2019 Big Ten Tournament Preview

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Maryland baseball swept Iowa last weekend at home and received the help it needed to qualify for the Big Ten tournament as the No. 6 seed — the Terps’ first trip to the postseason under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn.

It took inspired pitching performances from senior ace Hunter Parsons and junior Zach Thompson, a walk-off homer from shortstop A.J. Lee in the series opener and a clutch eighth-inning, game-winning hit in the finale from Chris Alleyne.

Maryland entered the last three games of conference play in 10th place in the standings, needing to finish in the top eight to extend its season. Not only did the Terps sweep their first conference series of the year, but they also won a Big Ten series at home for the first time. Because of tiebreakers, the sweep propelled Maryland to the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which starts on Wednesday.

Lee, who went 10-for-17 in the final week of the regular season, earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors. The conference also announced its yearly awards on Tuesday, which recognized Maxwell Costes as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and an All-Big Ten first team recipient. Randy Bednar was an All-Big Ten second team outfielder, while starting pitcher Hunter Parsons, third baseman Taylor Wright, Michael Pineiro and Lee were featured on the third team.

Costes and Pineiro were also named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team.

Now, the red-hot Terps (28-27, 12-12 Big Ten) will look to continue their momentum in the double-elimination tournament in Omaha. Here’s a breakdown of which teams stand in the way of Maryland and its first-ever Big Ten tournament title, and how the Terps fared against them during the regular season.

Let’s start with Maryland’s first opponent, the No. 3 seed Illinois Fighting Illini:

#3 Illinois (36-17, 15-9 Big Ten)

Maryland went on the road and took two of three from Illinois in April, a huge series win for the Terps against a team that has the 22nd-best RPI in the country and could potentially host a regional in the NCAA tournament.

Hunter Parsons tossed eight innings and only allowed two runs on six hits before closer John Murphy successfully recorded a save to secure a 4-2 win in the series opener. The Illini scored two runs in the second inning and wouldn’t score again.

The Maryland offense was held mostly stagnant by Illinois ace Andy Fisher, who took a shutout into the ninth inning. But the Terps scored four runs in their final trip to the plate to steal a game, using two sacrifice bunts to tie the game at two before a wild pitch plated two additional runs.

The Terps lost the second game of the series, 5-1, but won 8-4 in the Sunday game to leave Champaign with a series victory. More importantly, Maryland won the game with Parsons and Fisher battling it out on the mound. The two pitchers will face off again in the first game of the conference tournament.

#1 Indiana (36-19, 17-7 Big Ten)

The Hoosiers are the 2019 Big Ten regular season champions. Maryland won the series opener against Indiana, when Hunter Parsons tossed eight scoreless innings and only allowed two hits to a powerful lineup.

The final two days of the series, however, did not go quite well for the Terps. Indiana won 20-5 and 19-4, one of the worst two-day stretches in recent Maryland baseball history.

The Hoosiers showcased their home run ability throughout the weekend, and they finished the regular season with a Big Ten leading 90 home runs. Ohio State, which is second in the conference in home runs, only had 62.

Indiana is led by Big Ten pitcher of the year Andrew Saalfrank and first-year Hoosiers head coach Jeff Mercer, who won the conference’s coach of the year award. Indiana had two players on the All-Big Ten first team and three on the second team.

#2 Michigan (38-16, 16-7 Big Ten) 

Maryland hosted Michigan in the first weekend of May, and the Wolverines won all three games pretty easily, as the Terps’ pitching staff struggled all series.

Maryland’s pitchers conceded 10 runs in all three games of the series. The Friday game of the series was the only conference game the Terps lost when Hunter Parsons started on the mound.

Maryland hasn’t beaten Michigan since 2017, and the two teams would meet up if both won its respective first game of the tournament. Michigan leads the Big Ten with a .285 team batting average and a 3.40 pitching staff ERA.

Outfielder Jordan Brewer won the Big Ten Player of the Year after ranking first in batting average (.358), second in slugging percentage (.637), stolen bases (19), hits (69) and RBI (52), and third in runs scored (51) and doubles (18).

#4 Minnesota (26-25, 15-9 Big Ten)

The Golden Gophers return to the postseason as the reigning Big Ten tournament champions.

