Tuesday morning, Maryland Baseball Head Coach Rob Vaughn agreed to a contract extension that keeps him at Maryland through June 2026, per an announcement from University of Maryland Director of Athletics Damon Evans.
Vaughn’s extension follows the season in which he led his team to a pair of postseason victories and to the NCAA Greenville Regional Final against East Carolina. Although the Terps fell short in the tournament, the 2021 season certainly made for a memorable one on Vaughn’s coaching resume.
Maryland’s .636 winning percentage within the Big Ten conference marked a program-high since the Terps joined the Big Ten in 2015, and it was the program’s highest conference winning percentage since the team hit the .700 mark in 1981.
The outstanding regular season — despite only playing against the Big Ten due to a COVID-affected schedule — was also highlighted by a more outstanding second half. Vaughn’s squad went 18-4 in the team’s final 22 games, which was the best record in that span among all Power Five schools.
Overall, the Terps finished second in the Big Ten in 2021 behind Vaughn’s coaching — the team’s best finish since joining the conference.
Since Vaughn become the head coach in 2018, he’s led the Terps to a 93-82 record (.532 win percentage, and he’s helped six Maryland products get drafted into professional baseball. The two most-recent draftees were RHP Sean Burke and SS Benjamin Cowles, both of whom were selected in the first 10 rounds of the 2021 MLB Draft.
Before becoming head coach, Vaughn had long been a member of the Maryland coaching staff as an assistant coach (2013-2014), assistant head coach (2015-2016), and associate head coach (2017). During his time on the staff, he oversaw Terps squads that won NCAA Regionals in back-to-back years (2014-2015) while also setting school records for wins with 40 and 42, respectively.
In the nine years that Vaughn has been a coach at Maryland, the program has accumulated a 273-204 record (.572 win percentage) with eight of those seasons setting a .500 mark or better.
With Vaughn coming back for five more seasons, Maryland Baseball is in great hands as it looks to run back its tremendous success from 2021.
A day after the 2021 MLB Draft concluded, the Seattle Mariners signed Randy Bednar as an undrafted free agent. Bednar is the third Maryland alum expected to play professional ball after this year’s draft, joining Sean Burke (Chicago White Sox) and Benjamin Cowles (New York Yankees).
When Bednar was a freshman in 2018, he was immediately thrown into the fray, starting in 38 of 54 games. While he didn’t come out of the gates crushing the ball as a freshman (.208/.272/.376), he quickly made the adjustments he needed, posting a .893+ OPS in the following three seasons as he became a cornerstone in the Terps outfield.
Bednar never got much national attention let alone attention from the Big Ten conference while at Maryland until his latter two years. He was named a National College Baseball Writers Association Preseason Third Team All-American before the COVID-shortened 2020 season. A year later, he was given the honor of Perfect Game Preseason All-Big Ten.
Perhaps Bednar’s greatest contributions to the program while in College Park came in the Greenville Regional during the 2021 NCAA Baseball Tournament. While Maryland was unable to advance to the Super Regional round, Bednar helped propel Maryland from potentially being knocked out in two games to playing for a winner-take-all match with East Carolina. In the four Greenville Regional games, Bednar slashed .429/.526/.928 with two home runs, earning a spot on the 2021 Greenville Regional All-Tournament Team.
For the first time since 2017, the Maryland Terrapins are dancing.
Following the conclusion of the 2021 regular season — a disappointing loss on Senior Day to Indiana — the Terps (28-16) were elated to find out they were named on Monday’s selection show as the No. 3 seed in the Greenville Region.
To put the cherry on top, the Terps also climbed up in the D1 Baseball top-25, being ranked No. 24 to enter the week.
Maryland joins No. 12 East Carolina (41-15), Charlotte (39-19) and Norfolk St. (25-26) in the Greenville Region, and it will meet with the No. 2 seed Charlotte 49ers in game one Friday at 6:00 P.M..
