs).
Parsons will get the nod on Saturday for the second straight week, and he has earned it. The junior has bounced back from a rough start to the season with several incredible outings, most recently an eight inning, five-hit gem against Purdue last weekend. He allowed two runs and lowered his ERA to just over three. The junior has provided a consistent quality start for the past several weeks, and has given Maryland a strong chance to win in each of his last few starts.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. EST
TBA vs. So. LHP Tyler Blohm (4-2, 4.39 ERA)
Blohm will make a Sunday start for the second straight week after Parsons took his spot as the Saturday starter. Still, the southpaw has been effective, and has battled through starts even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. A prime example of that was last weekend against Purdue, where he allowed eight hits and five earned runs, but still gave the Terps six innings of work. It was a pleasant bounce back appearance, as the left-hander was able to throw 100 pitches after he was removed from a game against Michigan the week earlier due to arm soreness.