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Maryland baseball: No. 20 Terps face stiffer competition this weekend

After last weekend's sweep in Myrtle Beach, the No. 20 Terrapin baseball team travels to Mobile, AL for a three game set. The competition this weekend is a step up from a week ago, as the Terps face some potential NCAA tournament hopefuls. Freshman Brian Shaffer gets his first collegiate start this weekend.

Kevin Mooney might break the Maryland career saves record this weekend
Kevin Mooney might break the Maryland career saves record this weekend
Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

The Terps faced reasonably tough competition in their opening weekend of the 2015 season. Things get ratcheted up considerably this weekend as Maryland heads down to Mobile, AL to face South Alabama (host school), Central Florida, and Arkansas. As with Maryland, none of these teams has yet to suffer a loss. Besides the increased level of play this weekend, two of the games will in essence be "away" games.

South Alabama (3-0)

Scheduled start Friday 7:30 pm; video feed here

The host school presents the least challenging opponent this weekend, but don't count them as pushovers. They took two straight from New Orleans and beat SEC school Auburn. The Jaguars have the pre-season freshman POY in the Sunbelt conference: catcher Jared Barnes. OF Cole Billingsley comes back after sitting out 2013 due to an injury, and he is considered a legitimate draft prospect. South Alabama's top hitter is OF Cole Gleason (.333 avg, 12 2b, 3 hr, 33 rbi). The Jaguars are a bit thin at starting pitching, relying on senior Kevin Hill and a couple of junior college transfers. However, South Alabama's bullpen is considered to be among the best in the Sunbelt.

Mike Shawaryn (1-0) vs. LHP Austin Stephens (transfer from Grand Rapids CC)

University of Central Florida ( 4-0 )

Scheduled start Saturday 3:00 pm; radio broadcast here

This has the makings of a trap game for Maryland. The Terps would be making a mistake looking past this game towards Sunday's game against Arkansas. UCF is considered the second best team in the American Athletic conference, behind consensus favorite Houston. They finished in second place last year but a low RPI doomed their post-season hopes. So you know that they'll be primed and ready for the Terps. Last weekend the Knights crushed Sienna and then beat Bethune-Cookman on Wednesday.

UCF is an experienced team with all position players returning. They are similar to the Terps' opponent last weekend, Canisuis, in that they can hit for power and average. First baseman James Vasquez (.340 avg, .964 ops, 8 hr) and shortstop Tommy Williams (.263 avg, .819 ops, 12 hr) combined for more home runs in 2014 than the entire Maryland team. Second baseman Dylan Moore (.315 avg, 10 sb) provides speed at the top of the line-up. UCF's Achilles heel is a largely unproven pitching staff, especially in the bullpen.

Tayler Stiles (0-0) vs. TBA

No. 34 Arkansas (3-0 )

Scheduled start Sunday 11:00 am

A brunch-time start will see Maryland take on an Arkansas team projected to be in the middle of the SEC pack. Last weekend the Razorbacks swept North Dakota, scoring double digits in all three games. That's a good sign for Arkansas, as their offense was thought to be a bit less powerful than their pitching. Two players to watch include senior OF Joe Serrano (.289 avg, 12 2b, 22 rbi) and highly-touted freshman OF Luke Bonfield. The Razorbacks are projected to be an NCAA tournament bubble team.

Brian Shaffer (0-0, 1 sv) vs. TBA