A successful series win against Penn State last weekend is exactly what the Terps needed to kick off conference play this season. Maryland continues its campaign Friday when the squad embarks on a journey to Minneapolis for a three-game set with Minnesota.
In between the two Big Ten series, Maryland picked up a midweek win against George Mason on Tuesday afternoon ahead of a nasty weather forecast, which canceled the other scheduled midweek game for Wednesday against Navy.
The win over George Mason was the second time the Terps beat them in a week, and showed that this offense has no intention of slowing down as the most important stretch of the season has arrived. After falling behind, 4-3, in the fifth frame, the offense rallied for five runs between the next three innings and wouldn’t look back.
With its fifth win in six games, Maryland has its head held high going into this series at Minnesota.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-18)
The Gophers’ 2021 season was the worst one in the history of their program, winning six games and finishing with a .162 winning percentage. Coming in dead last in just about every statistical category in the Big Ten, Minnesota was a long way from competing with the rest of the conference in a year where that was its only competition. The next-best team was the Purdue Boilermakers, and they had 10 more wins than Minnesota.
As of now, the Gophers have made a big leap from last season — owning a .308 winning percentage. They are still 10 games under .500 and are bringing up the bottom of the Big Ten, coming off the receiving end of a sweep last weekend against Rutgers. The slight improvement in overall record is thanks to an offense that’s produced a smidge better than a couple other Big Ten squads, and a pitching staff that has jumped from a 8.06 ERA to a 6.66 ERA.
Hitters to Watch:
Minnesota’s lackluster offense this season has had a couple of bright spots. Those two being redshirt seniors Jack Kelly and Easton Bertrand. Both have had extraordinary seasons at the plate, with Kelly slashing .405/.475/.798 and Bertrand slashing .383/.444/.702. The Gophers’ home run leader, Chase Stanke, isn’t too far behind his teammates, but his eight home runs are one shy of last season’s team-high.
Pitchers to Watch:
One name stands out amongst the abysmal Minnesota pitching staff, and that name is Sam Ireland. The Gophers’ ace was recently ranked the No. 66 starting pitcher in the nation, according to D1Baseball. His 2.79 ERA in seven starts is by far the best on the staff, with 5.68 and 6.68 ERAs behind him. Minnesota also has one standout relief pitcher in Tom Skoro. Skoro has made 13 appearances out of the pen and has a team-best 2.25 ERA.
Probable Starting Pitcher Matchups
Friday, 5:00 p.m. ET
Jr. RHP Nick Dean (2-1, 3.48 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Sam Ireland (3-1, 2.79 ERA)
Nick Dean was able to somewhat right the ship against Penn State after two of his most strenuous starts of the season, going six innings with two earned runs against the Nittany Lions. If Penn State’s average offense offered a great chance to get back to his early-season form, then facing Minnesota should be a blessing for Dean.
When Sam Ireland is on, he’s on. Thankfully for Maryland, he’s coming into Friday night’s game after three of his toughest starts of the season. In his first four starts, he recorded a 1.90 ERA. In his three starts since that stretch, he has a 4.20 ERA. Ireland’s most recent outing was against Big Ten competition in Rutgers, and he surrendered three runs in five innings.
Saturday, 3:00 p.m. ET
Jr. LHP Ryan Ramsey (6-0, 2.33 ERA) vs. R-Jr. RHP Aidan Maldonado (1-3, 5.68 ERA)
Ryan Ramsey is coming off his longest start of the year — eight innings of work with eight strikeouts against Penn State. A pair of mistakes added three earned runs to his pitching line and wiped away the potential win, but Ramsey left the mound maintaining his incredible ERA despite seeing it rise a tick. In his last four starts, he owns a 1.33 ERA and is amidst the best stretch of his collegiate career.
Aidan Maldonado suffered the biggest blow to his season ERA in his start against Rutgers last Saturday. The Scarlet Knights walloped the righty for seven runs on eight hits and four walks, all within the first four innings. Maldonado had a similar start early in the season with six earned runs against Indiana State, but without those two major blemishes on his season, his ERA would sit at 2.66. The Terps will hope to make it three blemishes on the redshirt junior’s season.
Sunday, 2:00 p.m. ET
So. RHP Jason Savacool (5-2, 2.52 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP J.P. Massey (2-3, 6.68 ERA)
Jason Savacool came one strikeout away from tying his career-high 14 against Penn State last Sunday. It might be unlikely that he comes close to that total against Minnesota — while the Gophers are at the bottom of nearly every offensive stat, they own the lowest number of strikeouts in the Big Ten. However, Savacool seems to certainly be back in his groove after his Penn State start, which came a week following a rough patch at Dallas Baptist.
J.P. Massey brings up the caboose in Gophers’ weekend rotation with his 6.68 ERA, and he has hardly been able to catch a break. Coming off last Sunday’s start with six earned runs against Rutgers, it’s going to be especially hard for him to catch a break against the Terps’ lineup.