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Maryland baseball: No. 12 Terps face stern test at UNC-Wilimington

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This weekend marks the fourth straight that Maryland travels south to face an opponent. The No. 12 Terps will once again need to bring their sea legs as their opponent is a dangerous UNC-Wilmington team.

Tell me: who's the best baseball team in the state of North Carolina? If you answered UNC, Duke, or NC State you may be wrong. Because so far the UNC-Wilmington baseball team (7-3) has acquitted themselves quite well. They began their season winning the first six games, then traveled down to Tallahassee last weekend. Although they were swept by the Seminoles, it was by scores of 5-4, 5-3, & 9-8. On Wednesday the Seahawks pummeled UNC Central 9-3. Currently UNC-Wilmington has an RPI of 24.

UNC-Wilmington plays in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). About half of teams in that conference play the Terps this year. In 2014 the Seahawks were 10-9 in conference play (3rd place), 30-27 overall. With a number of talented players on both sides of the diamond returning in 2015, the Seahawks might have a shot at postseason play.

How to follow

Audio: Maryland Baseball Network
Statistics: StatBroadcast
Video: UNC-W web site
Twitter: @terpsbaseball and @mercator88

Projected starters (With the weather conditions making travel dicey, the start times are fluid. If there are any changes I'll put them in a fan post.)

Saturday noon: Maryland's Mike Shawaryn (3-0, 1.80 era) vs. UNC-Wilmington's RHP Nick Monroe (1-0, 3.86 era)

Saturday 4 p.m.: Maryland's Willie Rios (0-0, 0.00 era) vs. UNC-Wilmington's RHP Ryan Foster (1-0, 3.75 era)

Sunday 1 p.m.: Maryland's Brian Shaffer (1-0, 6.00 era) vs. UNC-Wilmington's RHP Evan Phillips (1-0, 7.88 era)

Offense

Like Canisius and Appalachian State, the Seahawks have a potent batting order. Third baseman Terence Connelly has been a pleasant surprise so far, upping his batting average to .382 avg, along with a .934 OPS: last year Connelly hit only .246 with a .669 OPS. Catcher Gavin Stupienski is also hitting .382 and has a team-high 8 rbi. Another dangerous hitter is first baseman Corey Dick, who's batting .343 with 4 doubles already this season. As a team the Seahawks are hitting .290, just around where the Terps are currently. UNC-Wilmington does like to play small ball, often bunting and trying to steal bases.

Pitching

UNC-Wilmington has a lot of arms that can throw hard. Nick Monroe (1-0, 3.86 era) and Ryan Foster (1-0, 3.75 era) are UNC-Wilmington's stalwarts; Evan Phillips (1-0, 7.88 era) has not been as effective as those two but is a weekend starter. All three are right-handed. William Shepley (1-0, 0.00 era, 8k in 5.2 ip) is a southpaw reliever who has been lights out this season.

Thus far the Seahawk pichers' biggest problem has been control; or rather, lack thereof. In 75 ip they've issued 54 bb, 12 hbp, & 17 wp. Compare that to Maryland's pitchers, who in 80 innings have yielded 22 bb, 5 hbp, and 1 wp. If UNC-Wilmington's pitchers continue to have difficulty locating their pitches, that might play right into Maryland's hands, as the Terps show great patience at the plate.

What's at stake

Maryland is going to be "the" opponent for a number of teams throughout this season. UNC-Wilmington can bolster their postseason hopes considerably by taking the series this weekend. Conversely, a series win on the road against a top-50 RPI team will help the Terps' resume. So hang on, it's going to be a helluva good series.