Early in the 2021 season, Maryland had quite the mountain to climb to even be recognized in the Big Ten, but a strong second-half performance jettisoned the Terps to second place in the regular season standings. In its final 21 games, Maryland won 17 contests and won its last seven series.
With this being the program’s first tournament appearance since it was eliminated in regionals in 2017, there are huge expectations for this extremely hot team to carry its regular season momentum into the postseason as the road to Omaha begins.
On an emotional day for many senior Terps — those who returned for their senior season following the 2020 season’s cancelation and the seniors of 2021 — the Indiana Hoosiers rained all over Maryland’s parade, salvaging a win after being victim to a doubleheader sweep Saturday.
What looked like a promising start for the Terps quickly turned into a bullpen implosion, as the Hoosiers scored all seven of its runs in the middle innings to claim a 7-3 win.
With Nick Dean day-to-day due to a wrist injury, Senior Sean Fisher took his spot as the Sunday starter and looked fiery in his first three frames. In what would be his final appearance at the Bob in his Terps career, Fisher fired three scoreless innings with two strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the Maryland lineup kept up its trend of scoring early, getting on the board first with a solo bomb off the bat of Senior Randy Bednar. Chris Alleyne came around to add to Maryland’s early lead after back-to-back Hoosier errors allowed him to score from first base.
Fisher, and the proceeding outing of Zach Thompson, would keep Indiana at bay through the first four frames, but then the implosion began. Bullpen implosions had been hard to come by in the spectacular 18-3 stretch this Terps team entered this game amidst, but with the reliable arm of Dean absent, the bullpen was forced to take on some extra workload this afternoon.
Indiana would load the bases in the fifth after Thompson hit Jeremy Houston with a pitch, and a Drew Ashley sacrifice fly would quickly halve Maryland’s lead. In came Senior Tyler Blohm to douse the Hoosier rally, but Grant Richardson battled through a seven-pitch at-bat to tie the game with a RBI single that just rolled past Benjamin Cowles into left field.
With rain being a common theme of this weekend series, the Hoosiers let the runs pour in just an inning later, putting up a four-spot against the combined efforts of Blohm and Sean Heine.
Fucci came around an inning later to double his home run total for the day and give Indiana a commanding 7-2 lead.
Indiana’s pitching — reflecting Maryland’s “bullpenning” — was extremely hard to penetrate in its Sunday outing, and held the potent Terps lineup to two earned runs. John Modugno started the Hoosiers off with four innings of work to keep Indiana in the game long enough to spark its offensive rally.
Next came Nathan Stahl, who surrendered the game-tying home run to Maxwell Costes in game one Saturday. This time, he promptly threw three one-run innings and left the door open for Braden Scott to close out the final two innings.
The only ounce of a comeback Maryland could muster against the strong Hoosier bullpen was a two-out RBI double off the bat of Cowles, but the Terps ultimately fell to Indiana in the season finale.
Maryland now awaits the Selection Sunday show later this afternoon, where it stands in as a national tournament hopeful.
With a monsoon-like rainstorm wiping out any chance of Friday night’s game being played, the Terps were be forced to play a straight doubleheader Saturday afternoon. The rain didn’t entirely disperse Saturday as the Terps kicked off the final series of the season with a sweep of the doubleheader over the Indiana Hoosiers, winning game one, 4-3 and game two, 5-2.
Game one pitted two of the best starting pitchers in the conference against each other, with Freshman Jason Savacool matching up with Gabe Bierman. Savacool came into this start as a three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, while Bierman owns the third-best ERA in the Big Ten (2.78).
The pitchers’ duel was as advertised as scoring was limited to just four runs between the two starters, and not surprisingly, only one of those runs was scored on a hit.
The Terps kicked off the scoring with Bobby Zmarzlak drawing a two-out walk with the bases loaded, but the Hoosiers didn’t wait too long before matching the score.
