A new leadoff man
Rob Vaughn joked at spring media day about a proposition from one of his veteran players. Fifth-year outfielder Chris Alleyne – last season’s leadoff hitter – suggested they give sophomore catcher Luke Shliger a look in the first spot in the batting order. Alleyne told Vaughn he liked the idea of seeing a few pitches before stepping into the box for the first time.
Vaughn said he gave Shliger a look at the new position over the fall and winter, and he seemingly liked what he saw enough to pencil his catcher in the leadoff spot on his Opening Day lineup card.
Shliger responded as well as Vaughn could have hoped. Across Maryland’s three games, he got on base in seven of his 15 plate appearances, four of those coming from walks.
“I look like a genius,” said Vaughn, speaking to the batting order he created. “Luke did not hesitate.”
It helped Alleyne, too. Just as designed. He racked up two hits, four walks, a RBI and three runs scored. It’s rare for a catcher to be that effective of a leadoff hitter, let alone a baserunner. Shliger added two steals and also scored on a wild pitch on Friday.
“The ump… he was kind of confused about the catcher hitting leadoff,” said Shliger. “I was too.”
To add to the story, Shliger says he hasn’t hit leadoff since Little League.
Shliger’s success in the leadoff role set the tone for the Maryland offense, which scored 21 runs in 27 innings, all weekend. Vaughn looks to have found his primary leadoff hitter.
Starting pitchers are as advertised
Starters Nick Dean, Ryan Ramsey and Jason Savacool lived up to their preseason hype on opening weekend. The three combined for 20 innings of five run ball with 17 strikeouts and just 16 hits allowed. Coupled with 20 runs of support, they were able to easily earn victories that gave Maryland its first non-conference road series win since March of 2019.
Dean, the Big Ten’s preseason pitcher of the year, utilized his deadly fastball and changeup combination to keep hitters guessing throughout his start. The changeup was often the putaway pitch.
Ramsey wasn’t quite as effective as Dean, allowing a two-run fourth inning and – although they were ultimately stranded – several runners into scoring position. Still, he bounced back and put the Terps in a position to win.
Savacool settled down after Baylor scored two runs in the first three innings and began sending the Bears lineup down quickly, including a stretch of seven straight batters retired. He finished after eight innings and just three earned runs.
“Dean and Ramsey did a really good job of conserving our bullpen,” said Savacool. “The thing I need to do as a Sunday starter is provide length. It was great to get through eight innings strong.”
The heart of the order is Maryland’s lifeblood
The middle of the Terps’ batting order – headlined by Matt Shaw, Maxwell Costes, Nick Lorusso, Bobby Zmarzlak and Troy Schreffler Jr. – was key in Maryland’s series sweep.
Shaw and Costes led the way, combining for 12 hits, nine RBI and four home runs, which all came on Sunday.
Lorusso, Zmarzlak and Schreffler Jr. added eight hits and five RBI.
With Shliger and Alleyne often setting the table for them, the sluggers frequently followed by moving them up and bringing them in. Even without help from the hitters before them, the middle of the order still found a way to come through – Shaw, Costes and Zmarzlak all hit solo home runs.
“I know what I can do,” said Shaw. “I got pitches to hit and I didn’t miss them. It’s very easy to hit when you got guys in front of you and guys behind you. I don’t think there’s any holes in our lineup.”