Hometown Kid Caleb Walls Sparks Terps Offense Early as Parsons Carves Up Penn State Bats

Junior Caleb Walls’s return to his hometown of State College, Pennsylvania started off with a bang as he provided an early start to the Terrapins’ offense in Friday night’s 5-2 victory in the series-opener versus Penn State.

The game was set to be a great pitchers duel, with Terps ace Hunter Parsons (3.60 ERA) facing off with Penn State’s ace, redshirt sophomore Dante Biasi (1.75 ERA). While Biasi has consistently been one of the best pitchers in the Big Ten, Parsons has struggled lately, giving up a combined 14 runs in his last 13 innings of work. However, with Penn State’s last-place offense at the plate this weekend, a bounce-back start was definitely on the tab for Parsons tonight.

While both starting pitchers were carving up opposing bats through two innings, the hometown kid Caleb Walls revved up the Maryland offense in the third inning, getting on base via a single. An AJ Lee double led to both runners being in scoring position. The Terps would get on the board after Randy Bednar soared a sac-fly into center field, promptly followed by a hard lined single courtesy of senior Taylor Wright that brought in the second run of the inning.

The third inning was not the last time Wright brought the offense in tonight’s match. In the fifth inning, Wright clobbered a pitch into the left field gap for an RBI double, giving the Terps a 3-0 lead halfway through the game. Wright would end the night with three hits, a walk, and two RBI in five at-bats.

The Nittany Lions would get themselves on the board for the first (and last) time of the night in the fifth inning when Parsons would allow two runners to reach on a walk and single. Penn State catcher Ryan Sloniger delivered when he clubbed the baseball off the right field wall, bringing in both runners.

With the lead cut to just one, the Terps certainly were wishing for some insurance with the game heading into the seventh inning. Their wish was granted when three straight errors — capped off by a botched pickoff attempt — allowed Walls to score after he reached on a dropped third strike.  One final run would come home for Maryland when Michael Pineiro, who pinch-hit for the hitless Josh Maguire, laid down a nifty bunt up the third base line to bring home Randy Bednar.

Hunter Parsons’ start would come to an end shortly after the Terps provided him with a comfy, three-run lead. After seven innings of work, the ace left the game with two earned runs as he struck out nine opposing batters — his most since March 22nd — lowering his season ERA to 3.51.

Due to inclement weather predicted for Sunday, the series finale was moved to tomorrow to be played as a double-header when the Terps will look to grab both win number two and three of this three-game series as their pursuit for the Big Ten playoffs continues.

 

Series Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions

MD-PSU

After a promising midweek 10-5 victory over the VCU Rams on Tuesday to cap off a .500 homestand, the Terrapins resume conference play as they travel to University Park, Pennsylvania to take on the last place Penn State Nittany Lions in a weekend series.

The Terps (20-21) currently hold the eighth spot in the Big Ten standings, so taking advantage of the Nittany Lions, who are 1-13 in conference play, will be a huge indicator of Maryland’s chances at making the conference tournament with the regular season slowly reaching its end.

The Terps and the Nittany Lions previously met at two other occasions since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2015. In those two series, the Terps went 5-1 against Penn State, including a three-game series sweep in 2017. Between those six games, Maryland has outscored Penn State 40-12.

While Maryland couldn’t make it a winning homestand, going 2-2 versus Ohio State and VCU between last weekend and Tuesday, the performances that a handful of Terrapins put together were quite promising, and a lot of that came from the top of the lineup.

Between seniors AJ Lee and Taylor Wright and sophomore Randy Bednar, the top third of the Terps lineup slashed a monstrous .538/.593/.769 while driving in 17 runs over the four-game stretch. Even if the top of the order can come close to that level of production against Penn State, keeping up in the playoff race should be a breeze.

Unfortunately, the Terrapin bats weren’t the only ones providing the fireworks during the homestand. In the weekend series versus the Buckeyes, the Terps’ starters recorded no quality starts, allowing 15 runs over 19 innings. The bullpen also struggled in the same fashion, allowing five runs over 10 innings. One pitcher did stick out as someone to watch. That pitcher is righty sophomore Mark DiLuia, who tallied three strikeouts as he cruised through 3.1 innings of work over the weekend.

