Game Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes

After dropping the first two games against High Point to extend their season-long losing streak to four games, the Terps rebounded with a 9-2 victory over the Panthers on Sunday afternoon to send them into the Big Ten Tournament on a winning note. Maryland cooled off near the end of the regular season, losing its last four weekend series. However, the Terrapins (34-19, 15-9 Big Ten) led the Big Ten for a good chunk of the season and they split six games with the top two seeds in the Big Ten Tournament (Nebraska and Michigan). This is a team that has the ability to make a deep run in the tournament and it will start that journey in the first round against No. 5 seed Iowa at Bart Kaufman Stadium in Bloomington, Ind, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

The Hawkeyes (34-19, 15-9 Big Ten) finished the regular season with the same overall record as the Terps, as well as the same conference mark. The two teams did not meet during the regular season, so some advanced tiebreaker math ruled that Maryland would be the No. 4 seed and the “home” team, while Iowa would be seeded fifth and bat first instead. The practical implication of that ruling is that fans will get to see a matchup between the best pitcher and the best power hitter in the conference within the first three batters of the game. That would be newly minted Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Brian Shaffer (more on him below) and Big Ten Player of the Year Jake Adams, Iowa’s imposing first baseman.

Adams has been the proverbial straw that stirs the drink for the Hawkeyes this season, coming within 19 batting average points of winning the conference’s triple crown. He settled for fourth in the Big Ten with a .344 average, but led the league in home runs (24, a single-season Iowa record and nine more than anyone else in the league), RBI (65, eight more than his closest competitor), and total bases (159, fourth in the nation and a whopping 41 more than anyone else in the Big Ten). The 6-foot-2, 250-pound junior already boasts three multi-homer games this season, including his most recent outing, a two-home run performance against Illinois on Sunday.

Although Adams is an ever-dangerous figure in the heart of Iowa’s lineup, he’s far from a one-man band. Three Hawkeye position players were named to the all-Big Ten Second Team: catcher Tyler Cropley, shortstop Mason McCoy, and outfielder Robert Neustrom. Cropley is an asset both with his bat and behind the plate. He posted a .773 OPS and hit six home runs, while also throwing out 17 of the 27 would-be base-stealers that tested his arm.

McCoy, who usually hits second in the Hawkeye order, hit .329 this season and demonstrated excellent bat-to-ball skills, striking out fewer times than he walked, the only Iowa starter to accomplish that feat. He got on base at a .398 clip and led the team with 16 doubles, while also adding four home runs. His fellow all-conference performer, Neustrom, turned in an identical .329 batting average out of the cleanup spot and ranked fourth in the Big Ten with 114 total bases (one more than Maryland’s leader in that category, Marty Costes). The sophomore outfielder turned in a .886 OPS and provided more-than-capable protection for Adams. A trip through the McCoy-Adams-Neustrom heart of the order will be a test for even as dominant a pitcher as Shaffer.

Iowa’s offense was very good, ranking third in the Big Ten in runs scored and second in home runs, but it’s pitching staff was not nearly as intimidating. Ace Nick Gallagher (more on him below) was a solid Friday starter, but the Hawkeye bullpen includes only one pitcher with an ERA below 3.00. That would be closer Josh Martsching, a 6-foot-2 senior, who worked 34.1 innings and posted a 2.88 ERA with 38 strikeouts. He only allowed more than one earned run once all season, though that came just two weeks ago against Ohio State. Overall, the staff posted middling marks in ERA (4.40) and WHIP (1.57).

Starting Pitching Matchup 

WED 8:30 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Brian Shaffer (7-3, 1.67 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Nick Gallagher (8-1, 2.59 ERA)

WBVSTCBBLFRKCIX.201409242148581Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo   vs.    main_logo09022015_Gallagher_Nick

Shaffer was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday, and it was well-deserved, as he led the league in ERA, WHIP (0.91) and innings pitched (97), while ranking second behind Michigan’s Oliver Jaskie in strikeouts with 98. The 6-foot-5 Shaffer is no stranger to the pressure of the Big Ten Tournament. A year ago, he faced third-seeded Indiana in an elimination game and rose to the occasion, tossing a complete game shutout and holding the powerful Hoosier lineup to just two hits while striking out eight in a Terps victory. He’ll face an ever tougher test this year, but he comes in rolling, having completed eight innings in each of his last three starts.

Gallagher is a familiar postseason foe for the Terps. Last season, the Hawkeyes and Terrapins met in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, and the 6-foot-3 right-hander struck out nine Terps over six innings en route to a victory. The junior followed up that performance with a stellar 2017 that saw him strike out 77 hitters in 83.1 innings and earn a spot on the all-Big Ten Second Team. He’s pitched at least six innings in five straight and at least seven in 8 of his 13 appearances this season, covering for the so-so Hawkeye bullpen. Entering the season, Baseball America ranked Gallagher’s curveball as the best breaking ball in the Big Ten.