While Savacool did his job to keep Indiana scoring to a minimum, his one flaw was allowing the dreaded leadoff walk, which he did in back-to-back innings as his control seemed to drop off throughout his outing. The first walk came in the fourth inning, and the free pass came around to score off a sacrifice fly courtesy of Cole Barr.
Savacool’s struggles only got worse when seeing the Hoosiers lineup the third time around in, as the leadoff hitter Jeremy Houston served a pitch to deep left field for a double to lead off the sixth frame. A couple batters later and Grant Richardson would loop a single into center field to bring home Houston, giving Indiana its first lead of the day.
Indiana would extend its lead in the sixth as Savacool came undone, loading the bases thanks to a hit batter and a walk. The consequential, second sacrifice fly of the day would provide Indiana with some insurance as they jumped to a 3-1 lead.
As Savacool exited after six innings of work with his team trailing, it was still a positive outing for the freshman. He recorded his sixth quality start of the season and nearly matched his season-high in strikeouts with six on the afternoon.
David Falco entered from the bullpen to limit the Hoosiers to their three runs, and that’s just what he did with three scoreless frames.
But with the Maryland offense unable to come up with anything following the first-inning bases-loaded walk, the stellar pitching in relief would appear to be for naught — that is until the ninth inning.
After Bierman and the Hoosiers bullpen sent down 13 of Maryland’s last 14 batters prior to the ninth, Maxwell Costes would become game one’s hero, smashing a solo bomb to left-center field to tie the game at three runs and giving the Maryland offense life.
The Maryland bullpen continued to shove in extras, as Ryan Ramsey replaced Falco in the tenth frame and promptly retired the side.
While the offense was more than anemic for a majority of game one, the Terps would finish off the Hoosiers in a similar fashion to how they started them off.
After loading the bases on a walk and two hit batters, the Terps offensive MVP Benjamin Cowles stepped to the plate. Working the count full against Nathan Stahl, Cowles drew the bases-loaded walk to walk it off against Indiana, 4-3 — making it the third time the Terps have won in that fashion this season.
Game two presented yet another pitchers’ duel — this time between two 2021 MLB Draft hopefuls: Sean Burke and McCade Brown.
With both starters being ranked within the top-100 of MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 Draft Prospects list, it arguably should have set up for a more intense battle than game one’s pitchers’ duel. However, Brown’s rare struggle with command would put Indiana into an early hole.
Walking five batters in the first inning, Maryland stole an early 2-0 lead on Brown’s shaky command — a lead they would take and never look back. In total, Brown walked a career-high eight batters in just three innings, easily his worst outing of the season.
Burke would pitch from the opposite side of the spectrum as he stayed sharp on the mound, lighting up Indiana’s lineup for 12 strikeouts — a new season-high.
As Burke butchered the Hoosiers, the Terps lineup would still struggle to get hits against the Hoosiers, especially after Brown exited the game in favor of Braydon Tucker. Tucker immediately struck out the side in his first frame, but the Terps bats would finally heat up in the fifth inning.
After Cowles picked up a rare infield single, Costes launched a Tucker pitch off the top of the right field wall to score Cowles from first and extend the Terps lead to 3-0.
While Maryland may have struggled to find just a few hits in game two, the Hoosiers struggled even more as they were held hitless through 6 2/3 innings. They finally broke through when Kip Fougerousse slapped a single to center field.
It would be the first time Indiana really threatened to that point as it loaded the bases on a walk against Elliott Zoellner, who replaced Burke after his 6 2/3 innings of work. A lined shot off the bat of pinch-hitter Ethan Vecrumba to center field would have Terps fans holding their breaths — but it fell just short of the wall into the glove of Chris Alleyne to keep a zero in the Hoosier run column.
Maryland’s offense found some life in the seventh inning, as the first five Terps would reach base and add two more runs onto the lead. Justin Vought nearly blew game two wide open with a deep blast with the bases loaded but just fell short of his second grand slam of the season.
