Series Preview: Purdue Boilermakers

With conference play in full swing and warmer weather heading toward College Park, the Maryland Terrapins host the Purdue Boilermakers this weekend, looking to turn things around after a rough week.

After posting a .500 record through two Big Ten home series, Maryland hit the road last weekend, traveling to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to take on the Wolverines. The Terps all sorts of obstacles in the series, from starting pitcher injuries to cold weather delays to travel curfews. With the temperature at or below freezing for most of the weekend, the teams managed to only play two of the three scheduled games, both of which were Terrapin losses. Maryland returned to College Park on Tuesday, but fell to VCU, 14-3, to split the season home-and-home series with the Rams.

The Terps (16-20, 3-5 Big Ten) continue to struggle offensively; they have put up 14 total runs in their past five contests, going 1-4 in that stretch. As a team, Maryland is hitting .229 on the year, good for third-to-last in the Big Ten, and is faring just slightly better in conference play, with a .239 mark.

Nick Dunn is the only Terps regular hitting over .300, and he leads the team in most offensive categories, including batting average (.331), home runs (7), runs scored (27) and RBIs (25). Kevin Biondic’s .272 average is the next best mark on the team, and the senior first baseman ranks second with five homers and 21 RBIs as well. Marty Costes has not been able to replicate his dominant sophomore year at the plate, although the outfielder did notch two hits, including his third homer of the season, in Tuesday’s setback. Randy Bednar, Justin Morris and Taylor Wright have all showed signs of breaking out at the plate recently, with Bednar launching a two-run homer – his fourth of the season – against VCU.

On the mound, Maryland has faltered of late, although some of these struggles can be blamed on injuries over the weekend. Friday night starter Taylor Bloom was hit in the head during warmups before Friday’s contest in Ann Arbor and could not start, so Rob Vaughn had to piece the series opener together with redshirt freshman Mike Vasturia and four relievers. In Sunday’s weather delayed series finale, left-hander Tyler Blohm left after one inning with an injury, as usual Sunday starter Hunter Parsons had to toss five innings of relief in the loss.

Kevin Biondic continues to be the best bullpen arm for Rob Vaughn’s squad, leading the Terps with a minuscule 0.50 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18 innings of work. John Murphy has 30 strikeouts in 20 innings, but his control issues (17 walks, 6 hit by pitches) has led to a lofty 4.05 ERA. As a team, the Terps rank third from the bottom of the Big Ten with a 5.27 overall ERA.

The Boilermakers (16-16, 4-4 Big Ten) come into town stumbling, having lost six of their last seven contests. They split a home-and-home midweek set with Indiana State this week, but got stomped at home last weekend by Minnesota, losing 22-7 and 18-8 before the third game was cancelled. Three of their four Big Ten wins this season came in a sweep of Penn State in University Park, with the other coming in the series opener against then-No. 10 Indiana in the series opener two weeks ago.

Purdue ranks near the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in both batting average (.261) and ERA (4.47). While the Boilermakers have a big advantage over the Terps in average, they just barely best Maryland in slugging (.363 vs. .361) and on-base (.359 vs. .350). They average nearly five runs per game, but do it without much in the power department, hitting just 16 long balls in 32 games.

Jacson McGowan has been the Boilermakers’ most dangerous hitter this season, leading the team with nine homers, 39 RBIs, 24 walks, a .427 on-base percentage and a .593 slugging percentage. His .310 average is second best, behind only Skyler Hunter’s .328 mark. Nick Dalesandro is hitting .305 with a team-high nine doubles and 10 of the team’s 40 stolen bases. Ben Nisle (five homers, 22 RBIs, .484 slugging) is also a power threat for the Terps to be wary of.

Left-hander Ross Learnard is the go-to arm in Purdue’s bullpen. The senior has allowed just two runs (both earned) in 17.2 innings of work, for a 1.02 ERA, while striking out 17 hitters. Freshman right-hander Bo Hofstra leads the bullpen with 26.2 innings of relief work (not including a three-inning start early in the season), posting a 3.64 ERA in his 15 appearances. Trent Johnson owns a 1.88 ERA in nine appearances (five starts), but has been slotted into the rotation in recent weeks.

The Terps and Boilermakers met only once last year, in the Big Ten Tournament. Maryland came out victorious, 5-2, thanks to five shutout innings from Taylor Bloom and an eighth-inning bases loaded double by Kevin Smith. The Terps took two out of three from Purdue in College Park in 2016.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:30 p.m. EST

Sr. RHP Tanner Andrews (3-3, 2.50 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia (1-2, 5.92 ERA)  

   vs. 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

Senior right-hander Tanner Andrews takes the ball for Purdue on Friday night. He leads the Boilermakers with 50.1 innings pitched and 43 strikeouts, even after a rough outing last time out against Minnesota. Last Friday, he made it through just 3.2 innings against the Golden Gophers, surrendering six runs (three earned) on six hits and five walks while not recording a strikeout. Unearned runs have been a common theme for the 6-foot-3 right-hander this season, as only 14 of the 26 runs he has allowed have been earned.