Penn State Nittany Lions (17-18, 1-13 Big Ten)

Last Season

To say that the Nittany Lions’ 2018 season was full of shortcomings would be an understatement. Penn State, which has failed to reach the Big Ten tournament for the last six years, finished the 2018 season with a 15-34 overall record while finishing conference play 3-21. The offense mustered up a collective .674 on-base plus slugging percentage while just one pitcher on the roster succeeded at keeping his earned-run average under 4.60.

This Season

Penn State at this point in the season appears to be nearly replicating its 2018 performance, coming in at a 17-18 overall record, but more importantly, a 1-13 record in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions are also in the middle of their worst stretch of the season, losing their last seven games after being on the brush-end of two-straight sweeps by Nebraska and Illinois. Certainly, a lot of that has to do with the team slashing .230/.338/.327.

Hitters to Watch

The Nittany Lions offense, despite its struggles, still boasts a couple of strong bats in their lineup. The two that have played major roles in their run production this season include senior Jordan Bowersox and junior Gavin Homer. Bowersox leads Penn State in both average (.346) and OPS (.880) by a wide margin as he’s in the midst of a 16-game hit streak. While Homer’s average sits at .259, he is Penn State’s only other bat with an OPS over .800 (.819) and is tied for the team lead in home runs (4).

Pitchers to Watch

The Penn State bats may have not come around yet, but their pitching surely has. Through 56.2 innings, their ace, redshirt sophomore Dante Biasi, has pitched to the tune of a remarkable 1.75 ERA while striking out 12.6 batters per nine innings. Sophomore Mason Mellott has proven to be a deadly arm out of the Penn State bullpen, logging a 2.02 ERA in 15 appearances, all 15 of those being at least two innings long.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Sr. RHP Hunter Parsons ( 7-2, 3.60 ERA) v. R-So. LHP Dante Biasi (3-3, 1.75 ERA)

           RMZBYNJDDYBZPMM.20150924191225 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo  vs500px-Penn_State_Nittany_Lions_svg.Dante Biasi

Hunter Parsons came out as the winner in the midst of last Friday’s offensive explosion versus Ohio State despite allowing seven runs on 11 hits. Now at a season-worst 3.60 ERA, Parsons looks to bounce back versus a rather weak Penn State lineup.

Dante Biasi is in the midst of an amazing comeback season. Just last year, his ERA mounted to an abysmal 5.20 at season’s end, and now he’s Penn State’s clear ace with an incredible 1.75 ERA. After striking out nine Illini as he cruised through 5.1 shutout innings in Illinois, he’ll be a scary matchup for the Terrapins.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 2:00 p.m. ET

Jr. RHP Zach Thompson (1-4, 5.28 ERA) v. R-Jr. Eric Mock (2-2, 3.55 ERA)

           Thompson082818_021Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo  vs.500px-Penn_State_Nittany_Lions_svgMock, Eric

Although it wasn’t a quality start, Zach Thompson was able to keep the Terps in the lead for the length of his start against the Buckeyes (7.0 innings). After a streak of mediocre starts (20 earned runs in 21.1 innings in last four starts), a date with Penn State should help Thompson’s season numbers.

Eric Mock was just a bullpen arm for the Nittany Lions last year, and not particularly a great one with a 5.97 ERA in 15 appearances. Like Biasi, he’s pitched much better this year, but he’s just coming off his worst start of the season, giving up six runs on eight hits and walking five batters versus Illinois.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Fr. RHP Trevor LaBonte (1-4, 5.87 ERA) v. So. RHP Bailey Dees (2-1, 4.00 ERA)

Labonte082818_021Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo  vs.500px-Penn_State_Nittany_Lions_svgDees, Bailey

Trevor LaBonte nearly mirrored Zach Thompson’s Saturday start, giving up four runs to Ohio State through six innings. LaBonte may have still been shaking off the jitters after getting blasted for eight runs against Northwestern two weeks ago, but he’ll look to level his numbers when he takes to the mound in University Park.

Just like his fellow teammate Mock, Bailey Dees was also a relief pitcher in 2018, appearing in 12 games with an ERA of 5.14. Dees has since improved, pitching his way to a 4.00 ERA in 2018 while walking the least amount of batters (15) out of Penn State’s weekend starters. Dees pitched well in his last start versus Illinois, striking out seven and limiting Illinois to a run over six innings of work.

Former Terps Kolarek, Lowe make Rays’ Opening Day Roster

Two former Maryland Terrapins, left-hander Adam Kolarek and infielder Brandon Lowe, will begin the 2019 MLB season on the Tampa Bay Rays’ 25-man roster, manager Kevin Cash revealed Tuesday.

