Series Preview: Michigan Wolverines

No. 17 Maryland’s quest for a Big Ten regular season title continues this weekend as the Terps take on the fifth-place Michigan Wolverines. 

The Terps met Michigan back in March as part of the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C. The Terps led 4-0 at the start of the sixth inning before Michigan came back and won 7-4 to hand the Terps their first loss of the season. The game did not count in the Big Ten standings. 

While the Terps dropped two of three that weekend, including a defeat in a regional finals rematch with East Carolina, Maryland comes into Friday’s game with high spirits. The Terps took two of three from first-place Rutgers in a series that concluded on Monday due to the weekend rain.

The Terps offense was out in full force, scoring 32 runs, including 11 home runs, over the three-game series. That continues an excellent last two weeks for Maryland hitters, who have scored at least seven runs in nine of their last 10 games.

Michigan Wolverines (25-21, 10-8 Big Ten)

Last season

The Wolverines finished third in the conference last season, one game behind Maryland. Like Maryland, they qualified for the NCAA Tournament. They went 0-2 in the regional series, losing by five or more runs to both Connecticut and Central Michigan. Michigan dropped three of the five games played against the Terps last season. Three of those games were played during the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, just like this year’s series.

This season

The Wolverines are full of offensive weapons, led by MLB Draft prospects Clark Elliott and Tito Flores. As a team, Michigan ranks top five in the conference in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and stolen bases. They are coming off a season-high 21-run performance against a Wright State squad that made the NCAA Tournament last season. 

The Wolverines’ pitching, however, has struggled. The team has the third-worst ERA in the conference at 6.41. They rank among the Big Ten’s worst in runs, hits, walks and batting average against.

Hitters to Watch

Elliott, a preseason All-Big Ten selection, paces the team in batting average, OPS, runs, walks and RBI. The junior has collected multiple hits in eight of his last 14 games, including a three-hit afternoon with four RBI versus Wright State on Wednesday.

Flores ranks among the team’s top 3 in batting average, OPS, hits, RBI and home runs, which he leads the Wolverines with 10. The Detroit native has collected at least two hits in six of his last 11 games, including a two-hit, 3-RBI day against Wright State. Flores was named Second Team All-Big Ten last season. 

Michigan has four other hitters with at least eight home runs each: graduate students Joe Stewart (9) and Matt Frey (8),’s top infield draft prospect Ted Burton (8) and Third Team All-Big Ten honoree Jimmy Obertop (8).

Pitchers to Watch

Right-hander Chase Allen holds a team-low 3.84 ERA and has made 19 appearances, including five starts, for the Wolverines. The sophomore also leads the team with a perfect record of 6-0 and is holding opponents to a .224 batting average. Each of his last four outings have been Sunday starts, in which he’s gone at least five innings in each start. The righty presents Michigan’s best opportunity to win when he is on the mound.

Friday night starter Connor O’Halloran is another starter expected to see action this weekend. The lefty leads the team in innings (67.1) and strikeouts (80) and has started in all 13 games he’s appeared in this season. O’Halloran has the ability to pitch deep into games, going seven-plus innings three times this year. However, the pitch count can be a concern for him, as he’s thrown at least 107 pitches in five of his last six starts.

Probable Starting Pitcher Matchups

Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET

So. RHP Jason Savacool (7-2, 2.59 ERA) vs. So. LHP Connor O’Halloran (4-3, 4.41 ERA)

Savacool will make his first Friday start of the season after lasting only one inning on Sunday due to back soreness. In his shortened outing, the righty gave up two hits on three runs (two earned) along with one strikeout and one walk. Despite lasting only one inning, he still remains the conference leader in innings pitched (80) and strikeouts (95). His seven wins rank second in the Big Ten and his 2.59 ERA ranks third. 

O’Halloran earned a no-decision last Friday versus a solid Indiana lineup, going 5.1 innings, surrendering four runs on six hits, striking out eight and walking three. The key for the lefty is striking out hitters- Michigan is 5-0 when he records at least eight punchouts. However, the home run ball has bitten the sophomore lately. After allowing no home runs through his first 50.2 innings this season, he’s surrendered six homers in his last three outings, including three in last Friday’s start.

Saturday, 2:00 p.m. ET

Jr. LHP Ryan Ramsey (9-0, 2.47 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Cameron Weston (4-3, 4.72 ERA)

Arguably the top pitcher in the Big Ten, Ramsey continued his dominance last weekend versus one of the best hitting teams in the nation in Rutgers. Ramsey went six innings, gave up two earned runs on four hits, recorded one strikeout and allowed two walks on 91 pitches en route to his conference-leading ninth win of the year. 

Weston had heightened expectations coming into the season, as he was ranked a top-five Big Ten pitching prospect by The righty has been consistent all season long, but not as effective as many predicted. The junior has given up between two and four earned runs in all but one of his starts. Weston is coming off a mediocre outing in which he allowed three earned runs on eight hits in 5.1 innings. He walked three and struck out five on 102 pitches.

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Jr. RHP Nick Dean (4-2, 4.01 ERA) vs. So. RHP Chase Allen (6-0, 3.84 ERA)

Since being moved to a Sunday starting role, Dean has shined on the mound, allowing just two earned runs on four hits in 11 innings. The junior earned the win in Monday’s rubber match in Piscataway, going six innings, allowing two earned runs (both solo homers) on three hits while striking out nine and walking two. The righty will look to continue his momentum against a hot Michigan lineup.

Recently moved into a starting role, Allen has been the Wolverines’ most consistent pitcher all year. The righty sits just outside the conference top 10 in ERA and has made the second most appearances (19) for Michigan this season. Last Sunday’s start versus Indiana was his worst outing of the season, as he allowed a season-high six earned runs in six innings and earned the no-decision. Allen will return to the site of his collegiate debut, which he made last April.