With Taylor Bloom still recovering from being hit in the head last week in Michigan, right-hander Mark DiLuia will get the nod for the Terps in the series opener. The freshman has seven midweek starts and nine total appearances under his belt, but this will be his first career weekend (and conference start). DiLuia’s past two starts have been the best of his young career. He tossed seven innings of one-run ball last week at James Madison, a week after holding William & Mary to one run over six innings. He did not receive a decision in either outing, and will look to pick up a win with another strong start in conference play.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 2 p.m. EST

Jr. LHP Gareth Stroh (4-2, 5.67 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Hunter Parsons (3-2, 3.18 ERA)

   vs. 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

Entering Big Ten play, Gareth Stroh was putting together a strong junior campaign. Through seven starts (including one conference start against Penn State), he owned a 3.12 ERA, and had completed five innings five times. However, his past two outings, against Indiana and Minnesota, have been a different story. He lasted a combined five innings in the two starts, allowing 15 runs (13 earned) on 11 hits and seven walks to raise his ERA by more than two runs. The left-hander got the start against Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament last year, allowing two runs over 5.1 innings of work.

With eight starts (and ten appearances) under his belt, Hunter Parsons has been the Terps’ best starter this season. The right-hander leads the team in ERA and innings (and ranks fourth in the conference with 56.1 innings pitched). He didn’t get a start last weekend due to the weather-shortened series in Ann Arbor, but contributed five strong innings of relief in Sunday’s loss, allowing just two runs while striking out seven Wolverines. This will be his first Saturday start, after occupying the Sunday spot in the rotation up until this point.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

Fr. RHP Trent Johnson (1-1, 1.88 ERA) vs. So. LHP Tyler Blohm (4-2, 3.99 ERA)

   vs. 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

Freshman Trent Johnson has worked himself into the Purdue rotation in the past month, as Sunday’s outing will be his fourth weekend start in the last five weeks. His last time out, Tuesday against Indiana State, Johnson threw three hitless innings, allowing just two walks while striking out three. Against Penn State on March 31, he turned in the best start of his career, striking out six in five scoreless frames, but then allowed three runs in 3.1 innings against Indiana the following week. The right-hander has whiffed 26 hitters in 25 innings of work, and opponents are hitting just .173 off him, but has struggled with control at times, walking 16 batters.

A week after leaving his start after one inning due to arm discomfort, Tyler Blohm will take the hill Sunday this weekend, rather than in his usual Saturday role. In his last full start, two weeks ago against Illinois, the southpaw was brilliant, striking out nine over 6.1 innings of one-run ball, and he will look to return to that form against Purdue. Blohm leads the Terps with 46 strikeouts in 45 innings, and opponents are hitting .244 off him.

Game Preview: VCU Rams

Maryland baseball will look to erase last weekend from its mind when it opens up a six-game homestand Tuesday against VCU, a team it previously shut out on the road earlier this season.

While it was a frustrating three days for the Terps (16-19, 3-5 Big Ten) over the weekend, it wasn’t necessarily because they lost both games of a weather-shortened series. With Michigan unbeaten in eight conference games, on 17-game winning streak and 52-10 in home games in the last four years, losing two games on the road against the Wolverines isn’t all that devastating.

But between six-plus hours of sitting through freezing weather delays and watching two starting pitchers unable to compete because of injuries, it became a long and dreary weekend in Ann Arbor. Aside from a pair of two-RBI doubles from AJ Lee and Nick Dunn on Friday, and two solo homers from Taylor Wright and Kevin Biondic on Sunday, the Terps struggled to keep pace with a Wolverines offense that took full advantage of Maryland’s starting pitching misfortunes.

It’s a new week, though, for the Terps. Maryland will look to complete a sweep against VCU in its two-game season series when the Rams come to College Park on Tuesday for a 4 p.m. first pitch. The Terps won the first matchup this season, 2-0, back on Feb. 28 in Richmond.

Maryland, despite only having two hits in the first contest against the Rams, did just enough offensively to generate a pair of runs. Catcher Justin Morris used a safety squeeze with bases loaded to scored the first run of the game in the fourth inning. The following inning, Nick Dunn drove in the only other run in the game on sacrifice fly.

Freshman midweek starter Mark DuLuia picked up his first collegiate win, tossing four scoreless innings. The right-hander allowed four hits and a walk while striking out seven. Four relievers followed, conceding just one hit combined in the last five innings of the game. Elliot Zoellner pitched two innings out of the bullpen before Sean Fisher, Kevin Biondic and John Murphy each tossed an inning to complete the collective shutout.

Since then, VCU (23-13, 8-4 Atlantic 10) has added several quality wins to its resume while jumping out to an 8-4 start in conference play. The Rams shut out then-ranked No. 17 East Carolina—a team that beat the Terps three times— holding them to just three hits on the road. VCU also beat Virginia, 11-3, at home in a midweek game a few weeks ago.

Paul Witt, Haiden Lamb and and Daane Berezo have started in all 35 games this season, boasting the three highest batting averages on the team. Witt, a sophomore, leads the Rams with 43 hits, 29 RBIs and a .328 batting average. Lamb, a senior, leads the team with 24 runs scored and 17 stolen bases on 21 attempts.

