Maryland Baseball’s stock is on the rise. If you haven’t bought in yet, it might be too late.
The Terps moved to 7-0 on the season after a second straight road series sweep, this time defeating Campbell Friday night and in a Saturday doubleheader. That mark is the best start to a season in program history, and the seventh win was head coach Rob Vaughn’s 100th career victory.
After moving into the top-25 last week at No. 22, Maryland moved one spot higher this week to No. 21.
Both sweeps have been of teams that finished last season ranked in the top-50 of RPI, a key metric factored into postseason selection. Maryland has outscored its opponents – Baylor, UMBC and Campbell – by a 40-14 margin. The weekend starting rotation of Nick Dean, Ryan Ramsey and Jason Savacool has a combined ERA of 1.71.
Maryland’s offense is keeping up, too. Matt Shaw and Maxwell Costes have led the way, both with batting averages above .300, an OPS above .900 and two home runs each. Transfer Nick Lorusso has continued to come through in big spots. He’s tied with Shaw, who he bats behind, and Costes for the team lead in RBI.
Unlike last season, when Maryland was near the top nationally in home runs as a team, the Terps have found success with a small-ball approach. A majority of their runs have come from run-scoring singles, sacrifice flies or groundouts, and they’re 13 of 16 in stolen base attempts.
In the Big Ten standings, Maryland sits in a tie for first with Purdue, who is also undefeated with seven wins. Preseason conference favorite Nebraska is 1-5 and sits 12th in the conference standings.
Delaware Blue Hens (2-4)
Delaware finished last in the Colonial Athletic Conference in 2021 with a 8-16 record in conference play and 12-22 overall. The Blue Hens won just two series last season and were swept three times and ended last season on a 4-12 stretch.
As a team, Delaware slashed .273/.354/.409 and was top five in the league in home runs. An average offensive team was even worse on the mound in 2021. Delaware pitchers combined for the highest ERA (6.43) in the conference. They also issued the third most walks and had the second fewest strikeouts.
The Blue Hens’ 2022 got off to a promising start with a win over No. 4 Notre Dame (now No. 12) on February 20. Unfortunately for Delaware, it has not been able to capitalize on the upset, losing two out of three this past weekend to Florida Atlantic.
Delaware is top five in the CAA in average, home runs and on-base through six games this season. Its struggles on the mound from last season have carried over into the early portion of 2022; Delaware pitchers are in the bottom third of the league in ERA and strikeouts.
Hitters to watch
The heart of the Delaware batting order, which features four hitters with an OPS over .900, is the strength of its offense.
Aidan Kane, J.J. Freeman, Joseph Carpenter and Joey Loynd headline the group. Kane, Delaware’s left fielder, leads the Blue Hens with a .412 average, .444 on base and .647 slugging percentage. Freeman, the shortstop, leads in hits with eight, first baseman Carpenter leads in RBI with five and third baseman Loynd is the team’s home run leader with two.
“Delaware does not care about our record, I can tell you that, and they’re playing pretty good baseball right now,” Vaughn said after Saturday’s doubleheader. “We’ll have to come out on Tuesday and take another step forward.”
Pitchers to watch
Delaware has a multitude of solid options out of the bullpen, although none have recorded a save yet this season. Four relievers have an ERA below two, with a fifth just north of that at 2.08. Of those five, four of them have more than one appearance on the mound that head coach Jim Sherman likes most in late innings of close games.
Zach Klapak and Dom Velazquez both have five innings of work on the season with identical 1.80 earned run averages. Velazquez is second on the pitching staff in strikeouts with six, one behind starter Chris Ludman.
Gavin Hinchliffe and Wyatt Nelson are also names to watch. Hinchliffe hasn’t allowed an earned run and has issued only one walk to four strikeouts in two innings. Nelson is third of the relievers in innings pitched behind Klapak and Velazquez, and hitters are averaging .214 against him.
Probable starting pitching matchup
Last week’s midweek game saw sophomore Logan Ott get the start on the mound, allowing two runs over four innings. Vaughn has said in the past he wants to see Ott, Sean Heine, Ryan Van Buren and Andrew Johnson eventually start midweek games, making it likely one of the other three gets the start against Delaware.
Heine and Van Buren have been fixtures out of the bullpen in late innings recently, both making appearances this weekend, which could pave the way for Johnson to be the guy.
This will be Delaware’s first midweek game of its season. No pitcher other than its three-man weekend rotation has made a start.