Maryland baseball: Terps poised to capitalize on weak Minutemen squad (updated)

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Massachusetts Minutemen limp into College Park after being swept by Army

Note: The four game series against the University of Massachusetts has been pared down to three games, as Friday night's game has been preemptively cancelled due to a forecast of subfreezing weather.

It's still too early in the 2014 season to make much out of an individual player's statistics. Things change rapidly, e.g. Mike Rescigno upped his average from .167 to .455 in one game. But collectively the Terps have been doing three things very well offensively: getting on base, stealing (20 of 24 attempts), and executing sacrifice bunts (16 to just 3 by opponents). The pitching staff has held opponents to an anemic .190 batting average. So there's plenty of room for optimism going into the weekend series against U Mass (Atlantic 10 conference).

The same can't be said for the Minutemen. Last year they posted a dismal 14 - 31 record with an RPI of 269 out of 298 teams. Things haven't fared so well for the Minutemen in 2014 either as they dropped an opening three-game series to Army by a combined score 25 - 6. Their upcoming three game series with the Terps appears to be a complete mismatch. Therein lays the problem: Maryland needs to sweep U Mass to avoid a hit to their RPI. While that's highly probable it's not guaranteed, as last year's Maryland - St. Mary's game demonstrated.

Batting

The Minutemen have three legitimate threats in their line-up, all batting from the right side. Nic Campero (3B) is their top returning player in terms of batting average last year: .305. He's a contact hitter who sprays the ball around but doesn't have much power. Outfielder Adam Picard batted .300 with four home runs, a triple, and nine doubles. First baseman Dylan Begin played in only 27 games but still managed to hit four home runs, one triple, and six doubles, while batting a respectable .282. Picard and Begin accounted for eight of the nine homers that the Minutemen had all last season. If they get men on base the Minutemen like to run. Last year they had 86 steals out of 101 attempts.

Pitching

What does it tell you when two of the three starters for U. Mass last weekend did not throw a collegiate pitch in 2013? Brandon Walsh did not pitch last year, playing in seven games as a catcher. In his first start last weekend he lasted only one inning. Ryan Moloney, a freshman right hander fared better, giving up just two earned runs in eight solid innings. Connor LeBlanc, a tall lanky southpaw had a 5.11 ERA in 2013. Expect to see senior left-hander Aaron Plunkett this weekend. He was mostly used in relief last year although he did start one game. His 2013 ERA was 4.15. Another possibility is senior right-hander D J Jauss, U. Mass' top returning starter. In 2013 he had a 4.04 ERA in ten appearances, eight of them as a starter.

Update: Here's the pitching match-ups for this weekend, courtesy of umterps

Game 1 (Saturday), 1 p.m.: Sr. RHP Jake Stinnett (1-1, 2.08 ERA) vs. Jr. LHP Conor LeBlanc (0-1, 2.84 ERA)

Game 2 (Saturday), 4:30 p.m.: Fr. RHP Mike Shawaryn (2-0, 0.77 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Ryan Moloney (0-1, 2.25 ERA)

Game 3 (Sunday), 1 p.m.: So. RHP Jared Price (1-1, 7.04 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Mike Geannelis (0-0, 0.00 ERA). Geannelis is a freshman.

Outlook

Stinnett, Shawaryn, and Price should do very well against the predominantly right-handed hitting Minutemen. Unless our bats fall asleep and/or the freshman Moloney's good performance wasn't a fluke, we should see some an uptick in many of our players' batting average. Of special note is that the series will be Kyle Convissar's first games this season. Convissar, Maryland's second leading hitter last year (.325 BA) has been recovering from an ankle injury suffered early in preseason practice.

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