2017 Big Ten Tournament Preview

Maryland (34-19, 15-9 Big Ten) struggled to end the regular season, losing three straight Big Ten series to close the conference slate with a 15-9 record after starting 12-3. Still, those 15 wins equaled a program record for conference victories last accomplished in 2014 in the ACC. They were also good enough to land the Terrapins the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, setting up a first-round matchup with No. 5 seed Iowa at 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. The format of the tournament is double-elimination, with teams needing a minimum of four wins and a maximum of five wins to take home the Big Ten Tournament Championship. Here’s how the field looks:

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 4.27.27 PM

1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (34-18-1, 16-7-1 Big Ten, Streak: W2) 

The ‘Huskers surged to the regular-season conference title after a second-place finish a year ago. Nebraska won five straight conference series to close the season, including taking two of three games from Penn State in the season’s final week to clinch the title. The Cornhuskers won the regular-season crown despite hitting a conference-low 20 home runs. Instead, they ranked second in the Big Ten in doubles and also took second in team ERA at 3.48. Leading the charge on offense was one of the league’s best hitters, junior Scott Schreiber, who hit .335 and led Nebraska with 20 extra-base hits. On the mound, the righty-lefty combo of Derek Burkamper and Jake Meyers anchors the rotation and made 26 combined starts, while the relief duo of Jake McSteen and Robbie Palkert posted identical 2.31 ERAs in 35 innings apiece. The Terps faced Nebraska in early April and split the first two games before dropping a 8-4 decision in the rubber match. The difference in the series was Cornhusker first baseman Ben Miller, who had 10 hits in the three games, scored four times, and drove in three runs in the series-clinching game.

2. Michigan Wolverines (42-13, 16-8, W2)

The Wolverines won eight more games overall than any other team in the Big Ten, partly on the strength of a 26-5 non-conference record. Like Nebraska, Michigan finished the season strong, winning four straight Big Ten series, including taking two out of three from in-state rival Michigan State to clinch the No. 2 seed and eliminate the Spartans from tournament contention. The Wolverines’ strength is their pitching staff, which led the conference in ERA (3.22) and strikeouts (9.54 per nine innings). The Michigan staff punched out over 100 more hitters than any other team in the conference. The starting rotation was good, if unspectacular, with Oliver Jaskie and Michael Hendrickson each turning in ERAs under 4.00. The bullpen was where Michigan really frustrated opposing hitters. Right-hander Jackson Lamb is the team’s top reliever; he pitched 28 innings without allowing an earned run, while striking out 28. As the Wolverines’ closer, he racked up 12 saves and opponents batted just .182 against him. Even more impressive might have been the performance Lamb’s fellow reliever, Mac Lozer, turned in. Like Lamb, Lozer did not allow an earned run all season, throwing 23.1 innings and striking out 34. In those 23.1 frames, the right-hander did not allow a single extra-base hit and opponents batted a minuscule .082 against him. In all, the Wolverines’ bullpen managed a 2.43 ERA and hitters batted .227 against the staff as a whole. On offense, catcher Drew Lugbauer leads the way for Michigan. He hit a team-high 11 home runs and compiled a .921 OPS. Maryland took on Michigan in the early stages of the Big Ten season and the Terps took two of three games from the then-No. 18 Wolverines. Brian Shaffer pitched eight innings and piled up 10 strikeouts in a 7-2 Maryland win in the first of the three games.

3. Minnesota Golden Gophers (33-19, 15-8, W1)

The Golden Gophers dropped two of three to Purdue in their final series of the season, but won their five previous games to secure a finish near the top of the conference. A 12-game winning streak from March 16-April 14 was the high point of the Gophers’ season and included sweeps of Michigan State and Ohio State, both on the road. Playing away from Siebert Field in Minneapolis was a strength all season for Minnesota, which went 16-5 on the road. The Gophers led the conference in batting average, hitting .313 as a team in conference games and leading the league with 20 triples. A pair of Golden Gophers, Luke Pettersen and Jordan Kozicky hit .340 or better, while Kozicky, a redshirt freshman, compiled a stellar .922 OPS. Meanwhile, junior Micah Coffey, a 2016 second-team All-Big Ten performer, hit a sizzling .370 in conference games. On the mound, the Gophers have a genuine ace in 6-foot-2 left-hander Lucas Gilbreath, who went 5-2 with a 2.37 ERA that ranked third in the Big Ten. He struck out 86 hitters in 76 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a .176 batting average. At the back end of the bullpen, senior Brian Glowicki racked up 15 saves and posted a 1.93 ERA, allowing just three extra-base hits in 28 innings.

4. Maryland Terrapins (34-19, 15-9, W1)

The Terps led the conference for a good portion of the season before dropping those final three Big Ten series to Indiana, Illinois, and Northwestern and settling for the fourth seed in the tournament. Maryland also dropped the first two games against High Point before rallying to win on Sunday by a 9-2 score. The Terrapins boast the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in Brian Shaffer, who led the conference with a 1.67 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 97 innings pitched and was second to Michigan’s Jaskie in strikeouts with 98. Shaffer leads a pitching staff that topped the conference with a 3.61 ERA in Big Ten play, but will need its other starters, Tyler Blohm (8-6, 3.46 ERA) and Taylor Bloom (6-2, 4.30) to pitch well if the Terps hope to make a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament. Sophomore outfielder Marty Costes paces the Terps on offense with a .336 batting average and an OPS over .960. The team’s hottest hitter going in to the tournament is AJ Lee, who is working on a career-long 11-game hitting streak and is third on the team with a .484 slugging percentage. Kevin Smith leads the team in that department at .537, a figure bolstered by his team-best 10 home runs.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes (34-19, 15-9, W1)