VCU has had strong pitching throughout the season, allowing just four runs per game. Its top bullpen arms—Benjamin Dum, Mac McCarty, Hayden Moore and Jack Alkire—all have thrown more than 20 innings this season. Dum has a bullpen-best 1.17 ERA in 23 innings, while McCarty and Alkire are holding hitters below a .200 average. McCarty also has an incredible 13 saves in VCU’s 23 wins.

The Rams are coming off a series win at home against St. Bonaventure, winning both halves of a Friday doubleheader before dropping the third game of the weekend on Saturday.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 4 p.m. and starting pitchers have yet to be announced for either team.

Series Preview: Michigan Wolverines

With two Big Ten series under their belt, the Terrapins will hit the road for the first time in conference play this season, traveling to Ann Arbor for a three-game set with Michigan.

Maryland (16-17, 3-3 Big Ten) held James Madison scoreless for the final 11 innings of Tuesday’s extra-inning win, using a career-best seven innings of one-run ball from freshman starter Mark DiLuia and a strong bullpen effort to pick up a 2-1 victory.

DiLuia notched a second straight successful midweek performance and has now allowed just two earned runs in his last 13 innings on the mound. In his last two starts, though, he’s received-decision with a lack of run support.

The Terps bullpen, which cost them a chance at winning their series against Illinois last weekend, was dominant. Grant Burleson, John Murphy and Kevin Biondic combined for five scoreless innings out of the bullpen, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out seven.

Offensively, Maryland had similar struggles with runners on base, going 0-for-14 in those situations through the first eight innings. Shortstop AJ Lee tied the game with a clutch RBI double to force extras, and right fielder Randy Bednar singled with the bases loaded to Maryland its first lead in the top of the 12th.

Head coach Rob Vaughn said after the game that it was a good win for his team, being able find one more run than their opponent. The Terps will look to build off their extra-inning win on the road this weekend against the red-hot Wolverines.

When Michigan lost at home on March 14 to Lawrence Technological University—an NAIA baseball program—the Wolverines dropped to 4-11 on the season. Since then, though, Michigan (19-11, 6-0 Big Ten) has rattled off 15 consecutive wins, including sweeps of Michigan State and Northwestern in its first two conference series.

The Wolverines are averaging 7.4 runs per game during their current winning streak, compared to 4.5 in their first 15 games of the season. Juniors Ako Thomas and Jonathan Engelmann each have 30 hits in the team’s first 30 games, leading Michigan’s offense.

Ako has been cold of late with only one hit in his last 15 at-bats. His 23 walks ranked third in the Big Ten, and he’s only struck out 17 times. Engelmann, though, ranks in the top 10 in the conference with a .325 batting average. He leads the Wolverines with 39 hits and 24 RBI.

The Wolverines aren’t a long-ball team, hitting just 12 home runs in 30 games this season. Jesse Franklin is the team’s greatest power threat, pacing Michigan with four homers and a .493 slugging percentage. They steal a lot of bases, though, ranking third in the Big Ten with 52 steals in 69 attempts, including three players (Thomas, Engelmann, Christian Bullock) with double digit stolen bases.

Pitching has been a strong part of Michigan’s season so far, boasting a 3.29 team ERA. During Wolverines’ current winning streak, their pitchers have held opponents to 2.8 runs per game with four shutouts.

Junior William Tribucher is one of the top arms out of the bullpen, allowing four earned runs in 22.1 innings the season. The southpaw has struck out 26 batters and walked just eight while picking up three saves. Freshman Jeff Criswell has also found success as a reliever with a 2.21 ERA in 20.1 innings pitched. the right-hander is holding opponents to a .179 batting average.

All three of Michigan’s weekend starters have been successful this season, all with ERAs in the threes or below. Friday night starter Tommy Henry is 5-0 with a 2.52 ERA, averaging over six innings per start. Ben Dragani starts on Saturdays, and he leads the Wolverines starters with a 1.13 ERA. Karl Kauffmann rounds out the weekend, striking out more than one hitter per inning this season.

Maryland and Michigan met up last season in College Park, with the Terps taking two of three games against the then-ranked No. 18 Wolverines. The last time the Terps traveled to Ann Arbor, they were ranked No. 11, but lost the series. Michigan is 11-1 at home this season.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 4:00 p.m. EST

Sr. RHP Taylor Bloom (2-6, 5.20 ERA) vs. So. LHP Tommy Henry (2-2, 2.52 ERA)

 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_LogoOBWZVXSYRGTEOGI.20160916193835 vs. 47_Henry.jpg Michigan_Wolverines_Block_M.png

Taylor Bloom will look to bounce back from one of his worst college starts last week against Illinois. The right-hander allowed 10 earned runs on 10 hits in five innings last Friday night. He also walked five hitters in his sixth loss of the season. While he has a team-high six losses, it’s typically because of a lack of run support and not a poor performance. Despite a short outing for his standards, Bloom still leads the Big Ten with 55.1 innings pitched, and he has completed six innings in six of his eight starts. He has done a great job this season pitching deep into games, allowing the bullpen to rest up for the rest of the weekend.