Maryland went on the road and took the series opener against Minnesota before dropping the final two games of the series. Randy Bednar and Michael Pineiro combined for five runs batted in during the lone win of the weekend.

After dropping the middle game of the series, Maryland had its opportunities to take the series on Sunday. But the Terps wouldn’t score until the ninth inning and were contained offensively with only four hits.

Catcher Eli Wilson represents the Golden Gophers on the All-Big Ten first team, while their ace Max Meyer earned a spot on the conference’s second team as a starting pitcher. Minnesota won the tournament last year as the top overall seed.

#5 Nebraska (28-20, 15-9 Big Ten)

Maryland and Nebraska did not meet during the 2019 regular season.

The Cornhuskers beat up on the weaker teams in the Big Ten play and didn’t have a signature conference series win until the final weekend of the regular season. Nebraska beat Michigan in the first two days of the series, outscoring the Wolverines 12-2.

Nebraska had a chance to sweep the series and earn a higher seed in the tournament but fell 10-8 on the final day of conference play.

Outfielder Aaron Palensky and designated hitter Cam Chick earned spots on the All-Big Ten second team as Nebraska’s representatives. Like Maryland, Nebraska did not qualify for the Big Ten tournament last season.

#7 Ohio State (31-24, 12-12 Big Ten)

Maryland lost two games of three against Ohio State at home earlier this season. The Terps arguably should have won that series but timely Buckeyes hitting stole a series away on the road.

Maryland won 14-8 in the first game of the series in an offensive explosion and, after jumping out to a 7-2 lead in the second game, it appeared the Terps would finally win a Big Ten series at home. But the Buckeyes did not quit.

Ohio State chipped away, then scored five runs in the final two innings to force extras, before hitting a game-winning solo homer in the top of the 11th off Maryland closer John Murphy. The Buckeyes went on the win the rubber match on Sunday.

The Buckeyes’ .273 team batting average ranks third in the conference. Outfielder Dominic Canzone earned All-Big Ten first team honors, Dillon Dingler and Brady Cherry were on the second team and starting pitcher Seth Lonsway was a third-team recipient.

#8 Iowa (30-22, 12-12 Big Ten)

Maryland’s biggest series of the season came last weekend against Iowa, when the Terps played their way into the Big Ten tournament by convincingly sweeping the Hawkeyes.

The Hawkeyes were on the fringe of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament several weeks ago, but their recent performances put them in desperate need of a conference tournament championship. Iowa lost its final five conference games of the season to fall to the last eligible spot in postseason play.

Reliever Grant Leonard earned All-Big Ten second team honors. Maryland, though, was a thorn in the side of Leonard throughout last weekend. Terps shortstop AJ Lee hit the first homer off Leonard all season for a walk-off win on Friday, then outfielder Chris Alleyne hit the game-winning knock off Leonard in the eighth on Sunday.

Leonard earned the loss in two of the three games against the Terps in the final weekend of the regular season.

Series Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa

Entering its last series of the 2019 season, Maryland (25-27, 9-12) sits in 10th in the Big Ten standings. But, the Terps aren’t out of playoff contention quite yet. Though there are many other factors to account for, as long as Maryland isn’t swept by Iowa in its last series, the Terps stands a chance at making their conference tournament.

The last time the Terps faced the Hawkeyes was in the first round of the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, when Iowa won 9-8 and went on to win the tournament title.

Now, Maryland enters the series coming off a 6-5 win on Tuesday over James Madison, in the Terps’ last midweek matchup. In the past two weeks, the Terps are 2-5 including 1-5 in the Big Ten.

For the Terps, the only player hitting over .300 is sophomore Randy Bednar (.301). Bednar enters the weekend tied with senior Taylor Wright for most doubles in the Big Ten (19) and with the third-most RBIs in the conference (49). Bednar is also tied with Maxwell Costes for the most home runs of the Maryland squad (10).

Wright, the Terps third baseman, is on the cusp of .300, batting .284, just above shortstop AJ Lee (.280). Lee, whose three-hit game against James Madison on Tuesday broke his six-game hitless streak, leads the team in on-base percentage (.418).