A solo home run from Drew Ashley in the seventh and a two-out Jacob Southern RBI single were the only blemishes on Zoellner down the stretch, and he was able to safely navigate the Terps through the final few innings to secure the doubleheader sweep.
The sweep gives Maryland its seventh-straight series win, and gives them the chance to sweep the series Sunday at noon in the regular season finale.
For the first time since 2017, the Maryland Terrapins (26-15) will be entering a series as a ranked team coming into the 2021 season finale as the No. 25-ranked squad in the country, according to D1 Baseball.
Maryland’s placement amongst the top-25 in the nation is greatly due to getting hot at the right time, as the Terps have won more games than any other Power Five school in the past 19 games (16). As it stands, Maryland owns a second-place tie with Michigan in the Big Ten standings with a chance to cement its position against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Part of the Terps’ scorching-hot stretch comes from Big Ten Freshman of the Week Matt Shaw. After leading Maryland to a series win last weekend against the Wolverines, Shaw’s batting average for the second half of the season stands at over .400. Playing all but three games this season, Shaw is slashing .346/.413/.532 with five home runs and 27 RBI.
Shaw’s infield-mate Benjamin Cowles has also continued to be a powerful catalyst in the Terps’ lineup, owning a sizable lead in the Big Ten home run standings with 17 bombs on the year, four more than the three batters tied for second.
While the offense has certainly stolen the show for Maryland, the pitching has also had great contributions to the second-half success the Terps have seen. Last weekend’s series isn’t the best indicator of what the rotation has done, but ever since Head Coach Rob Vaughn shifted the weekend starters to Nick Dean-Jason Savacool-Sean Burke, the runs have come at a minimum for opponents.
That change has held opponents 3.91 runs per game against Maryland’s pitching providing a comfortable cushion for the offense, which had been scoring seven runs per game in that stretch.
It’ll take a Michigan sweep of the Nebraska for the Terps to match the first-place Cornhuskers 29-11 record, but even if that comes to fruition Nebraska owns the tie-breaker over Maryland. Either way the weekend goes, Maryland will be controlling its own fate in the second-place spot since it owns the tie-breaker against Michigan.
The season finale will begin Friday at 6:30 P.M at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, where the university is opening attendance up to full capacity for the first time this season. The following two games are Saturday at 2:00 P.M. and Sunday at noon.
Indiana’s 2020 season was cut short at 15 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the Hoosiers with a 9-6 record in the early going. Their lone conference game was a 17-2 clobbering of Purdue in just seven innings, very representative of the strong offense they brought to the table (6.33 runs per game).
Indiana’s shortened 2020 season may have displayed a strong offense, but its 2021 has been dominated by incredible pitching. The Hoosiers’ pitching staff has compiled a strong 3.13 ERA this season, led by a dynamic one-two punch of McCade Brown and Gabe Bierman.
Hitters to Watch
The Hoosier bats don’t pack much of a powerful punch, sitting in the middle of the Big Ten when it comes to power numbers. However, it’s been two batters who have been leading the way for Indiana: Cole Barr and Grant Richardson. Barr and Richardson both own a .900+ OPS and are the first two within Indiana’s home run standings with eight and seven, respectively.
Pitchers to Watch
The aforementioned Brown and Bierman are the two biggest names to watch on this Indiana pitching staff by quite the large margin. Brown has been included in many draft prospect lists for the 2021 MLB Draft, including being ranked No. 94 on MLB Pipeline’s top 200 draft prospect list. He boasts a 3.26 ERA this season, but more impressively a 92-35 strikeout to walk ratio. Bierman owns the Hoosier rotation’s best ERA at 2.78 with slightly less eye-popping strikeout numbers.
Friday, 6:30 P.M.
