The wait is finally over. Tomorrow night, Maryland Baseball will take the field in Waco, Texas, to open up the 2022 season against Baylor. Maryland ended last season with a 30-18 record, losing in the NCAA regional round to East Carolina. While the season ended in heartbreak for the Terps, it brought a lot of hope and optimism that this program is about to take the next step in becoming a major threat in the Big Ten and all of college baseball.
In Head Coach Rob Vaughn’s fifth year at the helm of this Terps squad, he brings in a dangerous weekend rotation consisting of Nick Dean, Ryan Ramsey and Jason Savacool. D1baseball.com named Nick Dean preseason Big Ten pitcher of the year and he will be the Friday night starter for Maryland. Ramsey led the team with a 1.67 ERA out of the bullpen in 16 appearances last season. He will slot in as Maryland’s Saturday starter. Savacool had a bumpy end to his freshman season, but he still led the team with seven wins in 14 starts and will look to build upon this as Maryland’s Sunday starter.
Maryland’s lineup features a plethora of returning stars for Maryland in senior Maxwell Costes, sophomore Matt Shaw and fifth year senior Chris Alleyne. Costes was an all around threat at the plate for the Terps, slashing .310/.512/.483 in 2021. Shaw is coming off a fantastic freshman season in which he led the team with a .332 batting average and 61 hits in a year that earned Freshman All-American honors. Alleyne was awarded second team All-Big Ten honors last year for a season that saw him bat .306, pick up 55 hits and lead the conference with 22 stolen bases.
Baylor Bears (0-0)
Baylor finished the 2021 campaign with a 31-20 record, going 11-13 in Big 12 conference games. A loss in the second round of the Big 12 tournament to Kansas Sate ended the Bears season as they did not receive a bid to play in the NCAA tournament. The biggest strength for this team year was its pitching staff, finishing with a 3.96 team ERA, good for 36th in the country. Many difference makers from last season will be returning this year for Baylor, giving an exciting challenge right off the bat for this Maryland lineup. At the plate, this team was led by four starters (Jered McKenzie, Andy Thomas, Jack Pineda, Tre Richardson) who played in all 51 games and hit over .300. All four except for Thomas will return to the Baylor lineup, producing a dangerous lineup for Maryland’s pitchers to deal with.
Baylor is projected to finish the 2021 season at fifth in the Big 12 according to big12sports.com. This would put them in the middle of the pack but just behind some very solid tournament teams from year ago like Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU. With a formidable pitching staff and three of their top four bats returning to the lineup, this Baylor team certainly has the ability to play above its current projection. In terms of recruiting, Baylor has the 51st-ranked recruiting class in the country this season, just ahead of Maryland and good for seventh in the Big 12.
Hitters to Watch
As mentioned before, Baylor returns three elite bats to its lineup this season, sophomore Jered McKenzie looking to be the most dangerous of them. In his freshman season he led the Bears in batting average (.383), OPS (1.079), runs (62) and hits (82). He received countless award and recognition for his performance last season and he enters this year on the Golden Spikes Award watch list. The middle infield duo of Jack Pineda and Tre Richardson also present sizable threats to this Maryland pitching staff. Both hit above .300 while putting up at least 60 hits and 30 RBI for the Bears last season.
Pitchers to Watch
Senior Tyler Thomas is coming off a season in which he made 11 starts posting a 2.49 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .202 batting average, both stats good for third-best in the Big 12. While junior Blake Helton didn’t have the flashy numbers Thomas did last season, he was still able to put up a solid year on the mound. In 13 starts he pitched 52 1/3 innings, striking out 40 and recording a 3.44 ERA.
Probable Starting Pitcher Matchup
Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Jr. RHP Nick Dean (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Sr. Tyler Thomas (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
This will be a big start for Nick Dean as he moves up to the Friday night starter position after last year’s number one Sean Burke was drafted by the Chicago White Sox. He impressed last season when he was able to be on the mound, but a bout with mono at the start of the season and an injury at the end limited his availability. Dean will look to improve upon his 2.89 ERA and 1.09 WHIP that led all Maryland starters last season.
During a media session on Tuesday Coach Vaughn explained what it means to the team to have Dean healthy and ready to go to start this season.
“He’s been phenomenal this preseason,” said Vaughn. “Whether he goes eight scoreless or gives up six in the second he’s just going to keep doing his thing. That’s what makes him so good.”
On the other side, Baylor will be sending senior Tyler Thomas to the mound on Friday night. Thomas had a fantastic season in 2021 where he was top three in the Big 12 in both ERA (2.49) and opposing batting average (.202). He will provide an instant challenge on opening day for Maryland’s lineup.
Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET
Jr. LHP Ryan Ramsey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Jr. Blake Helton (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Ryan Ramsey will make his first regular season start as a Terp in game two of the series on Saturday. Ramsey was terrific last season coming out of the bullpen for Maryland, posting a 1.67 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, a K/BB ratio of 43/12 and an opponent batting average .176 in 37 2/3 innings pitched. He now joins this formidable Maryland weekend rotation as the middle man following Nick Dean. Ramsey will look to build upon his one start in 2021 in where he pitched eight innings in the NCAA regionals versus Charlotte, giving up just one run and three hits.
Ramsey explained that with an expectation of more innings, he has been working on implementing new pitches to his arsenal.
“[I’ve been] working with a lot of off speed stuff,” he said. “Last year in relief I just had a fastball and curve ball for most of the season. [I’ve been] working mechanically with a change up and slider.”
Baylor’s Saturday starter will be junior Blake Helton who is coming off a solid 2021 season. In 13 games started he had a 3.44 ERA, striking out 40 batters in 52 1/3 innings pitched. Blake provides a solid number 2 starter option for Baylor behind Thomas as the team opens its season.
Sunday, 2 p.m. ET
So. RHP Jason Savacool (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Sr. Jake Jackson (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Jason Savacool will take the mound on Sunday afternoon to begin his second season as a starter for Maryland. It was a bit of a shaky season for Savacool last year as he gave up just nine runs in his first four starts, but then skyrocketing his ERA with a few tough outings to wrap up the season. Still though, he did lead the team in wins and has an immensely large upside talentwise. He will get his first chance of the season to showcase that talent on Sunday.
For Baylor, it will be fifth year senior Jake Jackson making the start on Sunday. Jackson came to Waco prior to this season as a graduate transfer from Nevada. He had a lot of success in the 2021 season, leading the team in both wins (5) and innings pitched (74 1/3), making 13 starts for the Wolfpack. While he did have a 5.45 ERA, his 44/15 strikeout to walk is very impressive.