Kolarek, who edged out teammate Emilio Pagán for the final roster spot, didn’t have the best spring, pitching 9.2 innings with an 8.38 ERA. However, Kolarek is coming off a quality 2018 season, which is part of the reason that Cash opted to have him on the Opening Day roster.

After spending 31 games last year with the Durham Bulls (AAA), in which the lefty cruised through 44.2 innings to the tune of a 1.61 ERA and a 10.48 strikeouts-per-nine-innings, Kolarek made his next 31 appearances at the major-league level. In 34.1 innings with the Rays, Kolarek became a reliable lefty out of the bullpen, limiting opposing lefty batters to a .208 batting average.

Lowe, who recently signed a six-year deal with Tampa Bay, now appears to be a player that the Rays view as a major contributor for the foreseeable future. He had himself an outstanding Spring Training after finishing his debut season in 2018 with a .774 on-base plus slugging percentage.

In 53 at-bats, Lowe slashed .377/.411/.698 while tying teammate Avisail Garcia for the team’s most Spring Training home runs at three and leading the team in RBI at 17.

Both former Terrapins have made it a long way since being major contributors on some of the better teams Maryland has seen in the past couple of decades. Prior to getting drafted by the New York Mets in 2010, Adam Kolarek pitched two seasons (2008-2009) with the Terps, making 43 total appearances and recording a 4.26 ERA and 4.68 ERA in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Lowe, who had been drafted by the Rays in 2015, was a major component in helping the Terps make their first two NCAA Super Regional appearances in the school’s history in 2014 and 2015, slashing .338/.448/.509 between the two years.

This is the first time that either former Terrapin will be breaking camp with a major-league team as they’ll open the season Thursday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg when the Rays take on the Houston Astros at 4 p.m. ET.

Maryland Ninth-Inning Comeback Falls Short, Creighton Sweeps Series

A five-run ninth inning for the Terps was not enough to overcome Creighton’s offense Sunday afternoon as the Bluejays slammed the door shut on the Maryland comeback en route to an 8-6 Terps loss. This is the second home series in a row that the Terps have been swept, the last time being against ranked East Carolina just a week ago.

While Maryland ultimately put up six total runs, they struggled offensively for most of the game against Creighton starter Evan Johnson. The senior recorded his best start of the season, limiting the Terps to only two hits and zero runs through six-plus innings.

On the other side of the pitching matchup, Terps freshman Trevor LaBonte started the game struggling to maintain his control. The leadoff batter for Creighton, Isaac Collins, tripled to start the game and immediately got brought in by teammate Will Robertson. While Creighton was held to that one run for the next five innings, LaBonte continued to struggle with control as he walked five batters and allowed four hits over his 4.1 innings of work.

The Terps bullpen would struggle as well, allowing the floodgates to open for Creighton in the seventh inning by surrendering four runs on four hits, including a long two-run homer from Bluejays designated hitter Jake Holton. Although redshirt freshman Billy Phillips was able to retire the side before allowing more runs to score, the damage was done.

Three more runs would be scored by the Bluejays between the last two innings with junior Will Robertson knocking in his third RBI of the day for the first of the three. Robertson and his fellow junior Isaac Collins had huge days at the plate, collecting six total hits over nine at-bats. The last two runs would score on a deep Jason Hovey home run in the ninth that completely broke the game open.

Creighton’s bullpen was rather shaky, giving up all five of Maryland’s runs in the late innings. However, the late comeback attempt by the Terps simply wasn’t enough with the Bluejays’ bats coming up big at multiple occasions during the game.

Up next, the Terrapins will play the second half of their six-game homestand when they face the Indiana Hoosiers next weekend. By then, they’ll hopefully be able to present a much more consistent offense as conference play begins.

Maryland Threatens Late, but Creighton’s Bullpen Slams the Door on Potential Comeback

In a closely contested game versus the Creighton Bluejays, the Maryland bullpen failed to convert when it came to locking down the final two innings as Creighton took advantage of bad control en route to a 5-3 Terrapins loss.

The Saturday matinee appeared nearly identical to last night’s contest through the first few innings with Creighton picking up a trio of runs between the third and fifth innings. The first two runs came from back-to-back RBI singles in the third, while the third run, delivered via a Jack Strunc sacrifice-bunt, gave the Bluejays a 3-0 lead.