RHP Jason Savacool (7-2, 5.32 ERA) vs. RHP John Modugno (3-1, 2.08 ERA)
Savacool ran into the biggest road bump of his freshman season last weekend against Michigan, where he couldn’t get through the third inning before letting up six runs on six hits. The start bumped his season ERA to 5.32, but numbers won’t matter when he heads to the mound Friday night in the biggest start of his young collegiate career.
John Modugno has only started three games for the Hoosiers prior to his Friday night slot in College Park, but he’s been stellar regardless of coming out of the bullpen or starting on the hill. His season ERA stands at 2.08 and he’s coming into the weekend with an eight-inning scoreless streak.
Saturday, 2:00 P.M.
RHP Sean Burke (4-3, 3.94 ERA) vs. RHP McCade Brown (5-3, 3.26 ERA)
Burke has been on quite the roll in his last handful of starts, stringing together four straight wins and recording a 2.50 ERA in those four starts. He’s certainly back in form as the pitcher who’s ranked No. 73 in MLB Pipeline’s top 200 draft prospects list.
In the battle of likely 2021 MLB draft picks, Brown will toe the rubber coming off a somewhat short but impactful start against first-place Nebraska. While he wasn’t able to lead his team to victory, he pitched five innings and had two runs scored against him while striking out eight Cornhuskers.
Sunday, 12:00 P.M.
TBA vs. RHP Gabe Bierman (5-4, 2.78 ERA)
While Bierman owns the best ERA on the Indiana staff, he has been going through struggles in his last pair of starts. Just last week, he fell short of recording a quality start in a loss to Ohio State, going five innings with three earned runs and a couple walks. Having gone at least six innings in eight of his ten starts to that point, a five-inning outing was certainly uncommon for Bierman.
If there’s one thing that Jason Savacool has brought with him in both of his first two starts, it’s the ability to pitch to contact and keep the ball on the ground. Savacool displayed that proficiency once again Monday evening, throwing his second complete game in three starts and limiting the Nittany Lions to one run en route to a 7-1 Terps victory.
The lone, unearned run that Savacool surrendered couldn’t have been more characteristic of his ground ball proficiency, as it came via a fourth-inning, bases-loaded double play in the only inning that Savacool struggled with throughout his seven innings of work.
The standout freshman still hasn’t shown much electricity with his 94 mph fastball just yet, but his 3-0 record as Maryland’s Sunday starter proves that pitching to contact is getting the job done thus far.
With three strikeouts on the day, Savacool efficiently navigated through eight innings, allowing five hits and forcing 14 groundouts in 92 pitches. He also held 17 of the last 18 batters he faced hitless.
Another growing theme of Savacool starts has also been the offense’s ability to back up their starter with runs.
In Savacool’s three starts, the Terps’ bats have scored an average of 6.3 runs per game, but they primarily benefitted from Penn State’s pitching in Monday’s contest.
Maryland would have edged Penn State on walks alone, as four walks from relief pitcher Jared Freilich assisted the Terps in scoring three runs in the seventh inning alone with zero hits in the frame.
The Terps also benefitted from poor defense, as a combination of wild pitches and passed balls allowed them to retake the lead for good after Penn State tied the game in fourth inning.
Austin Chavis, who made his first appearance of the season at third base after Matt Shaw exited early in the game, reached on a passed ball after striking out. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, got to third after Maxwell Costes was hit by a pitch, and scored on an infield single with the bases loaded.
That entire sequence was representative of the issues that Penn State’s starter Kyle Virbitsky and the rest of their staff faced, and more so how the Terps were able to take advantage of those issues.
Only two of Maryland’s seven runs came on hits, one being the bases-loaded infield single and the other being a sixth-inning Chris Alleyne solo home run to right field.
Regardless of how they were scored, seven runs from the Terps is a great way to rebound after Sunday afternoon’s walk-off loss, where Maryland fell short on many chances to separate themselves from Penn State.
The Terps leave Happy Valley with their first series win of the season, and plenty to be happy about with Savacool as they look towards Columbus, Ohio, next weekend.