Expect to see freshman left-hander Andrew Vail (2.45 ERA) out of the bullpen at least once during the series. The southpaw has been a go-to for head coach Rob Vaughn, after Vail has proven to be solid out of the bullpen, particularly when thrown into tough situations.

Closer John Murphy enters the weekend with 10 saves, in a three-way tie for third-most saves in the Big Ten. Murphy leads the Terps’ bullpen with 45 strikeouts in 27.2 innings pitched,  the third-most Ks among the entire Maryland pitching staff.

Iowa Hawkeyes (30-19, 12-9 Big Ten)

Last Season

Iowa finished last season with a 33-20 overall record and a 13-9 conference record, before being knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament with consecutive losses to Michigan and Ohio State.

This season

Now, the Hawkeyes eye another postseason berth, as Iowa currently sits sixth in the Big Ten standings. The Hawkeyes haven’t yet clinched a spot in the tournament, but could do so this weekend against the Terps.

Hitters to watch

Iowa enters the series with four batters hitting over .300, led by junior Austin Martin (.311) and sophomore Izaya Fullard (.310). Martin leads the Hawkeyes with 56 hits, while Fullard is tied for the second-most home runs on the team (5).

Redshirt-senior Chris Whelan, batting .301, leads Iowa with a .455 on-base percentage.

Relievers to watch

Expect an appearance from right-hander Grant Leonard, Iowa’s closer. The junior enters the weekend with a 1.82 ERA in 29.2 innings pitched, sporting 13 saves and 30 strikeouts.

Junior Trace Hoffman will also likely make an appearance out of the bullpen for the Hawkeyes. The right-hander enters the series with a 5.88 ERA in 33.2 innings pitched, with 26 strikeouts.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Thursday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Sr. RHP Hunter Parsons (9-3, 3.74 ERA) v. Sr. RHP Cole McDonald (5-3, 3.55 ERA)

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In his last regular season start for the Terps, Parsons will look for this 10th win of the season. Maryland’s ace proved his dominance in 2018 wasn’t a fluke, leading the weekend rotation and striking out 70 in 89 innings of work.

For Iowa, McDonald threw the Hawkeyes’ only win last weekend against Michigan State. With 70 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched, McDonald is evenly matched with Parsons, leaving the potential for a pitchers’ duel Thursday.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Jr. RHP Zach Thompson (2-6, 5.28 ERA) v. So. LHP Cam Baumann (4-3, 4.87)

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Thompson enters the series leading the Maryland pitching staff in hit batters, with 18. His first season pitching for the Terps, Thompson proved he could hold his own at the DI level, striking out 56 in his 76.2 innings pitched.

Baumann, a two-way player for the Hawkeyes, went only 3.1 innings against Michigan State last Saturday. This week, he enters the series against the Terps sporting 47 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 2:00 p.m. ET

LHP Tyler Blohm (1-1, 3.27 ERA) v. Jr. RHP Grant Judkins (4-6, 2.18)

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Last weekend against Minnesota, Blohm earned his fourth start of the season, and first weekend start since he pitched in the Terps’ opening weekend against VCU. The southpaw enters the weekend with 13 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched.

The third arm in the Hawkeyes’ rotation, Judkins enters the series off a solid outing against Michigan State last weekend, showing six innings and giving up one run on five hits while striking out seven. The right has 62 strikeouts in his 78.1 innings of work.

 

 

Game Preview: James Madison Dukes

Maryland will head to Harrisonburg, Virginia to take on the James Madison Dukes for the second time this season. The Terps are coming off of a 1-2 weekend against the Minnesota Golden Gophers and currently sit in 10th place in the Big Ten.

The Terps and the Dukes faced off in College Park in April. James Madison had its way against Maryland, recording a dominant 14-1 victory. The Dukes are coming off of a recent 1-2 weekend against the Northeastern Huskies.

This will be a big momentum game for the Terps before they face the Iowa Hawkeyes in a crucial Big Ten series finale. After this past weekend, Maryland has put themselves in a tough spot and the Terps will have some work to do to get into the Big Ten tournament.

Maryland will be coming off of a tough last game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, where the Terrapins’ bats were cold, hitting 4-for-29 and posting just one run in the loss. The Terps had a tough time at the plate against the Dukes in the first outing as well, hitting 3-for-30 and scoring one run.

