At close to the midpoint of the 2015 season, Maryland stands at 19-7. That's a commendable record, except that it's against teams that collectively represent a strength of schedule of 163. In fact, the Terps' record against top-50 RPI teams is 1-3. But over the next few weeks Maryland will have a chance to prove that it is an elite team, as the next three weekend foes are all top-50 RPI teams: Nebraska, Iowa, and Cal State Fullerton. The first two are top-tier B1G teams, so in addition to improving its 2015 resume, the Terps can jump to the top of the B1G standings. In addition, the Terps have two important midweek games against West Virginia and Liberty. However, the Terps are going to have to up their level of play over what it's been lately if they want to defeat these solid opponents.
Nebraska is more than just football
The Cornhuskers are piloted by former MLB star and Nebraska alum Darin Erstad. In 2014 the Cornhuskers compiled a 41-21 record, 18-6 in the B1G (2nd place to Indiana). They lost to Indiana in the B1G tournament finale, and received an invitation to the Stillwater, OK NCAA Regional. Nebraska beat Binghamton, but lost twice to Cal State Fullerton and were subsequently eliminated. Ultimately they were ranked No. 33 in the Coaches Poll.
While 2014 was a success for Nebraska, bigger things were predicted for the Cornhuskers this year. They received recognition in some preseason polls, and returned many key players from last year. The first part of the 2015 season showed mixed results. Although playing games against the likes of Texas A & M and LSU, the Cornhuskers had questionable losses to mid-level teams which kept them out of the polls. Through their first 13 games Nebraska sat at 7-6. But the team responded by winning 16 of their next 17 games, including series sweeps of Michigan and No. 24 Texas. Right now Nebraska is 23-7 and 3-0 in the B1G. They are ranked in most polls, receiving a No. 18 from D1Baseball, which puts them right behind the Terrapins.
This year seems to be a repeat of last year: good overall hitting, patience at the plate, but warning track power. Led by sophomore CF Ryan Boldt (.339 avg, 5-8 sb), sophomore OF/DH Ben Miller (.325 avg., 23 rbi), and senior 3B Blake Headley (.306 avg, 25 rbi), the Corhuskers are outscoring their opponents by nearly a 2-1 margin. However, their longball total of six is matched by Maryland's Brandon Lowe alone. What makes Nebraska so good is their ....
Pitching and defense
Nebraska has a team era of 2.30, good for 2nd in the B1G behind Iowa. They have one of the best weekend rotations in the B1G, with senior LHP Kyle Kubat (4-0, 1.33 era, 19-3 career mark), sophomore RHP Derek Burkamper (4-1, 2.97 era), and senior RHP Chance Sinclair (4-3, 3.45 era). The bullpen has been quite effective, and the closer, Josh Roeder, has nine saves already. Nebraska doesn't make mistakes in the field, where they rank first in the B1G.
The pitching match-up for Friday's game is a classic, pitting two of the best pitchers in the B1G: Chance Sinclair (7-0 in career B1G starts, third team preseason All-American) vs. Mike Shawaryn. Nebraska reminds me of the 2013 Maryland team, although laden with more talent. They don't beat themselves, and are playing with a lot of confidence right now. Conversely, before Wednesday's game against JMU, the Terps had hit a rough spell in both pitching and hitting. The Terps will need to bring their "A" game against Nebraska. One important statistic to keep in mind: Nebraska is 15-1 at home, but only 8-6 playing away or at a neutral site.
Projected starters; will be updated as more information is obtained.
Saturday noon Chance Sinclair (4-3) vs. Mike Shawaryn (6-0)
Saturday 3:30 p.m. Kyle Kubat vs. Tayler Stiles (2-2)
Sunday noon Derek Burkamper (4-1) vs. TBD