Maryland’s opponent in the tournament’s opening round posted identical conference and overall marks as the Terrapins. Like the Terps, Iowa had great success at home, posting a 19-4 record at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City. Unlike Maryland, the Hawkeyes finished the Big Ten schedule with a string of series victories, taking four straight three-game sets, including a sweep of Penn State in late April. Iowa is a power-hitting team that finished second in the conference with 58 home runs and compiled a .446 team slugging percentage. The most powerful hitter in the Hawkeye lineup is also by far the best power hitter in the conference. 6-foot-2, 250-pound first baseman Jake Adams clubbed a whopping 24 home runs and added 14 doubles. His two dozen homers were nine more than any other Big Ten hitter totaled and his 65 RBIs were eight clear of the field. He also finished fourth in the league with a .344 batting average. For a power hitter, Adams is averse to the strikeout, as well; he whiffed in just over 18 percent of his plate appearances. The Hawkeye pitching staff was middling, with a 4.40 team ERA that ranked sixth in the Big Ten. 6-foot-3 right-hander Nick Gallagher went 8-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 13 starts and senior right-hander Josh Martsching struck out 38 hitters in 34.1 relief innings to pace the staff.

6. Indiana Hoosiers (32-20-2, 14-9-1, W2)

Despite being just the No. 6 team in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers actually finished with the best RPI in the conference at No. 28 in the nation. Indiana was one spot ahead of Michigan and five spots ahead of Maryland in this week’s rankings. Indiana’s solid RPI figure is a function of a brutal non-conference schedule that ranked tenth-hardest in the country. The Hoosiers have already taken on both No. 1 Oregon State and No. 5 Louisville, and held their own, losing 1-0 and 4-1 to OSU and defeating the Cardinals, 4-3. Indiana won its final five series of the Big Ten schedule to make the tournament. Two-way star Matt Lloyd has been the team’s best player, leading the Hoosiers in both OPS (.993) and ERA (2.39 in 26.1 innings out of the bullpen). He doubles as the team’s No. 2 hitter and its closer. Indiana also got a powerful contribution from Craig Dedelow, a 6-foot-4 senior who finished second in the Big Ten with 15 home runs. One of those blasts came in the third game between Indiana and Maryland, after the teams had split the first two in a Saturday doubleheader. On Sunday, Dedelow hit a seventh-inning grand slam that turned a 3-2 Terps lead into a 6-3 deficit and carried the Hoosiers to a series-clinching victory in Bloomington.

7. Northwestern Wildcats (24-28, 13-11, W5)

The Wildcats have had a roller coaster of a season. They started the year with seven straight losses and they are the only team in the tournament with an overall record under .500. On the other hand they’re also the hottest team in the conference, having won five in a row to finish their Big Ten slate. Those five consecutive victories, albeit including three over Rutgers, who did not make the tournament, were enough to push Northwestern over the hump and into the conference tournament for the first time since 2010. Wildcat outfielder Joe Hoscheit was the key to his team’s conference success, batting an incredible .468 in Big Ten play, 73 points better than any other hitter in the league. For the season, Hoscheit hit .356, good for second in the Big Ten, and got on base at a .430 clip. The senior went 6-for-13 in the Wildcats’ series win over Maryland May 12-14, with a pair of triples and three runs scored. Northwestern’s best pitcher is senior left-hander Cooper Wetherbee, who tallied a 3.03 ERA in eight starts and 10 relief appearances. In his most recent outing, he threw seven shutout innings against Rutgers, allowing just three hits.

8. Purdue Boilermakers (29-25, 12-12, L1)

The Boilermakers were the Cinderella team in the Big Ten this season, rebounding from a last-place 2-22 finish in 2016 to their first tournament appearance since a regular-season title in 2012. Purdue stumbled in the season’s final weeks, losing five of their final six Big Ten games, but a midseason series win over its biggest rival, Indiana, as well as a sweep of Illinois two weeks later, gave it enough breathing room to grab the final spot in the tournament. The Boilermakers are a light-hitting team that scored the second-fewest runs in the Big Ten in conference play. Their best hitter is sophomore Jacson McGowan, who led the team in doubles (15), triples (three), and home runs (seven) en route to a .486 slugging percentage. What Purdue is good at is getting hit by pitches. Between them, infielders Evan Warden and Harry Shipley got plunked 53 times, and the Boilermakers got 77 free passes on hit by pitches as a team. Purdue’s starting rotation is mediocre at best, with just one pitcher who made any starts registering an ERA below 4.00 (Gareth Stroh at 3.92). The Boilermakers’ best weapon on the hill is reliever Ross Learnard, who might be the best reliever in the entire conference. The junior left-hander threw 44.1 innings and allowed only two earned runs, good for a tiny 0.41 ERA. Opponents managed just a .197 batting average against him. Importantly for the Boilermakers, Learnard didn’t allow any of the 29 hits he surrendered to leave the park.

Series Preview: High Point Panthers

After losing two of three to Northwestern in their final home series of the season, the Maryland Terrapins wrap up the regular season with a three-game road series at High Point, starting Thursday. With the series loss to Northwestern, the Terps (33-17, 15-9 Big Ten) have lost three straight weekend series dating back to April 29-30 at Indiana, and own a 4-4 record in the month of May.

Despite recent struggles, Maryland’s offense has been strong for most of the year. The Terps have scored 300 runs this season, good for fourth in the Big Ten, and their 51 home runs trail only Illinois and Indiana. They have also been a threat on the basepaths, stealing 92 bases in 50 games, their highest total since swiping 94 in 2013.