Coming into this midweek game, the Terps’ lone batter above .300 is sophomore Randy Bednar. This past weekend, Bednar went 5-for-11 with four RBIs and four runs scored. For the season, the outfielder is hitting .302 with team-highs in RBIs (48) and runs scored (43). Senior Taylor Wright had a solid weekend hitting 5-for-13. The veteran is behind Bednar with a .288 batting average for the season.

James Madison Dukes (30-21, 10-11 CAA)

Last Season

The Dukes were .500 last season, finishing with a 26-26 record, but it wasn’t good enough to qualify for the CAA tournament. James Madison posted a 11-13 record in conference play, which put them just outside of the qualifying teams. In both games against the Terps last season, Maryland came out on top, with 2-1 and 6-1 victories.

This Season

James Madison is currently 30-21 and they hold an impressive 22-10 record at their home field. After their 1-2 weekend, the Dukes currently are in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Hitters to Watch

Freshman Kyle Novak is the only batter on James Madison with a batting average above .300, posting a .311 with 26 RBIs and 23 runs scored. Junior Brady Harju is far and away the team’s leader in RBIs with 40 as well as the home run leader with eight. The leadoff batter, freshman Trevon Dabney is another dangerous batter. Dabney is a .292 hitter, leading the team in runs scored (39) as well as leading the Dukes with 15 stolen bases.

Relievers to Watch

Redshirt sophomore Nick Robertson is the most dangerous reliever out of the James Madison bullpen. Robertson has a 0.57 ERA in 21 appearances with 50 strikeouts and a team-high seven saves. Sophomore Justin Showalter has made a few appearances as an “opener” in midweek games, recording a 4.31 ERA in 31 ⅓ innings. Redshirt junior Shelton Perkins has pitched 41 ⅓ innings in relief with a 3.27 ERA and 65 strikeouts.

Series Preview: Minnesota Golden Gophers

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Maryland (23-25, 8-10) enters its last road series, a three-game set in Minnesota, hovering in eighth place in the Big Ten standings.

After struggling against the first-place Michigan Wolverines last weekend, the Terps will look to bounce back against the fifth-place Golden Gophers. The last time Maryland faced Minnesota was in 2016, when the Golden Gophers took two of three.

Now, the Terps likely need at least two games over last year’s conference champs in order to have a shot at a Big Ten Tournament appearance. Maryland didn’t play a midweek this week, so it enters the series on four days of rest, compared to Minnesota’s two rest days. 

Sophomore Randy Bednar and senior AJ Lee both enter the weekend on the cusp of .300, batting .294 and .291, respectively. Bednar leads the Terps in doubled (19) and RBIs (44), while Lee has the highest on-base percentage (.429) of Maryland’s squad. 

Third baseman Taylor Wright, another Terrapin multi-base hit powerhouse, also rests just below the .300 mark (.281). Prior to last weekend, Wright led Maryland in doubles. Now, the senior has 18, trailing Bednar by one double. Bednar leads the Big Ten in doubles, with Wright just behind him.

In recent weeks Maryland’s bullpen depth has been tested, but the Terps held their own. Left-hander Andrew Vail and righty Nick Turnbull have both thrown sub-3.00 ERAs, with 2.60 in 17.1 innings pitched and 2.76 in 16.1 innings pitched, respectively. Vail proved particularly vital to the Terps’ bullpen, with 24 strikeouts in his 18 relief appearances.

Closer John Murphy enters the weekend with nine saves, tied with Michigan’s Willie Weiss for the third-most saves in the Big Ten. Murphy’s 45 strikeouts in 27.2 innings pitched are the third-most Ks among the Terps’ pitchers, and the most Ks among Terrapin relievers.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (22-23, 11-7 Big Ten)

Last Season

Minnesota dominated the Big Ten in 2018, finishing the regular season with a 44-15 record and a 18-4 conference record, walking away with the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. The Golden Gophers made it to the NCAA Super Regionals, where the Oregon State Beavers handed them a pair of losses and ended their postseason run.

