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Maryland baseball: No. 20 Terps open 2015 season with four games down in Myrtle Beach

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In 2014, the Terrapins were one win shy of going to the College World Series. Now ranked within the top 20 in preseason polls and picked to win the B1G, the 2015 team will open its quest for Omaha with a competitive tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Photo courtesy of Paul Nichols: http://www.paulnicholsart.com/baseballs.html
Photo courtesy of Paul Nichols: http://www.paulnicholsart.com/baseballs.html
Paul Nichols

It seems like ages ago since Maryland last played. So, for those of us Jonesing for Terrapin baseball, the long wait is over: Maryland opens its 2015 season tomorrow as one of five teams participating in the Caravelle Resort Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The host team, Coastal Carolina, has a new state-of-the-art baseball facility that should witness competitive baseball over the next three days.

Coffee, bagels, & baseball

There have been games in the past when it seemed like Maryland was playing in conditions akin to a curling game in Scandinavia.  That won't be the situation in temperate Myrtle Beach. However, with five teams playing four games apiece in three days, some contests are scheduled to begin before many finish their morning cups of coffee. The Terps play Friday at 11:00 a.m., Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

The condensed schedule also means that Maryland will have to use four starters and judicious use of its bullpen. (The latter is particularly relevant as the starters will be on pitch counts, this being their first outing.) Fortunately, Maryland is deep in both areas. But, we're likely to see quite a bit of the Terps' talented freshman arms. The Terps' depth at catcher will also be a plus for the team this weekend.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at Maryland's opponents this weekend.

Western Kentucky

(2014 record 29-28 overall, 15-15 Sun Belt Conference, 127 RPI)

WKU moves over to Conference USA this year, where Rice is the prohibitive favorite to take the conference crown. Old Dominion (see below) is also a C-USA team. The Hilltoppers are projected to finish in the middle of the conference pack. Returning is senior first baseman Ryan Church (.306 avg, 7 hr, 38 rbi), who is a proven power hitter with some speed (7 sb); outfielder Anderson Miller (.335 avg, 11 2b, 4 3b, 3 hr, 33 rbi); and 3B/SS Leiff Clarkson (.316 avg). Three of the Hilltoppers' main starting pitchers graduated, leaving only junior Josh Bartley (5-4, 4.61 era) as an experienced starter. WKU does have an experienced fireman in senior Ian Tompkins (14 saves, 2.46 era), who allowed only three extra-base-hits in 26 innings.

Projected Maryland starter: Mike Shawaryn (2014 11-4, 3.12 era)

Canisius

(2014 record 40-16 overall, 20-4 MAAC, 71 RPI)

Canisius has a legitimate chip on their shoulder. After winning the MAAC regular season title, the Griffins were eliminated in the conference tournament by losing twice to lowly Sienna. So, even though the Golden Griffins won 40 games, they were not invited to the NCAA tournament. Maryland is Canisius' first opponent, so I expect them to use their ace against the Terps. It would be a huge RPI lift if Canisius can score the upset win, and given last year's NCAA snub, they will surely have all cylinders on full throttle against Maryland. Canisius is the preseason favorite to win the MAAC.

One thing is certain about Canisius: they can hit, and then some. Led by preseason MAAC player of the year, 3B Connor Panas (.362 avg, 16 2b, 6 hr, 51 rbi), the Golden Griffins return much of the team that had a collective batting average of .314. The team's slugging percentage was .432, including 102 2b, 25 3b, and 24 hr. But Canisius also had a respectable pitching staff that has most key players returning.

Projected Maryland Starter: Jake Drossner (2014 4-1, 2.45 era)

Old Dominion

(2014 record 36-26, 17-13 Conference USA, 42 RPI)

The Monarchs had a respectable record last year, and made it to the Columbia, S.C., Regional on the basis of a strong RPI and some marquee wins. ODU faced the Terps in the first game of the Regional, and was three outs away from a 3-1 victory. But ODU's pitching came apart at the seams, with the tying and winning runs coming home on back-to-back pitches, both of which hit Terrapin batters. ODU was later eliminated after losing to Campbell.

ODU lost some key players from last year's squad, most particularly on the mound. Of the main arms, only Victor Diaz (5-2, 3.00) returns. The Monarchs' bats should still be active, including a player that's one of my favorites for the All-Names list in college baseball: Taylor Ostrich (.306 avg, 12 2b, 4 3b). Most season previews slot ODU as an on the bubble team in terms of an NCAA bid.

Projected Maryland starter: Taylor Stiles (2014 5-2, 4.05 era)

Coastal Carolina

(2014 record 24-33, 13-13 Big South, 190 RPI)

Coastal Carolina is perhaps the weakest of the four teams Maryland will face. The Chanticleers ("chanticleer" is a medieval term for a rooster) come off a tough season where they finished with the sixth best record overall in the Big South conference. Their top two hitters return: junior infielders Connor Owings (.326 avg, 4 hr, 34 rbi) and Tyler Chadwick (.299 avg, 1 hr, 32 rbi). But the Chanticleers gave up more than five runs per games, and arguably lost their best starter, Tyler Herb to graduation. This could be a high-scoring affair for the Terrapins.

Projected Maryland starter: Bobby Ruse (2014 7-3, 3.52 era)

How-To-Follow

TV/Video: None available

Radio: All four games will be broadcast live by the Maryland Baseball Network.

Twitter: @terpsbaseball will be providing frequent updates during the games and @mercator88 will also be tweeting, providing TT's insight and reaction throughout the games.