The top three in Maryland’s order – Zach Jancarski, Brandon Gum and Marty Costes – have been instrumental in the team’s success, as each ranks in the top ten in the conference in on-base percentage. Costes leads the team with a .343 average, .430 on-base percentage and 37 RBIs, while Jancarski is hitting .324 with a team-high 19 steals. Infielders AJ Lee and Kevin Smith have also come on strong of late. Smith leads Maryland in homers (10) and slugging (.550) while Lee collected multiple hits in each game against Northwestern to raise his season average to .336.

While the offense has been solid for the most part, the Terps’ pitching has been shaky recently. Friday night starter Brian Shaffer continues to dominate, leading the Big Ten in ERA and innings pitched, but the bullpen struggled over the weekend. Jamal Wade and Ryan Hill, two key relievers, allowed a combined seven runs in .2 innings Saturday, raising both of their ERAs above four. Ryan Selmer and Andrew Miller, John Szefc’s go-to guys at the back end of the bullpen, each surrendered a run in Sunday’s loss, but still own sub-3 ERAs. Miller has posted a 1.96 ERA in 20 innings out of the bullpen with a .153 opponent’s batting average, while Selmer is tied for the team lead in appearances (22) and leads the team with seven saves. John Murphy has figured into the bullpen rotation recently, and the right-hander leads Maryland pitchers (min. 20 innings) with a 1.27 ERA.

Maryland has struggled of late, but High Point has been hot. The Panthers (27-20, 12-11 Big South) dropped two of three at Radford over the weekend, but won five straight prior to that. They also own a 15-8 record at home, and have won four in a row on their home field. High Point has been solid, but not spectacular, both offensively and on the mound this season, hitting .257 as a team and pitching to a 4.33 ERA.

Junior Blake Schunk leads the team with a .338 average, and has hit safely in six of his last seven contests. Despite not boasting the high average that Schunk does, the trio of Josh Greene, Austen Zente and Carson Jackson has been the heart of the Panther lineup this season. Greene leads the team with 18 steals in 23 attempts, and is tied with Jackson for second in RBIs (27). The senior outfielder owns a .293/.374/.453 slash line and has appeared in all but four of the team’s games this season. Zente leads the Panthers in homers (9), slugging percentage (.500) and RBIs (31), but is no slouch on the basepaths, swiping 13 bags. Jackson leads the team in hits (50) and doubles (13) while going a perfect 11-for-11 in stolen base attempts.

High Point’s pitching, while not flashy, has gotten the job done this season, as six of the eight Panthers that have tossed at least 20 innings have ERAs under four. Right-hander Rion Murrah and southpaw Matt Hodges are the go-to guys out of the bullpen for High Point, as they have combined for 38 relief appearances. Murrah leads the Panthers with a 2.86 ERA and opponents are hitting a paltry .218 off the junior. Hitters fare even worse off Hodges, managing just a .204 average, as the sophomore lefty leads the High Point bullpen with 41 innings pitched, 42 strikeouts and five saves. Other notable relievers include Jeremy Johnson (3.75 ERA, 36 innings) and Cooper Jeffers (3.96 ERA, 20.2 innings).

The Terps and Panthers last faced off in College Park a year ago, on April  1-3, 2016. High Point took two out of three in that series, winning Friday and Sunday, while Maryland claimed Saturday’s contest, 13-5.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

THU 6:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Brian Shaffer (7-2, 1.72 ERA) vs. So. RHP Andrew Gottfried (3-2, 3.96 ERA)

WBVSTCBBLFRKCIX.201409242148581Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo   vs.    

Right-hander Brian Shaffer continues to dominate opponents. The Terps’ Friday night ace threw another gem last time out against Northwestern, allowing just one run over eight innings while striking out eight. He leads the Big Ten in ERA and innings pitched (89) and ranks second in strikeouts (91).

High Point will counter Shaffer with right-hander Andrew Gottfried. The sophomore struggled last time out against Radford, allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks over six innings. His previous outing, however, was a gem, as he tossed six shutout innings with seven strikeouts to pick up the win over Charleston Southern. The right-hander only has 40 strikeouts in 50 innings, but he doesn’t give up hard contact, as opponents hit just .202 off him.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

FRI 6:00 p.m. EST

Fr. LHP Tyler Blohm (8-5, 3.25 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Drew Daczkowski (5-4, 2.96 ERA)

YFZMWOKWXYQKPRI.201609161938351Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo   vs.       

Friday is a matchup of freshmen, with Tyler Blohm taking the hill for the Terps. The southpaw has gotten a decision in all 13 of his starts this season, and leads the Big Ten with eight wins. He ranks eighth in the conference in ERA, and has fooled opponents, allowing just a .219 average against him. He struggled his last time out, however, allowing three runs (two earned) in just four innings. He allowed just two hits, but walked two and threw 75 pitches.

Blohm will share the rubber with freshman right-hander Drew Daczkowski, one of two freshmen in the High Point rotation. Daczkowski has been the Panthers’ best starter this season, leading the team in ERA, innings pitched (70) and strikeouts (67), despite compiling just a 5-4 record. He does struggle with the long ball however, as he has surrendered a team-high nine homers this season. He got tagged with the loss against Radford last weekend after giving up three runs (two earned) over six innings, but threw a complete game the week before.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

SAT 1:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Taylor Bloom (5-2, 4.41 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Trevor Holloway (3-5, 4.08 ERA)

OBWZVXSYRGTEOGI.201609161938351Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo    vs.    