Tommy Henry has emerged as a quality Friday night arm for the Wolverines this season, posting a 5-0 record in eight starts. In his last start against Northwestern, the southpaw allowed just two hits in six innings while striking out nine. If it weren’t for his 111 pitches, Henry might’ve had a chance to continue his scoreless outing. The sophomore ranks sixth in the Big Ten in ERA and third in opposing batting average (.202). Henry pitched 2.1 scoreless innings of relief last season against Maryland.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 2 p.m. EST

So. LHP Tyler Blohm (3-2, 4.08 ERA) vs. Fr. LHP Ben Dragani (3-0, 1.13 ERA)

1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo vs. 21_Dragani.jpgMichigan_Wolverines_Block_M.png

Blohm responded well after a poor outing two weeks ago against Northwestern, allowing just one earned run in 6.1 innings in a win against Illinois in the back-end of a doubleheader last Friday night. The sophomore scattered five hits and struck out nine batters. Blohm struggled against the Wolverines last season, lasting just three innings after conceding four earned runs. He only allowed three hits, but walked two and hit a batter en route to a loss. The southpaw leads all Maryland pitchers with 45 strikeouts in his 46.1 innings of work.

Dragani was absolutely dominant last weekend against Northwestern, allowing just one hit over seven innings without allowing a run. He walked one and struck out five en route to a Wolverines 3-0 win. In his freshman season, the left-hander leads the Big Ten right now with a 1.13 ERA and a .150 batting average against. He’s much more of a contact pitcher, striking out 27 batters in nearly 40 innings. Dragani was Wisconsin’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2017 and an All-State recipient.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 2:30 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Hunter Parsons (3-2, 3.14 ERA) vs. So. RHP Karl Kauffmann (4-2, 3.12 ERA)

1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_LogoRMZBYNJDDYBZPMM.20150924191225.jpg vs. 37_Kauffmann.jpgMichigan_Wolverines_Block_M.png

Parsons continues to impress week after week this season, allowing just one run over 5.2 innings last weekend against Illinois. He received the no-decision in what turned into a Terps loss. The right-hander allowed three hits while striking out seven hitters. Parsons lowered his ERA even further, and it’s still the lowest among Maryland’s starting pitchers. The junior ranks second in the Big Ten in innings pitched (51.2) and eighth in opposing batting average (.215).

Kauffmann didn’t have his best stuff in his latest outing last weekend against Northwestern, allowing five hits with three walks and a hit batter in five innings. He didn’t let that hurt his performance too much, though, conceding just two earned runs. Kauffmann doesn’t pitch particularly deep into ballgames with as season-high of 6.2 innings. The right-hander hasn’t pitched more than six innings since that season-high on March 3, so the Terps will look to get into the Wolverines bullpen as early as possible.

Game Preview: James Madison Dukes

Maryland baseball was nine outs away from winning a second consecutive series to begin Big Ten play, but Illinois scored three runs late to leave College Park with a pair of wins. The Terps offense showed signs of life—averaging 10 hits per game over the weekend—but their pitching faltered late to lose Sunday’s rubber game.

The Terps, 2-6 in midweek games, will look to improve that record on Tuesday, as they begin a home-and-home series on the road against James Madison on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Maryland beat the Dukes in both meetings back in 2016.

After the weekend, the Terps (15-17) are tied for eighth in the Big Ten with a 3-3 record in their first two conference series. While Maryland came up short over the weekend, there were several bright spots offensively.

First baseman Kevin Biondic continues to have an eventful senior season, going 5-for-11 at the plate and pitching two scoreless innings Sunday. His batting average has climbed to second on the team (.275) and his 0.55 ERA in 16.1 innings this season is still the lowest on the team.

After going hitless in Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader, catcher Justin Morris went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBI, including a three-run blast to propel the Terps to a victory in Game 2. Picking up another hit on Sunday, Morris’ weekend is a pleasant sign with conference play still early. His homer Friday was his first of the season.

Second baseman Nick Dunn continues to be the consistent contributor in the Terps lineup, picking up a hit in all three games over the weekend. His .342 average is 67 points higher than Biondic, who is second on the team. Dunn, after the weekend, ranks fourth in the conference in home runs and total bases. The junior hit leadoff in the first two games of the series before moving back down into the three-hole for the series finale.

On the mound, Taylor Bloom struggled in Game 1, allowed all 10 runs Illinois earned. Maryland’s bullpen, though, didn’t allow a hit for the last four innings of the game. Grant Burleson, Alec Tuohy and Billy Phillips all had scoreless outings. Tyler Blohm and John Murphy combined to hold Illinois to just one run just hours later, earning Maryland’s win. After Hunter Parsons pitched another solid game on Sunday, three relievers all allowed runs to lose the series.

Similar to Maryland, James Madison (15-15) has had a back-and-forth season, quickly shifting from a positive result to a negative one from opponent to opponent. The Dukes swept High Point, beat a Richmond team that already took down the Terps, destroyed Tennessee 21-2 on the road, and dropped a close one-run game to a ranked Virginia team.