At the same time, Creighton’s starter, senior Denson Hull, appeared to be in full control of the game, surrendering only three hits through four-plus shutout innings. For a while, it seemed like the Bluejays’ pitching, between yesterday and today, had figured out Maryland’s lineup.

Then, a quiet first four innings from Maryland’s bats turned into a booming fifth when Justin Vought provided a much-needed offensive spark — or perhaps an explosion when he crushed a Jonah Smith pitch deep behind the left-center outfield wall, tying the game at three runs apiece.

From then on, both offenses would struggle with converting on scoring opportunities as the game progressed through the seventh inning. When the eighth inning arrived, sophomore Mark DiLuia had entered the game looking to hold Creighton to their three runs but ended up walking two of their batters, setting the Bluejays up for an offensive push that would put them ahead for good after a lined single and bunt brought home the two batters DiLuia had walked.

As for the Bluejays bullpen, their relievers got the job done. Junior Jonah Smith made quick work of the Terrapins in the final three innings after their hiccup in the fifth and ended Maryland’s hopes of coming back despite loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth.

The Terps will have one last chance to salvage a win from this home series tomorrow at noon when freshman Trevor Labonte takes to the mound.

Maryland Left in Bluejays’ Dust in Battle of Home Runs

With Terps ace Hunter Parsons taking to the mound following his worst start of the season against East Carolina, a bounce-back start versus the Creighton Bluejays was the only thing on his mind as he attempted to right the ship of his season. However, the wind would not be working in Parsons’ favor.

In the brisk, windy College Park weather, one would think that there was a home run derby taking place at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium as the Bluejays and Terrapins slugged four home runs en route to a 3-2 Terrapins loss.

The home run barrage began immediately after the 7:00 p.m first pitch with Creighton second baseman Isaac Collins hitting a near-foul leadoff home run. After a brief review to confirm that the ball landed within the foul poles, the Bluejays were off to a quick 1-0 lead. The leadoff home run was the first home run of its kind given up in Hunter Parsons’ career.

Creighton’s bats weren’t done yet as senior Jordan Hovey started the second inning the same way his teammate Collins lead off the first. This time, the wind carried the barreled ball far over the head of Terps left fielder Caleb Walls as the Bluejays doubled their lead. Later in the inning, Bluejays sophomore David Vilches would hit his own home run to give Creighton a 3-0 lead.

The Terrapins would finally create some longball action themselves in the fifth inning when Randy Bednar hit his now team-leading fourth home run of the season. With a runner already on base, the home run cut the Bluejays lead to 3-2.

The one home run would be all the offense the Terps could muster up against Creighton’s starting pitcher, senior Mitch Ragan. Ragan, who has struggled for most of the 2019 season as the Bluejays ace, put up his best start of the season by surrendering just two runs on five hits while striking out ten Terrapins during his seven innings of work.

While Hunter Parsons was the losing pitcher, he didn’t pitch that much worse than Ragan. Outside of the three solo homers Parsons let up in the first two innings, he had allowed one hit for the last six innings he pitched all while striking out his own ten batters. Unfortunately, the exceptional start from Parsons wasn’t enough for the Terps as they drop the series opener to the Bluejays.

Tomorrow, the Terps will have a chance to even the series with Zach Thompson on the mound, who’s coming off a start against East Carolina in which he only gave up two earned runs through eight innings of work.

Series Preview: Creighton Bluejays

With a commanding 12-4 win over the Elon Phoenix, the Terrapins (12-8) capped off a dominant two-game sweep of Elon on the road. The Terps offense, which surged for 23 runs over the two-game swing, will look to stay hot as they travel back home this weekend to face the Creighton Bluejays (8-5).

The series had previously been scheduled to be played in Omaha at TD Ameritrade Park, but due to heavy snowfall, the series was moved to Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium in College Park.

The Terrapins and Bluejays will be facing each other for the first time in over 20 years, so the history between the two schools is relatively short. Maryland will surely be looking to add some of its own success to the schools’ brief history this weekend, and there’s no better time to do so than after outscoring their last opponent 23-8.

The Terps also outhit their last opponent 23-9 with a couple of outstanding performances from senior AJ Lee and junior Caleb Walls. While some Terps notched themselves a pair of hits over the two-game series, Lee compiled three hits in four at-bats including a two-run homer and two-run double while Walls mashed a couple of home runs himself as part of his own four-hit day on Tuesday.

