Winners of 13 of its last 16 games, No. 23 Maryland enters this weekend’s series against Northwestern as one of the country’s hottest teams. In a similar standing in the RPI leaderboard (24th), the Terps have positioned themselves nicely for a favorable postseason draw. Some projections have Maryland hosting a regional, something it has never been able to do and an accomplishment Coach Rob Vaughn desires but won’t let it distract the team.
Prior to its 18-10 win over Navy on Tuesday at home, Maryland took two of three at Illinois last weekend. After losing the series opener by a lopsided score of 19-1, the program’s largest margin of defeat since joining the Big Ten, the Terps crawled back and took games two and three in a Saturday doubleheader. Luke Shliger and Chris Alleyne combined to drive in seven of Maryland’s 13 runs in the afternoon battle, whereas the middle of the order came through in the evening contest. Matt Shaw, Max Costes and Troy Schreffler scored six of the seven total runs.
Northwestern (19-17, 6-6)
In a shortened 2021 schedule against only conference opponents, Northwestern finished 15-21 including four losses in as many games to Maryland in two separate two-game series.
While Northwestern currently sits above the .500 mark, it’s a measly 6-14 away from Evanston, Illinois this season. At seventh in the Big Ten standings, the Wildcats sit almost perfectly average in several statistics. They’re seventh in team batting average, fifth in home runs and seventh in on-base percentage. Northwestern pitchers sport the fourth-lowest ERA in the conference and have given up the seventh-fewest long balls.
Hitters to watch
Outfielder Ethan O’Donnell and infielders Anthony Calarco, Jay Beshears and Patrick Herrera all tout batting averages north of .300 and an OPS of over .900, the only Wildcats who have that distinction. O’Donnell leads the team in home runs with nine with catcher Stephen Hrustich trailing just behind with eight.
O’Donnell, Calarco and Beshears typically go 1-2-3 in the Northwestern batting order, a potential source of early torment for the Maryand pitching staff.
Pitchers to watch
Outside of its weekend rotation, Northwestern’s most used and best reliever this season has been right-handed junior Coby Moe. His 3.67 ERA and 1.44 WHIP are both fourth best of the Wildcats’ entire staff. He’s thrown 27 innings to date this year.
From there, the bullpen drops off considerably. Only one other pitcher who has logged at least 10 innings has an ERA below four. Four relievers who’ve garnered considerable innings bring ERA’s over seven into this weekend’s series.
Moe should be Northwestern’s go-to option out of the bullpen again this weekend, but Maryland’s best chance to win will come through getting to the rest of the Wildcats’ thin bullpen.
Probable starting pitcher matchups
Friday 6:30 p.m.
Jr. LHP Ryan Ramsey (7-0, 2.77 ERA) vs. Fr. LHP Sean Sullivan (5-0, 2.68 ERA)
MBN’s Matt Levine reported Thursday that Nick Dean was going to slide into the Sunday spot in the weekend rotation, likely due to his recent struggles along with Ryan Ramsey and Jason Savacool’s strong recent outings. Ramsey now moves up to the Friday night role, and deservedly so; He’s allowed more than three runs in a start just once this season. His dominance has allowed the Maryland pitching staff to not skip a beat despite Dean’s recent shortcomings.
Saturday 2:00 p.m.
So. RHP Jason Savacool (7-2, 2.63 ERA) vs. Gs. RHP Michael Fairnelli (4-4, 3.59 ERA)
Savacool has been one of the conference’s, if not the country’s, best hurlers in recent weeks. He’s lasted at least seven innings in each of his last four starts and has let up three or fewer runs in five of his last seven. He’s been dominant for Maryland on Sundays, and now moves up to Saturdays.
Fairnelli has been a workhorse for the Wildcats. He leads the team in innings pitched, has worked at least into the sixth inning in all but two starts and has gone at least seven innings in four of his last five games.
Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Jr. RHP Nick Dean (3-2, 4.53 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Grant Comstock (0-3, 6.20 ERA)
Dean’s last start at Illinois was a continuation of what’s been a disappointing second half to his junior season. He allowed five runs in four innings to the Illini and has now let in nine runs over his last 10 innings. Since returning from an arm injury in mid-March, the Big Ten’s preseason pitcher of the year has allowed four or more runs in half of his starts. Sunday is another chance to right the ship, but he’s running out of opportunities with just a few weeks remaining before the postseason.