However, James Madison is also currently 2-7 in the conference, losing seven of it last nine games. The Dukes were just swept by College of Charleston over the weekend, and their offense only provided seven runs over the three games.

Freshman Josh Jones has led of the Dukes offense with a .330 average at the plate. He is second on the team with 32 hits in 28 games this season and is a perfect 7-for-7 on stolen base attempts. He started his college career by reaching base in 22 of his first 23 college games.

Coming off an incredible junior season where he hit .337 with 11 home runs, Adam Sisk is the other hitter on the team batting at least .300. He leads the Dukes in hits, total bases and runs scored. Sisk picked up four hits over the weekend, including a three-hit game on Friday.

The Dukes have three players with at least four homers. Sisk and sophomore Fox Semones have four, while sophomore Harry Brown leads the team with five. Brown, though, is very prone to strike out. He leads the team with 40 strikeouts in 30 games.

James Madison’s pitching has been a strength this season with a team ERA of 3.67. The Dukes top three starters all have ERAs below four and are holding hitters to a below .250 average. Their leading reliever, Garret Richards, has 2.25 ERA in a bullpen-best 20 innings pitched this season.

The team’s pitching was great again over the weekend, but didn’t have the run support. The staff allowed just 11 runs in the three games, but were swept. The bullpen allowed just one earned run the entire weekend.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Tuesday, 6:00 p.m. EST

Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia (1-2, 6.97 ERA) vs. TBA

   1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo    vs.James_Madison_University_Athletics_logo.svg.png

Freshman Mark DiLuia’s season ERA is still high, but he looked just fine in his last start against William & Mary. The right-hander pitched six innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits and a walk. He also struck out six. DiLuia allowed his run in the very first inning, but tossed five consecutive scoreless frame to finish his outing. He pitched well enough to earn a win, but didn’t receive much run support from his offense. This will be DiLuia’s seventh start this season, and he’ll look to make it two strong midweeks starts in a row.

James Madison has yet to announce a starting pitcher.

Series Preview: Illinois Fighting Illini

Last weekend, the Maryland Terrapins took two out of three at Northwestern in College Park to start off their 2018 Big Ten schedule. This weekend, the Terps have a tougher test when the Illinois Fighting Illini come to town. The Illini, who this week dropped out of D1Baseball’s rankings after being ranked 25th last week, own the second best overall record in the Big Ten (17-7, 4-2 Big Ten) and are 7-2 on the road this season. With foul weather due to arrive in the D.C. area Saturday, the series schedule has been altered, and the Terps and Illini will play a doubleheader Friday followed by a single game Sunday.

The Terps (14-15, 2-1 Big Ten) have continued their up and down season, following up their weekend series win with an 11-inning loss to William & Mary at home Tuesday. Maryland has not won more than two straight games since rattling off a five-game winning streak from February 25-March 4.

Nick Dunn continues to lead the Terps in most offensive categories, including batting average (.346), RBIs (22), home runs (7), doubles (8) and runs scored (25). He has hit safely in four straight, including a two-hit performance with a double and an RBI Tuesday against William & Mary. Marty Costes also collected two hits and an RBI against the Tribe, raising his average to .231 after a dreadful early-season cold spell, and after a 1-for-5 performance Tuesday, AJ Lee ranks second on the team with a .268 average.

The weekend rotation of Taylor Bloom, Tyler Blohm and Hunter Parsons that seemed weaker than the past couple years entering the season has been a bright spot for Rob Vaughn’s squad, with two of the three arms owning sub-4.00 ERAs. The bullpen has been more hot and cold, however. Kevin Biondic and John Murphy have been the two anchors in the Terps’ relief corps, combining for 40 strikeouts over 29 innings pitched. Biondic leads the team with a minuscule 0.63 ERA, while Murphy owns a 2.45 mark in his 11 appearances. Right-hander Mike Vasturia has also emerged as a go-to arm in the bullpen, making 10 appearances (nine in relief) with a 2.63 ERA.

Illinois has cruised through much of their early season schedule, meanwhile, but ran into some trouble last weekend against Iowa. The Illini dropped two of three at home to the visiting Hawkeyes, and had to fend off a furious Iowa comeback in the ninth Saturday to earn a 13-12 win.

The Illini offense has been lethal this season, averaging seven runs per game. The team leads the Big Ten with 31 homers and a .477 slugging percentage, and ranks fourth with a .281 team average. This is largely thanks to first baseman Bren Spillane, who owns a .494/.579/1.149 slash line that seems too good even for a video game. The junior leads all of Division I baseball in slugging percentage, is tied for the lead in home runs (14) and ranks second in batting average and on-base percentage. He has 100 total bases and 38 RBIs in 24 games, driving in nearly 23 percent of all of Illinois’s runs, and is a capable baserunner to boot, going 12-for-18 in stolen base attempts. He has earned numerous awards this season, including Perfect Game Midseason Player of the Year, and three Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

While Spillane steals the show offensively, he is hardly the only offensive threat in the Illinois lineup. Michael Massey is hitting .350 with 13 extra-base hits and 21 RBIs, while Ben Troike (.302/.405/.417) also holds his own at the plate. Doran Turchin is the other power threat in the order, tallying six homers, five doubles and a .556 slugging percentage to go with a .291 batting average and a team-high 19 walks. Three Illini regulars (Zac Taylor, Jeff Korte and Jack Yalowitz) are all hitting under .230 through 24 games, but their slow starts haven’t seemed to hamper Spillane and the rest of the offense one bit.