After Saturday’s season opener, which saw a combined 29 runs scored between Maryland and Penn State, Sunday’s matinee featured a much lower-scoring affair as starters Connor Staine and Conor Larkin were locked into somewhat of a pitchers duel throughout much of the game. Ultimately, it was Maryland’s pitching, both the starter Staine and the bullpen, that would eventually snap as Penn State tied the series with a 6-5 walk-off win.
Maryland would get off to a similar start to yesterday, grabbing an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the offensive explosion from Saturday afternoon wouldn’t make a return.
Besides the first-inning score, which was a Randy Bednar RBI single to score Chris Alleyne, the only other offense the Terps bats could muster up was a two-run home run via the bat of Bobby Zmarzlak, giving him his second home run of the season.
The absence of a strong offense was hard to blame on the Terps, as Larkin was nothing but nails outside of the two run-scoring hits he allowed. The junior has been nothing short of a strikeout machine in his three starts of the season, as his eight punch outs Sunday gave him 23 on the season.
It took the Terps 6 2/3 innings and 89 pitches to knock Larkin out of the game, but Penn State’s Tyler Shingledecker came to fight as well, keeping Maryland scoreless for much of the remainder of the game — until the very last out.
Staine did as good of a job as he could to keep up with Larkin, but he failed to match his efficiency, despite helping maintain a 3-3 tie for most of the contest. Staine got through three scoreless innings to begin his day, but it was eight hits, two walks, three wild pitches and several hard hits that kept the Nittany Lions’ offense on the prowl.
Looking to keep Penn State scoreless through four innings, Staine faced Tayven Kelley with two runners on and two outs. Down to his last strike, Kelley pulled a shot down the right field line to score Penn State’s first pair of runs, putting the pressure on Staine.
The 3-3 tie would come to fruition an inning later, as Justin Williams — who reached base three times in the series opener, including a 107 mph double — crushed a Staine pitch over the left field wall for a solo shot.
Sean Fisher entered the game in his first bullpen appearance of the season, but he suffered the same issues that Staine had displayed in his start, as he walked three Nittany Lions and threw two wild pitches, both wild pitches allowing Penn State to take the lead and then some.
Maryland struggled to find any opportunity to score late in the game, but Chris Alleyne and Matt Shaw would come up with the Terps’ biggest hits of the afternoon, hitting back-to-back extra-base hits to tie the game at 5-5.
The late rally fizzled out before Maryland could grab the lead, and with Elliott Zoellner entering the ninth hoping to give his offense a chance in extra innings, the late rally turned out to be in vain. Just as fast as Maryland tied the game in their half of the frame, Penn State loaded the bases, and it was Penn State’s hottest hitter Josh Spiegel who blasted a Zoellner pitch into the left-center gap to win the game.
Just like the series opener last week against Rutgers, what looked like a potential pitchers duel between Sean Burke and Penn State’s Bailey Dees transformed completely into an all-out slugfest, with Maryland reigning supreme, 19-10.
The Terps couldn’t have hoped for a better start than when they exploded for a four-spot in the first inning of the series opener against Penn State.
At this point, who else but Benjamin Cowles, who secured last week’s Big Ten Player of the Week honors, would be the one to put the exclamation mark on the first inning?
The junior, who crushed five home runs in last weekend’s series against Rutgers, would deliver a two-run single to put Maryland up 4-0 in the first after the Terps had eight batters come to the plate.
Cowles’ offensive onslaught wouldn’t stop there, as he blasted a Dees pitch over the center field wall for a three run homer, his seventh of the season.
Those Cowles hits would turn out to be much-needed, as a mix of walks and poor defense from Maryland helped keep the Nittany Lions in the game from start to finish. They would come as close as down two runs in the middle innings before Cowles’ three-run blast, and were in position to come even closer as a Matt Shaw error allowed Penn State to score and put two runners in scoring position.