This season

Now, the Golden Gophers are struggling to recreate last year’s success. With an 11-7 Big Ten record, Minnesota hovers in fifth place in the conference standings, right behind Iowa (29-17, 11-7). The Golden Gophers enter the weekend matchup riding a three-game sweep of the Ohio State Buckeyes, and a midweek victory over South Dakota State on Tuesday.

Hitters to watch

Catcher Eli Wilson leads Minnesota’s offense, the only Golden Gopher batting above .300. Not only does the junior lead Minnesota in batting average (.314), but he also has a team-high 53 hits. Senior outfielder Ben Mezzenga is on the cusp of breaking .300, batting .281 with a team-high 29 walks.

Though his batting average isn’t remarkable (.244), redshirt-junior Jordan Kozicky leads the Golden Gophers with nine home runs.

Relievers to watch

Southpaw Jeff Fasching leads Minnesota with a 1.38 ERA in 26 innings pitched, followed by fellow lefty Nick Lackney (2.68 ERA in 20.1 innings pitched). For a Terrapin squad that has struggled against lefties this season, the pair will likely get the call at least once over the weekend.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET

Sr. RHP Hunter Parsons ( 8-3, 3.73 ERA) v. So. RHP Max Meyer (4-3, 2.18 ERA)

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After a solid start to the year, Parsons has proven he deserves his spot as the Terps’ ace. The senior has a team-high eight wins in his 12 games started, with the lowest ERA of all Maryland starters. The righty also leads the Terps with 62 strikeouts in 82 innings pitched.

For Minnesota, two-way player Meyer has settled into his role as the Golden Gophers’s Friday starter. With a team-high 79 strikeouts in 70.1 innings pitched, including nine starts and five relief appearances, Meyer enters the weekend a serious threat for the Terrapin offense.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Jr. RHP Zach Thompson (2-5, 5.43 ERA) v. So. RHP Sam Thoresen (4-3, 5.19 ERA)

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Entering the weekend, the Terps have won only two of Thompson’s 12 starts. Though the righty has 52 strikeouts in 69.2 innings pitched, Maryland’s offense has struggled to provide the redshirt junior with adequate run support.

Minnesota’s Saturday starter, Thoresen has the second-most strikeouts (63) among the Golden Gophers’ staff. The right has made 11 starts on the year, pitching 43.1 innings for Minnesota. The Thompson-Thoresen matchup has the potential to turn into a pitcher’s duel, if Maryland’s offense shows up.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Fr. RHP Trevor LaBonte (1-3, 7.02 ERA) v. So. RHP Joshua Culliver (2-4, 5.47 ERA)

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LaBonte enters the weekend with the highest ERA of the Terps’ starters, in the fewest innings pitched (50). In freshman’s first season with Maryland, the righty has 40 strikeouts in his 11 starts and one relief appearance.

For Minnesota, the sophomore Culliver has developed into an average Sunday starter, entering the series with 42 strikeouts in 51 innings pitched, including 10 starts and four relief appearances.

 

Series Preview: Michigan Wolverines

Following a 5-2 road victory Wednesday afternoon against the Villanova Wildcats, the Terrapins (23-22) return home this weekend to face the first-place Michigan Wolverines (31-11). With only three conference series remaining on the schedule, Maryland will need to play its best baseball of the season to continue their postseason push.

Since joining the Big Ten in 2015, the Terrapins have faced off with the Wolverines on three different occasions: 2015, 2017, and 2018. In eight games, the Terps have gone 3-5 versus Michigan and picked up their sole series win against them in 2017. While Maryland won its three games versus Michigan by a combined nine runs, they’ve been pummeled in their losses, losing by a combined 25 runs.

Maryland is coming off a rather successful series at Penn State, winning two of three games in State College, Pennsylvania. While the Terps had caught somewhat of a breather by playing against a team that had lost its last seven games, the Terps offense remained relentless, especially with the top third of the lineup continuing to wreak havoc against Big Ten pitchers.

Senior AJ Lee had himself another impressive weekend showing, bumping his season average to .313 as he tallied six hits and three RBI between the Penn State series and Wednesday afternoon’s matinee versus Villanova.  At the same time, Randy Bednar collected a trio of two-hit games plus four RBI, while senior Taylor Wright had a big Friday night versus Penn State, cumulating three hits, two RBI, and a walk over five plate appearances.