Illinois is not quite as dominant on the mound, posting a 4.37 ERA, but it matters little with such an electrifying offense. Outside of the weekend starters – more on them below – Ryan Thompson and Joey Gerber are perhaps the most important arms on staff. Thompson leads the team with 21.2 innings out of the bullpen, whiffing 23 hitters in those innings while holding opponents to a .183 average. Gerber paces the Illini with 12 appearances and seven saves, whiffing 17 hitters in his 11.1 innings of work.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 3 p.m. EST

R-Jr. LHP Andy Fisher (2-0, 3.75 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Taylor Bloom (2-5, 3.93 ERA)  

   vs. 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_LogoOBWZVXSYRGTEOGI.20160916193835

Andy Fisher will take the mound in the opening game for the Illini. The southpaw earned a win in last Saturday’s slugfest against Iowa, surrendering five runs (two earned) on five hits and six walks over six innings in a thrilling 13-12 victory. Fisher leads the Illinois staff with 25 strikeouts in 36 innings of work, but his control has been suspect, as he has walked 22 batters and hit four more. These wild tendencies have hampered his ability to work deep into games, with the left-hander completing six innings just twice this season.

Opposing Fisher on the mound is Terps Friday right-hander Taylor Bloom. The senior has been a workhorse this season, leading the Big Ten with 50.1 innings pitched – an average of over seven per start. He’s been the victim of some tough luck, as he has pitched better than the 2-5 record would suggest. Last time out against Northwestern, he tossed eight innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and four walks, but was tagged with the loss.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:30 p.m. EST

So. RHP Ryan Schmitt (1-1, 3.68 ERA) vs. So. LHP Tyler Blohm (3-2, 4.50 ERA)

   vs. 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

Right-hander Ryan Schmitt will take the hill in game two of the series on Friday night, making his first collegiate start. The sophomore has made eight appearances spanning 14.2 innings this season, with his longest outing of the year coming last week against Iowa. Opponents are hitting just .188 off him, but five of the nine hits he has surrendered this spring went for extra bases.

One week after his best start of the season (an eight-inning, 12-strikeout performance against Stetson), Tyler Blohm struggled mightily against Northwestern last time out, surrendering five runs on eight hits and three walks in just 4.2 innings of work. The left-hander leads the Terps in strikeouts (36) and is tied with Hunter Parsons for the team lead in wins, and will look to return to his Stetson form against the Illini.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

So. RHP Ty Weber (3-1, 2.74 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Hunter Parsons (3-2, 3.33 ERA)

   vs. 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

Sunday’s ballgame may be the best pitching matchup of the weekend, with each team’s hottest starter taking the hill. After struggling to a 5.06 ERA through his first two starts, Ty Weber has nearly cut that mark in half since, including an eight-inning, one earned run performance on March 18 at Southern Illinois. Last time out, Weber lasted 5.2 innings against Iowa, surrendering two runs in a no decision. The right-hander leads the Illini rotation in most statistical categories, including ERA, innings pitched (42.2) and batting average against (.241).

After imploding in his first start at Tennessee, Hunter Parsons has quickly evolved into a dominant, dependable starter, pitching at least seven innings in each of his last five starts, including two complete games. The right-hander tossed seven innings of three-run ball last time out against Northwestern, earning a no-decision. His 46 innings pitched rank second in the Big Ten, behind only Taylor Bloom, and opponents are hitting just .223 off the right-hander.

Game Preview: William & Mary Tribe

After losing their Big Ten opener Friday night to Northwestern, the Maryland Terrapins bounced back to win Saturday and Sunday to capture a victory in their first conference series of the year. Now, they play the fourth of seven straight home games Tuesday when they play host to the William & Mary Tribe.

This is the second meeting of the year between Maryland (14-14) and William & Mary (10-18). The Terps traveled to Williamsburg on February 21 in their first midweek contest of the year, falling to the Tribe 10-4. The Maryland bats were largely quiet in that contest, collecting just four hits, although Zach Jancarski went deep twice.

Maryland has had an up-and-down season, rattling off both five-game winning and losing streaks in the first 28 contests. The Terps have not been able to replicate their home success from a year ago, going 7-6 at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium this season, but they have won four of their last six in College Park, and will look to continue that trend Tuesday.

Junior second baseman Nick Dunn has lived up to the Preseason Third-Team All-American hype, leading the team in most offensive categories, including batting average (.340), slugging (.612), home runs (7) and RBIs (21). His seven homers eclipse his career total of six he posted in his first two years at Maryland. Kevin Biondic, who hit the go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning of Sunday’s win, ranks second on the team with three homers and 19 RBIs. Continuing to break out of his early slump, Marty Costes collected two hits in Sunday’s contest to raise his average back up to .218. The junior outfielder is also tied with Zach Jancarski with a team-best six stolen bases.

