Game Preview: Towson Tigers

Maryland baseball’s chances at making the Big Ten Tournament took a big hit after losing two of three on the road against Nebraska this past weekend. Mathematically, though, there’s still a chance to sneak into the last spot with little room for error against Rutgers and Indiana.

Before then, the Terps will host Towson on Wednesday for their last midweek game of the season. Maryland has won its last seven games against the Tigers dating back to 2012, including a thrilling 6-5 victory last season at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.

Maryland used seven different pitchers, with no one player throwing more than two innings. Ryan Hill tossed the first two scoreless frames, but then the Terps employed six more arms en route to the victory. Of those relievers, though, on John Murphy is still on the roster.

The Terps and Tigers were tied going into the bottom of the eighth, but then AJ Lee launched a solo homer to give Maryland the lead. Will Watson provided an essential insurance run with an RBI single later that inning. Towson cut its deficit to one in the top of the ninth and then loaded the bases, but former right-handed pitcher Ryan Selmer struck out a batter to end the game.

Towson (13-35, 6-12 CAA) has not been great this year, and if the Terps stay focused, it could be an opportunity to get the bats hot and keep the arms fresh before Rutgers comes to College Park this weekend. The Tigers are ranked 266th out of 297 teams in the RPI.

Towson snapped a nine-game losing streak Sunday against the College of Charleston, fending off a two-run ninth inning to win 5-3. During their last 10 games, the Tigers have been outscored 114-35. Towson is 4-8 in midweek games this season.

The Tigers have struggled to match the offense of their opponents. They score 4.7 runs per game with a .233 team batting average, while their opponents average 7.9 runs per game with a .301 average. Towson has conceded double-digit runs 16 times, and three of those occurrences have yielded over 20 runs.

Despite all the troubles, two players have been consistently good for the Towson offense: junior infielder Richie Palacios and senior infielder Billy Lennox. Nobody on the team is hitting above .259 except Palacios and Lennox, who are hitting .322 and .292, respectively.

Palacios became the first Tiger to win the CAA Rookie of the Year back in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. He hit .329 in his freshman season, .338 last year and .322 through 48 games as a junior. He has 16-multi hit games this season, leading the Tigers in runs (50), hits (57), doubles (16), home runs (8), RBIs (30), among other categories. He has 44 walks to only 15 strikeouts and is 22-for-23 on stolen bases.

Lennox played two seasons at Frederick Community College before transferring to Towson, where he hit .256 last season. He’s increased that average to .292 this season, with nine doubles and a triple. He’s one of three players on the team with at least 40 starts this season.

Towson’s pitching is a major weakness, as it has a 7.05 ERA. As a team, the Tigers have given up 493 hits and 288 walks in 407 innings pitched this season. Not one pitcher has found any success; of players with at least 10 innings this season, the lowest ERA is a 4.12.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Wednesday, 4:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Dean Stramara (2-1, 4.12) vs. RFr. LHP Billy Phillips (1-1, 8.47)

Dean_Stramara.jpg Towson_Tigers_logo.svg.png vs. 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logobilly phillips photo

 Stramara has been the best regular pitching for the Tigers, posting a 4.12 ERA in 43.2 innings this season. This will be only his third start of the season, though, and he isn’t accostumed to pitching deep into games. His season-high for innings is five, and that was back on March 14. Since then, he hasn’t pitched more than 3.2 innings and an outing, so this will likely be a bullpen-heavy game for Towson. Stramara does get into trouble, as opponents are hitting .330 against him. He conceded five runs in 3.1 innings on Saturday.

Phillips will be making his third consecutive midweek start of the season against the Tigers. He had a very successful first-career start two weeks ago, but struggled against West Virginia in his last outing. Phillips allowed eight runs in 1.1 innings, but only five were earned. In the 13 batters he faced, he allowed five hits and walked two to get knocked out early. Phillips is still working his way back in his first season pitching for the Terps, and Towson and its .233 average poses a good opportunity for him to record another successful start.