A strong relief appearance from Ryan Ramsey prevented further damage, but Penn State would threaten once again after the seventh-inning stretch, putting two runners in scoring position with nobody out.
Redshirt freshman David Falco entered, hoping to clean up the seventh-inning mess, but his defense failed to back him up as catcher Justin Vought lost a passed ball in the backstop, allowing enough time for a Penn State runner to score from third. A fielder’s choice brought in yet another Penn State run, narrowing Maryland’s lead to just two runs in the late inning.
Although the Terps defense had been less-than-spectacular all day, it eventually came up with a potentially game-saving play, as Justin Vought was able to tag a Penn State runner out at home on a huge relay from the left-center outfield wall. However, with two outs, Penn State would knock in the tying run after a Falco balk sent Justin Williams to third base.
The Nittany Lions had come all the way back after being down 6-0 early in the game, putting an exclamation on what had been a rollercoaster of a game for Maryland’s pitching and specifically the bullpen.
Penn State’s bullpen, on the other hand, seemingly was having a strong outing, holding Maryland scoreless after starter Bailey Dees’ surrendered all of the Terps’ nine runs. Eventually, even their relievers faltered late, as they gave the lead back to Maryland immediately after grinding to tie the game at nine runs apiece.
What had become a close game due to Penn State’s comeback turned back into a Maryland blowout, as Penn State’s bullpen hit a rough patch in the eighth inning, giving up a five-spot before ending the inning. The crooked number that Maryland put up that inning was capped off with a Tommy Gardiner two-run single with the bags packed.
Tyler Blohm would continue an appearance that started in the seventh inning into the eighth, but Penn State’s offense wouldn’t give in. After loading the bags with one out, Blohm would exit in favor of Sam Bello, and after walking a run in, Bello was able to end the inning before it could get any messier.
Chad Rogers entered the ninth inning for Penn State, but the Terps topped off the game with the same aggression they showed in the first inning, loading the bases and ultimately running their run total up to a season-high 19 and the most runs scored in a Terps game since 2016.
Bello continued his appearance into the ninth, and made quick work of the Penn State ninth.
The win is certainly much-needed, as the Terps bats were able to overcome sloppy defense and a subpar outing from the bullpen, and then some. Maryland will be counting on the bats to continue their aggression into tomorrow afternoon’s game, as well as a strong start from Connor Staine.
Maryland hasn’t been off to the start it likely hoped for after its first two series — winning neither and entering its third with a 3-4 record — but the upcoming series against Penn State offers a great chance to right the ship early.
The Terps visit University Park, Pennsylvania, Saturday afternoon to kick off a three-game series after beginning the 2021 season with back-to-back four-game, three-day series.
Although Maryland could only split the series in its home opener against Rutgers, the offense showed great leaps and bounds from the quiet season opener at the plate. Facing the Scarlet Knights without the bat of Maxwell Costes, the Terps’ offense scored 32 runs across the four games, including a 13-run outburst in the series opener.
Junior Benjamin Cowles led the way for the explosive weekend at the plate, crushing five home runs to put himself in a tie on top the Big Ten home run leaderboards (6) with Rutgers’ standout Chris Brito. Cowles also accounted for eight RBI on six hits in the four games, including two multi-hit performances.
With the offense catching its stride against Rutgers, Maryland finds itself in a good spot this weekend, facing a 2-6 Penn State team that suffered a four-game sweep against Indiana last week.
For the majority of the Nittany Lions’ young season, the offense has remained silent, being held to two runs or less in five of their eight games. While they have posted a slash line of .228/.339/.414 thus far, the Nittany Lions have been outscored 43-29.
The pitching hasn’t been doing Penn State any favors either, posting a 5.63 team earned-run average and a .289 opposing batting average. Even on the rare occasion when the offense blew up (13-10 win vs. Northwestern, March 7) the pitching failed to suppress the opposing bats, allowing ten runs on 17 hits.