On the mound, Maryland has struggled at times, allowing over 5.5 runs per game this season. Weekend starters Taylor Bloom, Tyler Blohm and Hunter Parsons have pitched well for the most part, with just a couple blemishes on each pitcher’s record this spring. In addition to being a powerful bat in the middle of the lineup, Biondic has been the Terps’ best arm out of the bullpen, pitching to an 0.68 ERA, with two saves, 15 strikeouts and four walks in 13.1 innings. Right-hander John Murphy also has two saves and a 2.77 ERA in 10 appearances spanning 13 innings. Mike Vasturia has made nine appearances (eight in relief), tossing 12.2 innings with a 2.13 ERA. Outside of these three arms, however, the Terps’ bullpen has struggled, with no other pitcher posting an ERA under six.

While the Terps have won four of their last six contests, the Tribe have struggled of late, dropping two straight and five of their last seven. They won the series opener, 7-3, at home against UNC Wilmington Friday night but couldn’t muster any more offense for the rest of the weekend, scoring just four runs combined on Saturday and Sunday. The William & Mary offense has been anemic for most of the season, hitting .215 with a .580 team OPS while averaging less than four runs per game.

Zach Pearson has been one of the few bright spots offensively for the Tribe, leading the team with a .300 average and .333 on-base percentage. The junior infielder collected multiple hits in two of three games over the weekend, and is the only Tribe regular hitting over .250 for the year. Hunter Smith provides the pop for William & Mary, leading the team with five homers, 20 RBIs and a .420 slugging percentage, albeit posting a low .241 average. The junior backstop went deep in the Tribe’s most recent contest Sunday against UNC Wilmington.

The William & Mary bats have struggled mightily, but the arms have kept the team competitive at times. Two of the three weekend starters – Bodie Sheehan and Chris Farrell – have sub-3.20 ERAs, and the four Tribe relievers with at least ten appearances have all pitched well. Sophomore right-hander Wade Strain leads the team with 14 appearances, 23.1 relief innings and a 1.93 ERA. He has been able to minimize damage, posting a 1.34 WHIP but allowing just five runs in his appearances this season. Right-hander Michael Toner has whiffed 27 in 21.1 innings of relief work with a 2.95 ERA, and Charlie Fletcher and Andrew Burnick both have sub-4 ERAs in 25 combined appearances out of the bullpen.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Tuesday, 4:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Nick Butts (1-1, 5.89 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia (1-2, 8.28 ERA)

  vs.   1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo 

Junior right-hander Nick Butts will take the mound for William & Mary Tuesday afternoon. A two-way player, Butts has made nine appearances (four starts) on the mound while hitting .162 in 37 at-bats as an infielder. Butts got the start for the Tribe in the last meeting between these two teams on February 21, surrendering one run – a Zach Jancarski solo shot – over two innings before turning things over to the bullpen. He hasn’t lasted more than 2.1 innings in any of his starts, but has pitched well in his last two starts, tossing four combined scoreless innings between the two. Butts has strikeout stuff, whiffing 20 in 18.1 innings of work, but is prone to allowing baserunners, with a .278 opponents’ average and 1.42 WHIP.

Freshman Mark DiLuia gets the ball once again for Maryland on Tuesday. The right-hander has made five midweek starts this season (seven total appearances) with mixed results. He lasted just three innings in his most recent start, last Tuesday at Richmond, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out two and walking one. While he didn’t bring his best stuff, he kept the Terps in the game before the bullpen let things get out of hand in a 10-3 setback. DiLuia, one of three Maryland freshmen drafted out of high school last June, has electric stuff, evidenced by nearly one strikeout per inning this season (22 strikeouts in 25 frames). However, he has also been hit hard, surrendering 40 hits in those 25 innings with a .360 opponents’ average.

Series Preview: Northwestern Wildcats

The Maryland Terrapins (12-13, 0-0 Big Ten) open their conference schedule this weekend with a home series against the Northwestern Wildcats.

Consistency has been an early-season problem for Maryland, the Terps are hoping the team that scraped out two gritty wins against Stetson shows up, not the team that collapsed in Tuesday’s loss to Richmond after allowing six Spider runs in the sixth frame.

Now, a scuffling Northwestern team (7-12, 0-3 Big Ten) becomes the newest opportunity at a potential momentum-shifting series.

The Wildcats are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, but have lost those games by an average of less than two runs. That stretch includes a pair of extra inning losses to then-No. 24 Illinois this past weekend.

There were bright spots for the Wildcats to take from the weekend, however. Their pitching, which has been lackluster and currently ranks last in the Big Ten with a 5.83 ERA on the season, allowed just 14 runs in three games against the powerful Illini.

Northwestern’s offense has also been inconsistent, hitting just .235 as a team but plating nearly five and a half runs per game. No Wildcat starter is hitting over the .300 mark; Alex Erro and Jack Dunn lead the team with averages of .296 and .286, respectively.

