Preseason Countdown #3: Starters preview

While no official rotation has been set for Maryland as we close in on three days until Opening Day, the unique 2021 schedule helps us narrow down the 22 pitchers on the roster to the few that will likely be starting games every weekend.

Since the schedule is limited to weekend series (with a few doubleheaders mixed in), the opportunity for non-starters to get starting reps on the mound is barely a possibility, so it could take more than a weekend for Coach Rob Vaughn to figure out his rotation. Before that decision is officially made, here’s a look at the prospective starters for the 2021 season:

LHP Sean Fisher (Senior)

Coming in as the likely Friday starter to kickoff the season, Fisher started four games in 2020, earning a win in three of them. Up until 2020, Fisher had only come out of the bullpen, so it was a major milestone for the senior to have thrown 5 1/3 innings while allowing two unearned runs in his starting debut last season against Charleston Southern. In his final start of the season, he cruised the Terps to a win, striking out a career-high eight batters over six innings. Nothing is official yet, but in his final season as a Terp, it seems likely that he’ll be reprising his role as the Opening Day starter this Friday.

RHP Sean Burke (Redshirt Sophomore)

After serving a redshirt season in 2019 due to an injury, Sean Burke came into 2020 roaring as the Saturday starter, a role that will likely continue to be his in 2021. Bestowed the honor of 2021 Perfect Game Preseason Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, Burke looks to build off a 2020 where he pitched to the tune of a 1.99 earned-run average over four starts. The redshirt sophomore has also built somewhat of an early reputation of a strikeout machine, racking up 35 strikeouts in those starts compared to 11 walks. Assuming he slides back in as the Saturday starter, he and Fisher will form quite the formidable one-two punch to opposing Big Ten batters.

Nick Dean (Sophomore)

Nick Dean came into last season ranked the third-best right-handed pitcher recruit out of Pennsylvania, and he did not fail to disappoint through his first four collegiate starts as Maryland’s Sunday starter. While he struggled in one start against Rhode Island (five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings) his overall stats featured a 3.98 ERA and a .222 opposing batting average. The sophomore did throw a fantastic start against a strong Coastal Carolina team, and while the Terps suffered a loss, Dean helped keep it to a 3-2 ballgame, throwing five innings of two-run ball. Dean has certainly earned an opportunity to continue starting Sundays, and should he pick up where he left off in 2020, Maryland could have a very scary weekend rotation.

Zach Thompson (Redshirt Senior)

Zach Thompson was Maryland’s primary midweek starter option in 2020, but with 2021 featuring no midweek games, the redshirt senior may see his starts dwindle. A couple opportunities he might have include two early-season doubleheaders, as well as the three series that revolve around three teams playing each other in one location, like the home series from April 2 to April 5 where Maryland hosts Northwestern and Iowa and splits four games between them. Thompson’s spot as the potential double-header starter could also be in jeopardy because of his 2020 performance, pitching to a 6.75 ERA in three starts. While he did pitch five innings of one-run ball in his season debut against George Mason, his next two starts ran a total of nine earned runs over 8 1/3 innings.