For the first time since 2017, the Maryland Terrapins (26-15) will be entering a series as a ranked team coming into the 2021 season finale as the No. 25-ranked squad in the country, according to D1 Baseball.
Maryland’s placement amongst the top-25 in the nation is greatly due to getting hot at the right time, as the Terps have won more games than any other Power Five school in the past 19 games (16). As it stands, Maryland owns a second-place tie with Michigan in the Big Ten standings with a chance to cement its position against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Part of the Terps’ scorching-hot stretch comes from Big Ten Freshman of the Week Matt Shaw. After leading Maryland to a series win last weekend against the Wolverines, Shaw’s batting average for the second half of the season stands at over .400. Playing all but three games this season, Shaw is slashing .346/.413/.532 with five home runs and 27 RBI.
Shaw’s infield-mate Benjamin Cowles has also continued to be a powerful catalyst in the Terps’ lineup, owning a sizable lead in the Big Ten home run standings with 17 bombs on the year, four more than the three batters tied for second.
While the offense has certainly stolen the show for Maryland, the pitching has also had great contributions to the second-half success the Terps have seen. Last weekend’s series isn’t the best indicator of what the rotation has done, but ever since Head Coach Rob Vaughn shifted the weekend starters to Nick Dean-Jason Savacool-Sean Burke, the runs have come at a minimum for opponents.
That change has held opponents 3.91 runs per game against Maryland’s pitching providing a comfortable cushion for the offense, which had been scoring seven runs per game in that stretch.
It’ll take a Michigan sweep of the Nebraska for the Terps to match the first-place Cornhuskers 29-11 record, but even if that comes to fruition Nebraska owns the tie-breaker over Maryland. Either way the weekend goes, Maryland will be controlling its own fate in the second-place spot since it owns the tie-breaker against Michigan.
The season finale will begin Friday at 6:30 P.M at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, where the university is opening attendance up to full capacity for the first time this season. The following two games are Saturday at 2:00 P.M. and Sunday at noon.
Indiana Hoosiers (25-16)
Indiana’s 2020 season was cut short at 15 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the Hoosiers with a 9-6 record in the early going. Their lone conference game was a 17-2 clobbering of Purdue in just seven innings, very representative of the strong offense they brought to the table (6.33 runs per game).
Indiana’s shortened 2020 season may have displayed a strong offense, but its 2021 has been dominated by incredible pitching. The Hoosiers’ pitching staff has compiled a strong 3.13 ERA this season, led by a dynamic one-two punch of McCade Brown and Gabe Bierman.
Hitters to Watch
The Hoosier bats don’t pack much of a powerful punch, sitting in the middle of the Big Ten when it comes to power numbers. However, it’s been two batters who have been leading the way for Indiana: Cole Barr and Grant Richardson. Barr and Richardson both own a .900+ OPS and are the first two within Indiana’s home run standings with eight and seven, respectively.
Pitchers to Watch
The aforementioned Brown and Bierman are the two biggest names to watch on this Indiana pitching staff by quite the large margin. Brown has been included in many draft prospect lists for the 2021 MLB Draft, including being ranked No. 94 on MLB Pipeline’s top 200 draft prospect list. He boasts a 3.26 ERA this season, but more impressively a 92-35 strikeout to walk ratio. Bierman owns the Hoosier rotation’s best ERA at 2.78 with slightly less eye-popping strikeout numbers.
Friday, 6:30 P.M.
RHP Jason Savacool (7-2, 5.32 ERA) vs. RHP John Modugno (3-1, 2.08 ERA)
Savacool ran into the biggest road bump of his freshman season last weekend against Michigan, where he couldn’t get through the third inning before letting up six runs on six hits. The start bumped his season ERA to 5.32, but numbers won’t matter when he heads to the mound Friday night in the biggest start of his young collegiate career.
John Modugno has only started three games for the Hoosiers prior to his Friday night slot in College Park, but he’s been stellar regardless of coming out of the bullpen or starting on the hill. His season ERA stands at 2.08 and he’s coming into the weekend with an eight-inning scoreless streak.
Saturday, 2:00 P.M.
RHP Sean Burke (4-3, 3.94 ERA) vs. RHP McCade Brown (5-3, 3.26 ERA)
Burke has been on quite the roll in his last handful of starts, stringing together four straight wins and recording a 2.50 ERA in those four starts. He’s certainly back in form as the pitcher who’s ranked No. 73 in MLB Pipeline’s top 200 draft prospects list.
In the battle of likely 2021 MLB draft picks, Brown will toe the rubber coming off a somewhat short but impactful start against first-place Nebraska. While he wasn’t able to lead his team to victory, he pitched five innings and had two runs scored against him while striking out eight Cornhuskers.
Sunday, 12:00 P.M.
TBA vs. RHP Gabe Bierman (5-4, 2.78 ERA)
While Bierman owns the best ERA on the Indiana staff, he has been going through struggles in his last pair of starts. Just last week, he fell short of recording a quality start in a loss to Ohio State, going five innings with three earned runs and a couple walks. Having gone at least six innings in eight of his ten starts to that point, a five-inning outing was certainly uncommon for Bierman.