The Maryland pitching also held up nicely over the four-game span, with ace Hunter Parsons appearing to come back to form with a nine-strikeout, seven-inning effort that led to Friday night’s 5-2 win. Redshirt sophomore Zach Thompson followed up his teammate with a quality start of his own, tossing seven innings of three-run ball. The only blemish on the Terps pitching last weekend was when Sunday starter Trevor LaBonte surrendered five runs over two innings in what led to Maryland’s lone loss of the Penn State series.

Michigan Wolverines (31-11, 11-3 Big Ten)

Last Season

The Michigan Wolverines had a rather successful 2018 season despite not reaching the NCAA tournament. Finishing the season 15-8 in the Big Ten, the Wolverines placed third in the conference and reached the second round of the Big Ten tournament before getting knocked out by the second seed Purdue Boilermakers. It was hard to find a weakness in the 2018 Wolverines, as their weekend rotation sustained a 2.98 earned run average while their offense slashed an exceptional .275/.371/.400.

This Season

Despite losing one of their best hitters in Jonathan Engelmann (.952 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2018) to the 2018 MLB Draft, the Michigan Wolverines’ strengths have only improved over the span of a year. Now in first place with a conference record of 11-3, the Wolverines are being paced by an offense that’s putting up an outrageous .888 OPS and nearly a .300 average in conference play. Their pitching improved immensely over the year as well, coming in at a 3.09 team ERA despite losing starting pitcher Ben Dragani, who led the team in ERA last year (2.76), to Tommy John surgery.

Hitters to Watch

The Terps are going to need quite the lengthy scouting report in order to figure out this Michigan lineup. Out of the nine Wolverine batters who have over 100 at-bats, seven of them have OPS’s greater than .800. While all seven of those hitters have been red-hot all season long and have been pacing the offense of the first-place Wolverines, the biggest force to be reckoned with is junior Jordan Brewer. In 37 games, the outfielder leads the Big Ten in average (.378), slugging percentage (.685), and places in the top ten for on-base percentage (8th, .428), hits (5th, 54), RBI (3rd, 41), home runs (4th, 11), and stolen bases (3rd, 13). If anything is going to be a thorn in the Terrapin pitching’s side, it’s going to be the monstrous bat of Jordan Brewer.

Pitchers to Watch

It’s hard to find a weekend rotation in the Big Ten better than Michigan. In fact, it’s virtually impossible. All three Wolverine pitchers – Karl Kauffman (2.40), Tommy Henry (2.61), and Jeff Criswell (2.61) – have ERAs that place within the top ten in the Big Ten. The trio also has an impressive nine strikeouts per nine innings with all three pitchers placing in the Big Ten’s top 15 for strikeouts. Their bullpen is highlighted by closer freshman Willie Weiss, who has maintained a 2.86 ERA while earning eight saves over 17 appearances.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Sr. RHP Hunter Parsons ( 8-2, 3.51 ERA) v. Jr. RHP Karl Kauffman (7-3, 2.40 ERA)

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Hunter Parsons is coming off his best start in a couple of weeks, pitching seven innings of two-run ball while nearly striking out double-digits. Of course, Parsons had faced a last-place offense in Penn State, so facing the slaughterhouse that is the Wolverines offense will be the toughest challenge for the righty as his season is slowly nearing its end.

Karl Kauffman will be entering the weekend series after wrapping up his best start of the season since February 23rd. Facing the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the junior Kauffman dominated with eight shutout innings while only letting three opposing batters reach base en route to picking up the win and being named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 2:00 p.m. ET

Jr. RHP Zach Thompson (2-4, 5.12 ERA) v. Jr. LHP Tommy Henry (7-3, 2.61 ERA)    Thompson082818_021Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo  vs. Michigan_Wolverines_Block_M Tommy Henry

Zach Thompson, like his teammate Hunter Parsons, also found success in his start versus the Nittany Lions last Saturday. The junior recorded a quality start, pitching seven innings and limiting Penn State to three runs on the way to his second win of the season. Thompson continues to right the ship of his season after experiencing several hiccups in recent weeks, and he’ll have a chance to keep up the effort versus Michigan.

