A brand-new season starts Friday for Maryland baseball, as the Terps begin conference play at home against Indiana, the team that helped officially eliminated them from a Big Ten tournament berth last season.
When Maryland traveled to Bloomington for the final series of the 2018 campaign, it controlled its own destiny and knew its path to the postseason. Win all three games, and the Terps would’ve been headed back to the conference tournament.
The exact opposite happened. Indiana won the first two games of the series, and before the series finale even started, the Terps had already been mathematically eliminated. Then, Maryland suffered a season-ending 13-3 defeat to end the year with a sour taste.
That difficult weekend can be vindicated, to an extent, this weekend in College Park. For the first time since 2014, Maryland didn’t play a midweek contest in the days before the conference opener, giving the Terps a full work week to prepare for the typical conference powerhouse.
Maryland has lost its last six games at home — a three-game sweep two weekends ago against East Carolina and the same result last weekend against Creighton. The Terps are only averaging two runs per game during the tough spell at home.
After last weekend, no player is hitting above .300 for the Terps. Third baseman Taylor Wright’s .297 average is the closest to that mark. Wright leads the conference with 10 doubles and ranks third with 27 hits.
Outfielder Randy Bednar and first baseman Maxwell Costes sit near the top of the Big Ten in runs batted in. Bednar’s 20 RBI are the fourth-most in the conference, and Costes’ 19 are tied for fifth. That production will need to continue as Big Ten play kicks off.
Indiana Hoosiers (15-9, 3-0 Big Ten)
Indiana had another very successful season, finishing the year 40-19 with a 21-5 record at home. After ending the regular season on a six-game winning streak, including the sweep over Maryland, it participated in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. A win over Michigan State was sandwiched between a pair of losses to Iowa, and then the Hoosiers suffered season-ending losses to a pair of ranked teams in No. 25 Texas A&M and No. 14 Texas.
Indiana enters this series with eight wins in its last nine contests, including a sweep at home against Iowa to begin its Big Ten slate. The Hoosiers are 9-1 at home, but 6-8 away from Bloomington. Indiana has tested itself against three ranked opponents, and won one of those games. The Hoosiers lost to No. 1 Oregon State, 8-3, and No. 11 Coastal Carolina, 6-5, but beat No. 21 UConn, 9-6.
Hitters to Watch
Junior outfielder Matt Gorski is the consistent bat in the Hoosiers lineup, hitting a team-high .299 with 26 hits. His six home runs are the fifth-most in the conference. Sophomore infielder Cole Barr is only hitting .259, but his nine homers lead the Big Ten and are 12th-most in the entire country. In total, Indiana has four hitters sitting at or above a .284 batting average. Maryland only has one of those.
Pitchers to Watch
Sophomore righty Connor Manous is the go-to arm out of the bullpen. His 21.1 innings in 13 relief appearances are third-most on the team, including the starting pitchers. He owns a 2.95 ERA and holds hitters to a .149 average. Junior lefty Andrew Saalfrank has split six appearances between relief and starting. In 17.1 innings, he has a 2.60 ERA with 19 strikeouts and only six walks.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Thursday, 6:30 p.m. EST
Sr. RHP Hunter Parsons (3-2, 2.63 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Pauly Milto (4-1, 2.28 ERA)
Parsons only allowed three earned runs in his first four starts of the season. He’s now allowed nine in his last two starts. Still, the righty went eight innings last weekend against Creighton, striking out 10 batters. It was his first performance of the year without a walk. Parsons allowed two earned runs over six innings last year against the Hoosiers.
Milto was in the middle of Indiana’s rotation a season ago, and he’s transitioned into the ace without much trouble. He only allowed one earned run with 10 strikeouts last weekend against Iowa, pitching into the ninth inning. He’s conceded one or fewer runs in three of his six starts this year. The right-hander only allowed one run against Maryland last season.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Friday, 2:00 p.m. EST
Jr. RHP Zach Thompson (1-2, 3.63) vs. Jr. RHP Tanner Gordon (2-3, 3.98 ERA)
Two weekends ago, Thompson had his best outing when he allowed two runs over eight innings against a very good East Carolina team. He followed it up with a solid, but less impressive two-run, five-inning outing against Creighton. After transferring and sitting out a season, this will be Thompson’s first taste of Big Ten competition.
Gordon’s junior campaign didn’t start very well, allowing 12 earned runs in his first 16 innings of the season in four starts. Since then, though, he’s been untouchable in his previous two outings. He’s allowed seven hits in 15 innings, only conceded two earned runs, and struck out 22 hitters. In those two starts, he recorded double-digit strikeouts in each and only had one combined walk.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST
Fr. RHP Trevor LaBonte (1-2, 2.63 ERA) vs. Jr. LHP Andrew Saalfrank (1-1, 2.60 ERA)
For the first time in LaBonte’s starting career, he didn’t last a full five innings last weekend against Creighton. The freshman only conceded one run in 4.2 innings, but a pair of career-highs with eight strikeouts and five walks, his pitch count couldn’t carry him through the fifth frame. LaBonte hasn’t conceded more than three runs in the first five starts of his college career.
Saalfrank has made six appearances this season, notching a start in three of them. He only pitched two innings last weekend, but didn’t allow a run before his departure. Two weekends ago, the southpaw had in incredible outing. He allowed one earned run in seven innings, recording 14 of his 21 outs via the strikeout. He hasn’t walked more than two batters in an appearance this season.