As for Maryland’s pitchers, they’re sitting on just six earned runs over the last two games and were given big enough leads throughout the series to cruise on by with 22 strikeouts and two wins under their belts. While five pitchers mostly split up innings during Tuesday’s 12-4 win, junior Tuck Tucker started Wednesday’s game and provided five one-run, one-hit innings as the Terps eased their way into another dominant win.

Creighton Bluejays (8-5, 0-0 Big East)

Last Season

Despite finishing the 2018 season with an overall record of 34-16, Creighton’s best since 2016, a conference record of 8-9 wasn’t good enough to push the Bluejays into the Big East tournament. While they did win the second-most overall games in the Big East after St. Johns’s 36, it simply wasn’t enough, leaving the Bluejays out of the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year.

This Season

Creighton has yet to play a home game this season due to the terrible weather Omaha has had since the season opened up, but they still carry an 8-5 record including some very high-scoring wins. In fact, the Bluejays have scored 10 or more runs in six of their eight wins. However, their opponents have also scored a lot, and they’re coming off of a series loss in which their opponent, Evansville, outscored them 22-11. One of those games was an 11-0 slaughter by Evansville.

Hitters to Watch

The Bluejays have three hitters who each have an on-base plus slugging percentage of over .900. Those hitters are senior Parker Upton (1.084) and juniors Jake Holton (1.022) and Will Robertson (.990). The three of those hitters have combined for 10 home runs and are responsible for nearly 50 percent of Creighton’s RBI this season.

Pitchers to Watch

Creighton’s pitchers have been shelled up to this point in the season. Between the four pitchers who have started games for them, they’ve pitched 54.2 innings while letting up 49 earned runs. Some of their better pitchers reside in the bullpen. Right-handed senior Bobby Kametas has pitched 6.1 scoreless innings in six appearances while striking out seven. Their next best pitcher in relief is righty freshman Dylan Tebrake, who, despite pitching just 3.2 innings this season, has only surrendered one hit while limiting batters to a team-best .091 batting average.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Sr. RHP Hunter Parsons ( 3-1, 2.45 ERA) v. Sr. RHP Mitch Ragan (2-1, 6.56 ERA)

 RMZBYNJDDYBZPMM.20150924191225  1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo  vs.logo_-creighton-university-bulejays-blue-jay-head-cMitch Ragan

Hunter Parsons will surely be looking to bounce back after East Carolina knocked his season ERA up by over an entire run after plating six runs against him. The Terps ace received his first loss of the season from that start, and could certainly use a quality start to bring himself back down to Earth.

While Bluejays ace Mitch Ragan leads his team in strikeouts (23) over his 23.1 innings this season, he also leads in hits allowed and total runs allowed. Ragan is returning to the mound after giving up seven runs (two earned) over 3.2 innings while hitting three batters.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 2:00 p.m. ET

Jr. RHP Zach Thompson (1-2, 3.34 ERA) v. Sr. LHP Denson Hull (0-2, 9.15 ERA)

    Thompson082818_02  1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo  vs.logo_-creighton-university-bulejays-blue-jay-head-cDenson Hull

Thompson is coming off one of the best starts out of anyone on the Terrapins roster, allowing only two runs over 8.0 innings against East Carolina. That start helped bring his ERA down from 3.74 to 3.34 as he looks to continue his domination on the mound into Saturday.

Denson Hull leads all Bluejay starters in ERA — and by quite a large margin (next lowest is 6.56). He leads Creighton in earned runs (20) while also allowing the highes opposing batting average out of Creighton starters (.297). The last time Hull pitched was last Saturday in Evansville, where he gave up four earned runs after allowing five hits and walking four batters.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Fr. RHP Trevor LaBonte (1-1, 2.78 ERA) v. Sr. RHP Evan Johnson (1-0, 5.94 ERA)

Labonte082818_021Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo  vs.logo_-creighton-university-bulejays-blue-jay-head-cEvan Johnson

Trevor LaBonte, just like Parsons, got roughed up in his last start versus East Carolina. Although his ERA only increased by 0.18, his control was a bit awry, as evident by his three walks and one hit-by-pitch during that start. He’ll also be looking to bounce back against this Creighton team on Sunday.

Johnson had pitched his best game of the season last Sunday, going five innings versus Evansville while only allowing two runs on four hits. However, the senior leads Creighton in total walks (12) this season while also allowing the most extra-base hits by any Bluejay in 2019 (7).