2017 has been an up-and-down season for Taylor Bloom, who has failed to replicate his dominant 2016 (2.46 ERA, 102.1 IP). The right-hander ranks second on the Terps in innings pitched, but has allowed 82 hits in 69.1 frames for a .300 opponents’ average. He pitched well enough to win last time out, surrendering four runs in six innings, but was tagged with a no-decision after the Terps blew a late lead and lost in extra innings.

Like Bloom, Trevor Holloway has shown signs of brilliance this year but struggled at other points. His 57.1 innings pitched are second only to Daczkowski, but he has struggled with control, walking 33, hitting seven and uncorking 11 wild pitches. Holloway has not been efficient, as he has completed five innings in just one of his last four starts, and hasn’t completed six since April 2 against Gardner-Webb.

Series Preview: Northwestern Wildcats

Looking to close out their home schedule strong, the Maryland Terrapins take on the Northwestern Wildcats this weekend in College Park for their final Big Ten series of the season.

In last weekend’s series against Illinois, Maryland (32-15, 14-7 Big Ten) turned in two losses after Friday’s 9-4 victory. On Friday, the Terps’ offense backed up another solid Brian Shaffer performance, totaling 11 hits, led by Kevin Smith’s two hits and three RBIs. However, the bats could not bail out Tyler Blohm or Taylor Bloom, who struggled Saturday and Sunday, respectively.  On Sunday, the offense put together a ninth inning rally with big hits from Nick Dunn and Will Watson to tie the game, only to lose on a walkoff home run in the bottom of the frame.

However, the Terps got back on their feet earlier this week when they kicked off their final homestand with a 6-2 win over the UMBC Retrievers on Tuesday.  Breaking out of the struggling midweek pitching trend, left-hander Tayler Stiles recorded their best midweek start of the season, tossing five shutout innings with six strikeouts. This win brought the Terps to 19-1 at home.

While the Terps lost their last weekend series, Northwestern (19-27, 8-10 Big Ten) clinched a series victory last weekend with an 8-7 victory over Purdue. The Wildcats collected 13 hits in the series finale, led by freshman second baseman Alex Erro’s four-RBI performance and senior outfielder Joe Hoscheit’s four hits.

The Wildcats had the most successful month of April for their program since 2010, posting 11 wins, six of which were conference wins. Since, they have split their last four games. Despite taking the series in West Lafayette, the Wildcats still own a 10-15 record on the road.

They have struggled at times both on the mound and at the plate this season, with a 5.21 team ERA and a .249 average. Hoscheit, Erro and Matt Hopfner have been the most consistent Northwestern Hitters this season. Hoscheit leads the team with a .333/.412/.516 slash line, five homers and 39 RBIs, while Hopfner leads in doubles (15), runs (35) and total bases (81). Erro is hitting .295 and is tied with Hopfner for the team-lead in hits with 54.

Left-hander Sam Lawrence has been the most reliable pitcher out of the bullpen for Northwestern this season, leading the team with 18 appearances and ranking second in ERA with a 3.55 mark. His 38 innings are the most for any Wildcat pitcher that has not made a start this year. Tyler Lass has been shaky out of the bullpen, allowing a .319 average over 14 appearances, but is averaging a strikeout per inning pitched. Pete Hoffman owns a lofty 4.99 ERA in 17 relief appearances, but leads the team with three saves and has struck out 37 batters in 30.2 innings pitched.

 

Starting Pitching Matchup 

FRI 2:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Brian Shaffer (6-2, 1.78 ERA) vs. Sr. LHP Cooper Wetherbee (2-2, 2.91 ERA)

WBVSTCBBLFRKCIX.201409242148581Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo   vs.    northwesternCooper

In Brian Shaffer’s last start against Illinois last weekend, he set his career high in strikeouts (83) for a single season.  Although the junior allowed eight hits, he struck out the same amount and held Illinois to two earned runs.  Shaffer remains the Big Ten leader in ERA and innings pitched, and ranks second in strikeouts.

Shaffer’s opposite number, Cooper Wetherbee, has also put together a fine season. He has bounced back and forth between the bullpen and rotation this season, leading the Wildcats in ERA while also picking up a save. Despite only making six starts, the right-hander has tossed 46.1 innings over 16 appearances, and ranks eighth in the conference in ERA. In his last start against Purdue, Wetherbee allowed just three hits and two runs while striking out five, through six innings of work.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

SAT 3:00 p.m. EST

Fr. LHP Tyler Blohm (8-4, 3.17 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Hank Christie (3-4, 4.31 ERA)

YFZMWOKWXYQKPRI.201609161938351Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo        vs.        northwesternHank

Tyler Blohm has been dominant since becoming Maryland’s Saturday starter, leading the Big Ten in wins and ranking second on the Terps in strikeouts (53). Even after struggling Saturday against Illinois (2.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, L), the freshman southpaw ranks in the top ten in the conference in ERA, strikeouts, and opponent’s average (.225).

