Game Preview: West Virginia Mountaineers

Maryland baseball (19-24, 5-9) kept its Big Ten Tournament hopes alive over the weekend, taking two of three games from Michigan State on the road. The Terps sit in 10th place in the conference, with Rutgers and Michigan State still in between them and an opportunity in the postseason. Now, before their next conference challenge, they’ll travel to Morgantown, West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers on Tuesday evening.

The Terps began their weekend at Michigan State poorly at the plate, recording just three hits in a 4-2 series-opening loss to the Spartans. Freshman Mark DiLuia made his second consecutive Friday night start, allowing four runs (three earned) in 6.2 innings, but the offense struggled to back him up.

Maryland responded to the tough result on Friday with two big wins to finish the weekend. Hunter Parsons and Kevin Biondic held the Spartans to just two runs on seven hits en route to an 8-2 win on Saturday. Second baseman Nick Dunn went 3-for-4 with four runs, including his ninth and tenth homers of the year. Biondic and shortstop AJ Lee also recorded multi-hit games to help even the series.

In what was perhaps a must-win game on Saturday, left-hander Tyler Blohm and left fielder Marty Costes rose to the occasion. The southpaw allowed just one earned run over six innings, while Costes hit a go-ahead grand slam and later made a diving catch to preserve the lead.

The Terps will turn their attention to West Virginia for a midweek road content. Maryland and the Mountaineers met three times last season, with the Terps taking the regular season matchup at home, while West Virginia returned the favor twice in the NCAA Winston-Salem Regional to eliminate Maryland from the tournament.

The Mountaineers (22-19, 6-9 Big 12) have taken a step back from last season and have struggled in conference play. West Virginia has won just two of its five conference series, but just took two of three from No. 19 Texas at home. The team is now 12-6 at home this season.

West Virginia’s biggest strength is its offense. The Mountaineers hit .273 as a team and average 5.7 runs per game, with three hitters — Marques Inman, Kyle Gray and Darius Hill — all hitting over .300 on the season.

Inman, a sophomore infielder, has been great after taking a medical redshirt season last year. He leads the team with a .349 average and 32 RBIs. Gray, a junior infielder, is arguably the biggest power threat for the Mountaineers. He’s hitting .333 with a team-leading nine home runs. Hill, a junior outfielder, is one of three players who has started in all 41 games, leading the team in hits. He’s also only struck out 10 times in 175 at-bats.

West Virginia’s pitching, though, has given up nearly six runs per game and its weekend pitching hasn’t been as effective as it could be.

Senior right-hander Shane Ennis has been the most-used reliever for the Mountaineers, pitching 37.2 innings in 22 appearances this season. Twenty-one of those outings have come out the bullpen. Ennis has a 3.11 ERA while holding hitters to a .265 average.

Sam Kessler and Jackson Wolf have nearly identical statistics this season, each with a .284 ERA in 19 innings. Kessler has 20 strikeouts to just eight walks, holding hitters to a .236 average, while Wolf has 17 strikeouts to 10 walks while holding opponents to a slim .209 average.

All three of West Virginia’s weekend starters have struggled at times this season, and all have ERAs above 4.00. Opponents have hit .273 against the trio of weekend starters, a main reason the Mountaineers have struggled in conference play.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. EST


 2000px-West_Virginia_Mountaineers_logo.svg.png vs. 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

 Starters for both team have yet to be announced.