Just like several of Maryland’s starters, Tommy Henry has been on the opposite side of fireworks shows as of late. Although his worst start of the year is a few weeks in the past (four innings, six hits, six runs, and four walks), Henry hasn’t completely returned to his early-season self in which he once recorded a complete-game shutout one-hitter. However, he appears close after limiting Rutgers to one run over six innings of work.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Fr. RHP Trevor LaBonte (1-5, 6.56 ERA) v. So. RHP Jeff Criswell (2-1, 2.86 ERA)Labonte082818_021Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo  vs. Michigan_Wolverines_Block_M Jeff Criswell

The only pitcher to end up on the losing end of the Penn State series was Trevor LaBonte as he continues to struggle at keeping the ball in the strikezone. Since his first start in March, LaBonte has failed to limited his walks to less than three in each of his starts, and after a five-run outing at Penn State which bumped his season ERA to 6.56, LaBonte desparately needs to find some sort of bounceback as the threat of Michigan looms in the distance this Sunday.

Even sophomore Jeff Criswell, the Sunday starter for Michigan, has been on a tear this season. Coming in at a 2.61 ERA, the best by any Sunday starter in the Big Ten, Criswell is coming off his longest start of the season – a 7.2-inning effort against Rutgers in which he only allowed three hits.

Game Preview: Villanova Wildcats

MD-NOVA

After taking two of three against Penn State over the weekend, Maryland heads back up to Pennsylvania for a midweek matchup with the Villanova Wildcats on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. The matchup marks the first time the teams have met in over 20 years, as the Terps and Wildcats enter with a split series history, each team with two wins.

Maryland, hovering around the .500 mark for the past few weeks, will look for the midweek victory to provide added momentum heading into a tough series against Michigan starting Friday. For the Wildcats, who haven’t finished the regular season with a winning record since 2012, the Wednesday meeting marks a much-needed non-conference win.

The Terps’ offense, which fell quiet toward the start of conference play, has rebounded of late. With seniors A.J. Lee (.313) and Taylor Wright (.303) leading the team in batting average, Maryland poses an offensive threat to Villanova.

Lee enters the matchup riding a 10-game hitting streak and a 19-game on-base streak, while Wright and sophomore Randy Bednar (.286) are tied for the most doubles in the Big Ten, with 18 apiece.

Bednar also leads the Terps in RBIs (42), the second-most in the Big Ten, just behind Indiana’s Matt Lloyd (45).

A handful of Maryland pitchers could take the mound for the midweek start, including left-handers Drew Wilden (8.74 ERA) and Tuck Tucker (6.14 ERA), and righty Mark DiLuia (5.65 ERA). Wilden and Tucker started most of the Terps’ midweeks so far this season, with combined seven starts. Junior right-hander Tyler Blohm (4.15 ERA in 4.2 innings pitched) may also get the call to the mound, after a solid two-inning start last week against VCU.

From the bullpen, southpaws Sean Fisher (4.44 ERA) and Andrew Vail (2.03 ERA) and right-hander Sean Heine (9.45 ERA) are likely to make relief appearances, as is closer John Murphy (3.97), if the righty gets a save opportunity.

Villanova Wildcats (11-29, 3-6 Big East)

Last Season

The Wildcats struggled last year, finishing with a 9-38 record, including going 1-17 in the Big East.

This Season

Villanova’s struggles are far from over, however it has proved its 2019 campaign to be better than that of 2018. With a 11-29 record, the Wildcats enter the midweek on a one-game winning streak, after splitting a two-game series with Delaware last weekend.

Hitters to Watch

Freshman two-way players Nick Lorusso (.310) and senior catcher Doug deMarrais (.302) lead the Wildcats in batting average, the only players hitting above .300. The pair is also in a three-way tie for the second-most home runs (3), and Lorusso leads Villanova in hits (45).

Pitchers to Watch

The Wildcats appear to be in a similar pitching situation to the Terps; in a pair of midweeks last week, Villanova used a total of 10 different pitchers, four of which made appearances in both games. None of the Wildcats’ pitchers hold sub-3.00 ERAs. Most likely to make mound appearances for Villanova are right-handers Cameron Mathes (5.97 ERA) and Jason Applegate (7.84 ERA).

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.