Hank Christie will be on the other side of Saturday’s freshmen pitcher’s duel.  The right-hander has been a fixture in the Wildcats rotation, as he is the only pitcher to make 12 starts this season. As a result, he leads Northwestern in innings pitched (62.2) and strikeouts (42). Christie has had an up-and-down season, but has been impressive of late, allowing just one earned run over his last three starts, spanning 20 innings. He had one of his best starts of the season last week against Purdue, allowing six hits and one unearned run through eight innings, but got a no-decision as Northwestern fell in 12 innings.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

SUN 1:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Taylor Bloom (5-2, 4.26 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Josh Davis (3-2, 3.76 ERA)

OBWZVXSYRGTEOGI.201609161938351Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo    vs.    Josh Davis

Taylor Bloom led the Terps in ERA a year ago, but has had an up-and-down 2017. In his last start, Sunday at Purdue, he gave up five hits and four earned runs through 4.1 innings, but got off the hook for the loss when Maryland came back to tie it in the ninth. He’ll look to get back on track Sunday.

Like Wetherbee, Josh Davis has switched back and forth between the bullpen rotation this season. He has made seven starts this season, but his last appearance was in relief, when he pitched 1.1 innings out of the bullpen against Purdue Sunday. His last start came May 2 against Notre Dame, a six-inning, three-run performance. Opponents are hitting .261 against him this season, but his control has been impressive, as he has walked just nine hitters in 40.2 innings.

Game Preview: UMBC Retrievers

After losing a road series for the second straight weekend, the Maryland Terrapins are back in College Park this week for their final five home games of the 2017 campaign. The Terps (31-15, 14-7 Big Ten) will kick off the homestand Tuesday with a midweek contest against a local foe from up I-95: the UMBC Retrievers.

Maryland opened the weekend at Illinois with a resounding 9-4 victory, scoring eight runs in the first three frames to back up another strong  strong start from Brian Shaffer (8 IP, 2 ER, 8 K). However, Tyler Blohm and Taylor Bloom could not replicate Shaffer’s success on the hill against a struggling Illini team that entered the weekend 5-10 in the Big Ten. Blohm surrendered six runs over just 2.2 innings in the Terps’ loss Saturday, and Bloom gave up four runs without completing five frames Sunday, in a game the Terps tied in the ninth inning only to lose on a walk off.

After a 4-for-12 weekend at the plate, Marty Costes continues to lead the Terps in most offensive categories, including slash line (.351/.440/.573), homers (9) and RBIs (34). Along with Costes, Zach Jancarski, AJ Lee and Brandon Gum all boast averages over the .300 mark, while Kevin Smith’s .548 slugging percentage and eight homers rank second on the team.

Maryland’s bullpen also turned in a solid weekend, with John Murphy, Tayler Stiles and Jamal Wade combining to throw 5.1 scoreless innings of relief Saturday. Despite surrendering the walkoff home run Sunday, left-hander Andrew Miller still leads the Terps with a 1.47 ERA in 18.1 innings of work, holding opponents to a paltry .138 average. Murphy (1.56 ERA in 17.1 IP) and Ryan Selmer (2.48 ERA in 29 IP) have also pitched well out of the bullpen of late.

Meanwhile, UMBC split a doubleheader at Maine on Sunday after the first game of the series was cancelled. The Retrievers (18-19, 10-7 America East) have won seven of their last nine contests, but have struggled on the road, posting a 10-11 mark on opponents’ fields. They have thrived on offense this season, posting a .299 team average and 6.1 runs per game, but their pitching has let them down, as their 6.05 ERA ranks second to last in the America East.

Outfielder Collin Stack is one of the major forces in the UMBC offense, as his .345 average leads the team and ranks third in the conference. The junior has hit purely for contact, knocking just four extra base hits, but teammates Hunter Dolshun and Jamie Switalski have picked up the slack in the power department. Dolshun leads the Retrievers with six homers and 27 RBIs, while slashing .318/.406/.564. Switalski leads the conference with 17 doubles, and his four homers and 26 RBIs trail only Dolshun on the Retrievers. Andrew Casali has also put together a solid season offensively, hitting .320 with 14 doubles and a team-best 10 stolen bases.

But while the Retrievers have thrived offensively this season, so have their opponents. The UMBC rotation has been a revolving door this season, as five pitchers (Matt Chanin, Michael Austin, Jacob Christian, Mitchell Wilson and Joe Vanderplas) have made at least five starts this season. Only Chanin has started every game he has appeared in, and the junior right-hander leads UMBC starters with a 5.03 ERA, 48.1 innings pitched and two complete games.

Of the 14 pitchers who have appeared on the mound for the Retrievers this season, only a pair of southpaws, Andy Rozylowicz and Connor Staskey, boast ERAs under five. Rozylowicz leads the team with a 3.94 ERA, but has spent much of his time on the mound this year pitching out of the stretch, posting a 2.25 WHIP in 16 innings of work. Right-handers Patrick Phillips and Cory Callahan have eaten innings out of the bullpen for the Retrievers, pitching 23 and 22.2 frames respectively. Both own ERAs north of six, but Callahan has been the team’s de facto closer, notching three of the team’s five total saves.

This is the first meeting between the Terps and Retrievers since March 19, 2014, when Maryland defeated UMBC 6-0 at Harford Community College. Nick Cieri, Jared Price and Mike Rescigno were the only current Terps to appear in that contest, and Rescigno, now a reliever, made the start at first base.

Starting Pitching Matchup

TUE 4:00 p.m. EST

TBA vs. TBA

1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo   vs. 

Neither Maryland nor UMBC has announced a starter for Tuesday’s game.

