It’s finally tournament time.
For the first time since 2019, No. 10 Maryland is playing in the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska.
After the best season in program history — a record 44 wins and the Terps’ first conference title in 51 years — Maryland earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament and will face the No. 8-seeded Indiana Hoosiers in game one Thursday morning.
Indiana is one of the few conference opponents the Terps hadn’t faced in the regular season, with Michigan State, Nebraska, and Iowa being the others. The Hoosiers bring new faces into the fray, but as the final team to make the cut in the conference tournament, they also bring a glaring weakness: the worst ERA in the Big Ten. Less than a week ago, the Indiana pitching staff gave up 30 runs in a loss to Iowa — the most runs scored in a single game in Hawkeyes history.
Coming off five-straight games of putting up double-digits in the run column, the Terps’ bats couldn’t be hotter as they look to take advantage of the struggling Hoosier pitching.
Indiana Hoosiers (25-30, 10-14 Big Ten)
The Hoosiers’ ended 2021’s Big Ten-only season with a 26-18 record, which had them tied for fourth in the conference standings as their dominant pitching led the way. It wasn’t enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament, but in a season that had the top five teams in the Big Ten beating up the rest, Indiana was in that top tier. The final series of last season came against the Terps, where the Hoosiers dropped two very important games that could have made the difference between fourth and second place.
Indiana’s biggest strength in 2021 turned into its greatest weakness in 2022. With its top two starters — McCade Brown and Gabe Bierman — getting selected in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Hoosier weekend rotation took a major blow, losing two arms that put up sub-3.50 ERA’s. Overall, the staff went from a collective 3.18 ERA to a 7.16 ERA between the two seasons, and has been the biggest reason for the team’s 25-30 record.
Hitters to Watch:
The Hoosiers’ lineup includes a handful of potent bats, as five of the nine regulars own an OPS over .900. The strongest of those bats is freshman Carter Mathison, who slashed .275/.402/.601 in 193 at-bats. While the Hoosiers as a team didn’t hit the long ball that frequently, Mathison (17) and team-leader redshirt junior Matthew Ellis (18) carried the freight, contributing to almost a half of the team’s 71 home runs. There aren’t many easy outs in the Indiana lineup, but watch for Mathison and Ellis to be potential difference-makers.
Pitchers to Watch:
With just one pitcher owning an ERA below 5.00, there’s just about nothing overly positive about the Indiana pitching staff. That one pitcher who sticks out is redshirt junior Ty Bothwell, who has a 4.03 ERA in 17 relief appearances and one start. If the Hoosiers manage to get themselves a lead in the later innings, Bothwell is likely the man they’ll send out to maintain it.
Probable Pitching Matchup:
With Ryan Ramsey (10-0, 2.98 ERA) and Jason Savacool (8-2, 2.71 ERA) earning First Team All-Big Ten Honors Tuesday, it’s hard for Head Coach Rob Vaughn to go wrong with who he gives the ball Wednesday night. Ramsey’s last start came on May 14, so with the extra rest it’s likely he could start against the Hoosiers.
Redshirt junior Jake Perkins’ 5.17 ERA is the lowest out of any Hoosier starter this season, and Indiana’s options don’t get much better from there. With Perkins likely to be the man on the mound tomorrow night — less than a week after being tagged for nine earned runs against Iowa — Charles Schwab Field should be ready for some fireworks.