Erro will look to resume his hot streak after a fantastic series against the Illini, during which he went 5-for-11 with a home run, three RBI, reached base in 50 percent of his plate appearances, and didn’t strike out a single time. He followed that up with a 3-for-5 day in Northwestern’s midweek against Chicago State.

Willie Bourbon has provided the pop for the Wildcats, leading the team in home runs (4), RBIs (16) and total bases (34), but has cooled down greatly since a hot start to the spring. The junior infielder hit four home runs in his first eight contests but has not cleared the fence since, and has seen his average drop from .333 to .246 during that stretch.

The challenge for Erro and company — finding success against a Maryland weekend rotation that has really come into its own as of late. While Taylor Bloom has seen his productivity decline, Tyler Blohm and Hunter Parsons are coming off their best starts of the season. Blohm struck out a career-high eight batters in eight innings against Stetson while Parsons threw a complete game shutout, which garnered him Perfect Game/Rawlings National Pitcher of the Week honors and Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week honors.

Meanwhile, Maryland saw its offense sputter in its midweek game, unable to follow-up a pair of weekend wins against Stetson. The Terps only had four hits in a 10-3 loss to Richmond, three of which were solo home runs. Tuesday’s poor showing lowered the team’s batting average to .232, the third-lowest mark in the conference, and just .02 points higher than the team in the cellar of that list.

Nick Dunn continues to pace the Maryland bats, slashing .330/.438/.604 even after an 0-for-3 performance at the plate in Tuesday’s loss. The second-baseman leads the team with six homers – equaling his career total entering this season – seven doubles, 20 RBIs and 21 runs scored. Kevin Biondic has also impressed, tallying 11 extra-base hits and 17 RBIs to go with a .283 average.

Many of the Terps’ regulars and semi-regulars have yet to find their groove at the plate – Taylor Wright, Justin Morris, Tommy Gardiner, to name a few, are all below the .200 mark. But Marty Costes, who started the season ice cold, has heated up of late, raising his average from the mid-.100s to .220 over the past week and a half, with a respectable .348 on-base percentage.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:30 p.m. EST

Sr. RHP Taylor Bloom (2-4, 4.04 ERA) vs. Fr. LHP Quinn Lavalle (2-2, 2.84 ERA)

 1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_LogoOBWZVXSYRGTEOGI.20160916193835 vs.  

Taylor Bloom’s feel-good start against East Carolina two weekends ago faded away after the senior right-hander faltered last week, allowing seven runs on 10 hits over seven innings against Stetson. He has consistently provided depth for the Terps this season, averaging seven innings per outing, and will look to return to his early-season form this weekend against the Wildcats.

Lavalle has solidified a spot as one of the Big Ten’s best young pitchers just several weeks into his freshman season. The southpaw has pitched to a 2.84 ERA, and that’s after arguably his worst start of the season last weekend when he allowed three earned runs in 6.1 innings against a talented Illinois offense. There are some growing pains for the freshman, who has 16 walks compared to 15 strikeouts, but if he can keep his pitch count down, he is already an arm worth watching across the conference.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 2 p.m. EST

So. LHP Tyler Blohm (3-2, 3.82 ERA) vs. So. RHP Hank Christie (2-2, 5.72 ERA)

1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo vs. 

Tyler Blohm is coming off of his best start of the season, and arguably the best of his short career. The sophomore lefty threw eight innings, allowing just one unearned run, against Stetson last Saturday. He struck out a career-high 12, and was able to keep his pitch count to just 97 pitches, facing 28 batters, and allowing just four hits. He has completed at least six innings in four of his six outings, and leads the Terps in strikeouts – a sign of what the Terps hoped they’d be getting from the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year this season.

Hank Christie, a sophomore, is the most experienced starter Maryland will face this weekend, but hasn’t continued his tremendous end to his freshman season. Last year, the member of the All-Big Ten Freshman Team went 4-0 in his last six starts with a 1.54 ERA. So far this year, he’s hit a bit of a sophomore slump, allowing at least four earned runs in four of his six starts. He did have back-to-back scoreless scarts against MacMurray and Central Michigan, and followed that up with 5.2 innings against Illinois, allowing four earned runs on three hits.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Hunter Parsons (3-2, 3.23 ERA) vs. Fr. LHP Jack Pagliarani (1-1, 2.49 ERA)

1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_LogoRMZBYNJDDYBZPMM.20150924191225.jpg vs. 

What seemed improbable before the season has happened: Hunter Parsons has been the Terps most consistently dominant starter. The junior has thrown four superb games in a row, a streak that started with seven scoreless innings against Ball State on March 4, and culminated with a complete game shutout against Stetson last week. Through his last four starts, he has thrown 32 innings and allowed three earned runs, lowering his ERA to a team-best 3.23 mark.

Jack Pagliarani is in the midst of his best stretch of his freshman year, and is currently ranked sixth in the Big Ten in ERA. The Springfield, Ohio native has thrown six innings in each of his last three starts, allowing two earned runs in those 18 innings. He struck out seven in his first Big Ten start last week against Illinois, and didn’t allow an earned run. The only struggle he had against the Illini was with his control, as he walked a career-high four batters.