Series Preview: Illinois Fighting Illini

Maryland returns to Big Ten action this weekend on the road against Illinois. After losing their second conference series last weekend to Indiana, the Terrapins will look to return to form against the Fighting Illini. On Wednesday, Maryland defeated in-state foe Towson to earn the Ripken Cup.

Maryland (30-13, 13-5 Big Ten) played around wild weather conditions last weekend in Bloomington. Friday night’s game was postponed in the third inning, quickly putting an end to Brian Shaffer’s start. The game resumed Saturday to commence a doubleheader, with the Terps dropping the first before evening the series at one behind freshman Tyler Blohm’s strong start. On Sunday, a rain delay midway through the game only allowed the rubber match to go 7 ½ innings due to a travel curfew, and the Terps fell to Indiana, 6-3.

Sophomore AJ Lee’s decisive solo home run in the eight inning on Wednesday was the third baseman’s sixth home run of the year. He continues to provide production from the bottom of the Terrapin lineup. Lee is one of five Maryland players with a batting average over .300 this season, along with  Zach Jancarski, Marty Costes, Brandon Gum and Danny Maynard.

Not only does the weather look more favorable this weekend in Illinois, but the Big Ten-leading Terps will face a team ranked 11th in the conference. Illinois (19-23, 5-10 Big Ten) has won just two conference series this season. However, the Illini did win their series last weekend against Minnesota after dropping the series opener, and then won a midweek game against Southern Illinois, giving them a three-game winning streak entering this weekend’s series.

Offensively, Illinois is led by three main players: Jack Yalowitz, Michael Massey and Pat McInerney. Yalowitz leads the team with a .339 batting average and 40 RBIs. The redshirt senior ranks fifth in the Big Ten in both RBIs and home runs (10). Massey, a freshman, leads the team with 57 hits, a mark that ranks eighth in the entire conference, to go with a .329 average and 10 doubles. McInerney is the power behind the Illini, hitting a team-high 12 home runs this season, a total that only ranks behind Iowa’s Jake Adams (16) in the Big Ten. As a team, Illinois ranks second in the conference in home runs (45), behind Indiana, but ranks in the lower third of the Big Ten with a .257 team average. 

While the Illini have held their own at the plate, their pitching has been their Achilles’ heel for much of the season. As a unit, Illinois’ ERA (5.65) is second-worst in the Big Ten, and the team has surrendered 264 runs this season, third-worst in the conference. The staff has struggled with control as well, walking the most batters of any Big Ten team (211) and ranking second in wild pitches (58). Ty Weber has been the one consistent starter this year, making 11 starts, while the rest of the Illinois rotation has been a revolving door. When the starters exit the game, the Illini struggle in the middle innings, as many of their relievers own ERAs north of five. However, they do boast a lockdown closer at the back end of their pen: Joey Gerber. The sophomore right-hander has made 23 appearances, all in relief, spanning 28 innings. He leads the team with seven saves and a 2.57 ERA, and with a 1-0 record is one of just three Illini pitchers not to suffer a loss this season. 

Maryland and Illinois squared off last season in College Park for a three-game set. While the Illini took two of three, all the games were decided by two runs or less. Prior to 2016, The Terps beat a fifth-ranked Illinois team, 2-1, in the 2015 Big Ten Tournament.

Starting Pitching Matchup

FRI 7:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Brian Shaffer (5-2, 1.73 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Ty Weber (2-5, 4.34 ERA)

 vs. Weber_Ty_Headshot_082116_2MJ0407.JPG

Brian Shaffer, per usual, will pitch Friday night for the Terps. His outing last weekend against Indiana was cut short due to rain, and he did not stay on the mound when the game resumed the following day. So, Shaffer only threw 38 pitches in two innings of work, allowing no runs on two hits. Even with the shortened outing, the junior still leads the Big Ten in ERA (1.73) and innings pitched (73), while also appearing in the top-five in opposing batting average and strikeouts.

None of Illinois’ weekend starters this year appeared against the Terps one year ago. Two of the three this year are freshman, starting Friday night with right-hander Ty Weber. His 4.34 ERA leads the team’s starters, and he is the only Illinois pitcher to start in each weekend series. While he does allow runs, his 66.1 innings pitched this season is second in the Big Ten, trailing only Shaffer. Last weekend against Minnesota, the freshman allowed five runs on 11 hits in six innings of work.

Starting Pitching Matchup

SAT 4:00 p.m. EST

Fr. LHP Tyler Blohm (8-3, 2.53) vs. Fr. RHP Cyrillo Watson (1-4, 6.35 ERA)

 vs. 

Freshman Tyler Blohm has been dominant since becoming the Terps’ Saturday starter. The southpaw pitched 6.1 innings last weekend against Indiana, allowing two earned runs on six hits. The performance was good enough to earn his Big Ten-leading eighth win of the season. He joins his teammate Shaffer in the top-five in the conference in opposing batting average this season. His strikeout total is nearly staying equal to his innings pitched, striking out 52 batters in 57 innings of work.

Cyrillo Watson joins Weber as a freshman weekend starter for the Illini. While he’ll share the rubber Saturday with fellow freshman Blohm, the two have posted vastly different seasons to date. Watson owns a lofty 6.35 ERA through seven starts and 15 total appearances. The right-hander is prone to being all over the plate, as his nine wild pitches this season ranks third-most in the Big Ten, and he also ranks in the top-10 in the conference in hit batters.