Historically, Maryland has dominated the Nittany Lions since it joined the Big Ten, owning a 7-2 record against Penn State.
Penn State Nittany Lions (2-6)
After finishing three straight seasons with a losing record before 2020, Penn State had gotten off to a 10-5 start before last season ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nittany Lions were clicking on both ends of the diamond, hitting for a .289/.394/.422 slash line while the pitchers — to put it bluntly — absolutely shoved, owning a 2.16 ERA.
The 2020 season did show plenty of promise for a Penn State program that had gone through great struggles in recent history, but the potential has seemingly fallen flat in the first eight games of the season. Outside of an opening day win and a slugfest win over Northwestern, Penn State’s offense has been completely stifled, scoring ten runs total in their six losses this season. One of the losses in their last series versus Indiana was close to a no-hitter for Hoosiers starter McCade Brown, who threw seven no-hit innings with 16 strikeouts.
Hitters to Watch
Penn State’s offense has struggled on a macro level, but its lineup still features a couple bats that have carried the “load.” By far, the star of the Nittany Lions is redshirt freshman Josh Spiegel, who has led the way at the plate with a .346/.414/.808 slash line in the young season. Right behind him is freshman Johnny Piacentino, who arrived at Penn State as the second-best outfield recruit of out New Jersey, per Perfect Game. Piacentino is tied for the Penn State lead in home runs with Spiegel (3) and is also the only other Nittany Lion to have an on-base plus slugging percentage above 1.000.
Pitchers to Watch
Save for a couple of starters, Penn State’s pitching has been simply atrocious in the early going of the season. The two bright spots on that staff are Conor Larkin and Jaden Henline — who has been relegated to the bullpen for this series despite recording a 3.24 ERA in his two starts. Larkin comes in as the “Saturday” starter for this series, and owns a staff-best 3.00 ERA. He has also put up flashy strikeout numbers, punching out 15 batters opposed to two walks in his two starts.
Probable Starting Pitching Matchups
Saturday, 1:00 P.M. EST
RHP Sean Burke (1-1, 5.40 ERA) vs RHP Bailey Dees (1-1, 5.79 ERA)
Burke’s second start of the season against Rutgers wasn’t as impressive as his 13-strikeout Opening Day performance, but an explosive Terps offense carried him to his first win of the season. The strikeouts were still there, as he racked up seven in his 5 2/3 innings, but he was also tagged for seven hits and four earned runs.
Dees is one of two familiar faces on this Nittany Lions pitching staff, as both he and Virbitsky pitched against the Terps during the teams’ last meeting in 2019. Dees was rocked in his last start, giving up six runs (four earned) and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings against Indiana.
After seemingly just being a doubleheader starter in the Terps’ first two series, Staine moves into the “normal,” three-man rotation for the first time this season. Staine followed up an incredible starting debut against Michigan State with a less-than-spectacular start against Rutgers, giving up seven runs (three home runs). Facing a struggling Nittany Lions lineup offers a great rebound spot for the sophomore.
Larkin has been the statistical leader for the Penn State staff, and while the offense struggled to pick up more than one hit in his last start, he shined with five innings of one-run ball before the bullpen imploded. His start against Indiana also featured his only two walks of the season as he racked up seven strikeouts.
Monday, 4:00 P.M. EST
RHP Jason Savacool (2-0 3.68 ERA) vs RHP Kyle Virbitsky (0-1, 8.38 ERA)
It would have certainly been a feat for Savacool to top the complete-game gem he tossed in his collegiate debut. The freshman earned the win in his start against Rutgers last Sunday, but struggled in doing so, surrendering five runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Virbitsky’s 8.38 ERA is the result of two very different starts, and his most recent showing against a strong Indiana team is a good indicator of what he really brings to the mound. Although Penn State fell to the Hoosiers, 1-2, in his last start, Virbitsky threw 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball with no walks.