The Maryland Terrapins will be returning to College Park to host a series against a struggling Minnesota Golden Gophers team, a series that promises a chance to improve Maryland’s record and keep their new winning tendencies rolling.
The Terps are coming off a successful outing in Iowa, taking three of the four games of the pod series against the Hawkeyes and the Northwestern Wildcats. The explosive offensive energy that emerged in Iowa City will be needed this weekend to secure a few wins over a Minnesota team that has seen better years.
Game one of three will kick off Friday night at 6:30 p.m., followed by game two on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and game three on Sunday to close out the series at 1:00 p.m.
The Terps struggled early in Iowa last weekend, dropping game one to the Hawkeyes 12-6 after failing to capitalize on runners in scoring position. This issue was a short-lived one, as Maryland shook off the nerves and finished out the series with dominant offensive and pitching performances.
Maryland will be looking to none-other than Senior Benjamin Cowles to light up the offense against the Golden Gophers. In Iowa, Cowles sent out a three-run bomb to start off the second game of the series against the Hawkeyes and had a critical RBI single in the close win against Northwestern 2-1. He continues to lead the Maryland offense with a .323 batting average and his offensive talent will be crucial in the upcoming series.
Minnesota is a team that has struggled defensively this season, allowing 250 runs across their 27 games. Just four of those games were wins for the Gophers, and even then, the defense allowed numerous runs on the road to the W. Maryland will have a chance to prove their win streak is not a fluke and wake up their offense this weekend against a team that has had little success this year.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-23)
Prior to the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, last year’s Minnesota team had managed to get more wins in nine games than this year’s team. The 2020 Golden Gophers finished 8-1 and possessed a .284/.381/.393 slash line. Their OBP is nearly .300 lower than their 2021 numbers, yet the results of this year’s games are nowhere near the early success of last year’s team.
The Gophers have seen better seasons and arrive in College Park dragging a ten-game losing streak behind them attached to their 4-23 overall record. The Gophers boast a .236/.679/.352 slash line thus far on the season, impressive numbers that don’t quite match up the sheer amount of losses experienced and runs allowed for this Minnesota defense. Maryland will have a chance to capitalize on their low morale, as their most recent loss to Big Ten rival Indiana ended in a double digit win for the Hoosiers 23-1.
Hitters to Watch:
The star of this Golden Gophers offense can be found in Junior infielder Zack Raabe, a player that leads Minnesota in batting average (.379), hits (33), runs (15), on base percentage (.481) and slugging percentage (.609). On March 14, Raabe became one of 45 players across the nation to be named to the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List, and although he struggled in the most recent series against Indiana, his stats this season and his accomplishments are just two reasons he can’t be counted out just yet. Other hot hitters for the Golden Gophers include homerun leader Easton Bertrand and RBI leader Ronald Sweeney.
Pitchers to Watch:
Reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Jack Liffrig will be arriving in College Park following a strong showing against Michigan State last week, throwing seven shutout innings to the Big Ten’s only nationally ranked team. Liffrig has secured himself a 4.86 ERA thus far, and Maryland’s bats will need to come alive if they are unfortunate enough to face off against the sophomore pitcher with the skills to back up his award. Minnesota’s pitching staff also boasts a second strong starting pitcher in Sam Ireland, who’s last starting performance against Michigan State saw the sophomore work himself out of multiple dangerous innings. He enters College Park with a 4.10 ERA, the lowest on this Golden Gophers team.
Starting Pitching Matchups:
Friday: RHP Nick Dean (1-2, 4.10 ERA) vs. TBD
Nick Dean is making his first Friday start of his career, opening up the series against Minnesota rather than the typical Sean Burke. Dean is in the midst of a four-game pitching win-streak, recording a quality start in his last outing against Iowa as well as a season-high 94 pitches.
Saturday: RHP Jason Savacool (5-1, 5.65 ERA) vs. Jack Liffrig (1-1, 4.86 ERA)
While Savacool still leads the way for Maryland pitching wins, he’s yet to get back to the level he was at in his first few starts. He’s led the way to two wins in his last two starts, but his ERA over those games stands at 7.59. However, he has been striking out more batters as of late, amassing ten strikeouts in his last pair of starts.
After starting his season with two complete games in three starts, Liffrig has hit somewhat of a rough patch. In his last four starts, he’s surrendered 13 runs over 25 innings, but one of those starts was a stellar seven-inning, shutout outing with eight strikeouts against a strong Michigan lineup.
Sunday: RHP Sean Burke (2-3, 4.53 ERA) vs. RHP Tom Skoro (2-2, 8.02 ERA)
Burke is moving to the Sunday spot for the first time this season, and it comes after two of his stronger starts of the season. In those starts, he struck out 19 batters while allowing just four runs in 11 2/3 innings. After his first three starts sent his ERA up to 6.46, but his recent run has him sitting at 4.53 ahead of his date with Minnesota.
Skoro has come out of the bullpen for the majority of his appearances, including his last appearance that ended in disaster against Indiana. In a 23-1 loss to the Hoosiers, Skoro came out of the pen for four innings giving up five runs and three walks. This will be his first start since March 13.