Starting Pitching Matchup

SUN 1:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Taylor Bloom (5-2, 3.97) vs. Sr. RHP Matthew James (1-1, 5.35 ERA)

 vs. 

Taylor Bloom pitched well enough to earn the win last weekend in Sunday’s rubber match against Indiana, bit the Hoosier’s late grand slam followed by a rain delay and curfew-shortened game ensured he received a no-decision. The junior allowed just two runs over six innings, striking out seven batters. With the solid start, Bloom’s ERA is now back down below four, joining his fellow weekend starters. Last season against the Illini, Bloom pitched a six-hit, one-run complete game.

While freshmen fill the first two weekend starts for Illinois, Sunday starter Matthew James is a senior. He has only worked his way into the weekend rotation as of late, making a majority of his appearances this season out of the bullpen. The right-hander earned his first win of the season in the back-end of last Saturday’s doubleheader, allowing just one run over six innings against Minnesota. Despite the strong start last time out, James struggles to find the zone at times, walking nearly as many batters as he strikes out.

Game Preview: Towson Tigers

Maryland had its seven-game winning streak snapped in Saturday’s loss at Indiana, but despite losing two of three in the weekend series, the Terrapins (29-13, 13-5) still sit atop the Big Ten. Their next test comes Wednesday, when they travel to Aberdeen, Maryland, to take on the Towson Tigers in the Ripken Cup.

Friday’s matchup was suspended after two innings due to weather, and Terps’ starter Brian Shaffer did not return to the mound when the game resumed Saturday. Maryland’s bullpen, which has been strong for most of the year, faltered, as Ryan Hill and Hunter Parsons surrendered a combined seven runs as the Terps fell. They won behind Tyler Blohm’s strong start and an offensive outburst Saturday, but the bullpen faltered again Sunday in a loss shortened due to a travel curfew.

Zach Jancarski (.337) and Marty Costes (.353) continued to lead the Terps at the plate, each homering and notching two multi-hit games over the weekend. Costes went deep for the team-leading ninth time this season, matching his season total from a year ago. Kevin Smith also awoke from his brief slump with a hit in all three games, including his eighth homer of the season Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have lost five of their last six contests, including dropping two of three at home to William & Mary over the weekend. Towson (16-25, 4-11 CAA) has won consecutive games just three times this season, and sits seventh out of nine teams in the CAA.

Richie Palacios has been an offensive spark plug for Towson of late, hitting safely in 18 of the last 19 games. The shortstop is the only Tiger to play in all 41 contests, and leads the team in nearly every offensive category, including average (.340), on-base percentage (.429), slugging (.506), doubles (12) and runs scored (34). Third baseman Richard Miller (.304 average, 27 RBIs) has aided Palacios in the middle of the order, but these two have received little help from the rest of the Towson lineup. Three regulars (Trey Martinez, Colin Dyer, Logan Burke) are hovering around the Mendoza Line, and the team as a whole is hitting .244.

Towson’s inconsistency at the plate is compounded by the pitching staff’s season-long struggles on the mound. The Tigers own a 6.20 team ERA and a .297 opponents batting average, and have surrendered double digit runs in 11 of their 41 contests (26 percent). All four of their qualified pitchers have ERAs north of four, and their most consistent starter, Kevin Ross (4.13 ERA) has been a constant victim of bad luck, as he is still winless on the season. The bullpen has been as much of a question mark as the starting rotation, as of the Tigers with at least eight relief appearances, only left-hander David Marriggi (3.21 ERA, 14 games, 3 starts) has posted an ERA under seven. Marriggi’s success on the mound earned him a start in Sunday’s contest against William & Mary. Other notable Towson relievers include Alex Cuas (7.91 ERA, 33 IP), Brandyn Vogtsberger (8.44 ERA, 16 IP) and Bo Plagge (11.50 ERA, 18 IP).

The Terps and Tigers last faced off in the Ripken Cup on May 6, 2015, when Maryland defeated Towson 9-2. Current Maryland ace Brian Shaffer started for the Terps in that game, throwing five innings of two-run ball to pick up the win. The Ripken Cup was cancelled last year due to poor field conditions.

Starting Pitching Matchup

WED 6:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Ryan Hill (3-1, 3.24 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Matt Allen (3-1, 6.31 ERA)

1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo   vs. 

 

Junior transfer Ryan Hill will take the mound for the Terps Wednesday, making his second start of the season. The right-hander has been Maryland’s most reliable bullpen piece this season, tossing 30.1 frames over 18 relief appearances. He struggled in his last appearance, however, surrendering three runs on three walks and a hit in an inning of relief after taking over for Brian Shaffer when Friday’s suspended game resumed Saturday. Hill’s lone start of the season came in Maryland’s last midweek contest, a 6-0 victory over William & Mary. Hill tossed three hitless innings in the win before handing it over to the bullpen to complete the shutout.

Hill will be opposed by senior right-hander Matt Allen, making his fourth start of the 2017 campaign. Allen has had an up and down season, as he posted his worst start of the career April 5 against Cornell, allowing 13 runs (nine earned) over 3.1 innings of work. However, he pitched much better in his most recent start, picking up the win against George Washington on April 19 after throwing six strong innings of three-run ball. He last appeared in Sunday’s loss to William & Mary, pitching 1.1 scoreless innings with a strikeout. Allen threw one inning against Maryland in the 2015 Ripken Cup, allowing one run on one hit, a Tim Lewis triple.