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Maryland baseball: Terps back in top 20 after series win over Fullerton

The latest D1baseball poll has the Terrapins sitting at No. 20. But with the serious injury to Tayler Stiles, will the Terps be able to continue their winning ways?

Taylor Stiles was was pitching effectively in recent appearances until felled by a line drive
Taylor Stiles was was pitching effectively in recent appearances until felled by a line drive
Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

Last week the Terps stood at No. 22 in the D1baseball poll. Up coming were four important (in terms of RPI) non-conference games: at Liberty and a three game series at home vs. college baseball royalty Cal State Fullerton. The Terps went 3-1 and were a web gem catch away from sweeping all four. Conversely, they were one strike away from losing the Liberty game and were the fortunate recipients of an error by Fullerton's Jake Jeffries in game one of the series. But as the legendary Branch Rickey said, "Luck is the residue of design". Good teams take advantage of opportunities and find ways to win; poor teams find ways to lose.

One pitch changes everything

Tayler Stiles had been dominant of late and had seemingly cemented his place as the Saturday starter. That all changed on the second pitch of Game 2 against Fullerton, when a line drive off the bat of Dustin Vaught caught Stiles directly in the face. The game was delayed for 20 minutes, and Stiles was eventually taken off the field and rushed to a nearby hospital. Stiles suffered a broken orbital bone and underwent surgery Monday. All of us at Testudo Times wish Tayler the best and have him in our prayers.

Injuries kept LaMonte Wade and Tim Lewis out of the line-up over the weekend, and Maryland was starting five freshman at position spots. So given all of the above, it's remarkable that the Terps were able to take the series from Cal State Fullerton.

Shout out to pitching Coach Bellanger

A great deal of credit for the Terps' success goes to how Bellanger handled his staff's adversity. Jake Drossner has tremendous upside potential, but had been burdened earlier in the year by lack of control. He was taken out of the weekend rotation and inserted as a midweek starter, with no change in performance. Bellanger then put Drossner into two relief situations, where the talented southpaw looked sharp. With Stiles' injury, and the necessity to use Robert Galligan in long relief Saturday, Drossner was pressed into the starting role on Sunday. He responded admirably, tossing eight shutout innings, issuing just three singles and one walk.

Robert Galligan is a story unto himself. A former walk-on under Coach Erik Bakich, Galligan was redshirted in 2012. During 2013 he threw just 4.1 innings. Last year he had a bad outing in relief against Florida State that caused his era to balloon, and he saw limited action after that, with a final era of 9.95. Everything has been different in 2015. Working with Bellanger to increase velocity of his slider, Galligan has been one of the Terrapins' most reliable pitchers. On Saturday he came in after Stiles suffered that awful injury, and threw six innings of one run ball, gaining his first career victory in the process. In 28.1 innings this year his era is an anemic 1.27, and there's a good chance he's now pitched his way into a weekend starter's slot. Galligan told me that he's more at ease out there, that he's having fun. Opposing batters aren't finding him fun.

Shawaryn as steady as they come

Last year was a portent of things to come for Mike Shawaryn. As a Saturday starter he went 11-4, winning games against Florida, Florida State, and South Carolina on the road. His 11 victories easily surpassed the previous single season record of eight wins (now shared by Jake Stinnett and five others), and there's been no sign of a sophomore slump. In fact, Shawaryn has gotten even better, keeping his velocity up for longer periods during a game, and throwing his slider with great confidence. To date he's 9-0 with a 1.67 era, his nine victories being tops in the country. During his brief career he's already amassed 20 wins, tying him with former Terrapin pitcher John Rayne for most career wins. Even though he's tough as nails on the mound, afterwards he's one of the nicest players you'll run into.

As things stand

The Terps are about 2/3 of the way through their season and have a 27-11 record. There's an outside shot they'll reach the 40 win mark during the regular season, but to do so they'll have to go 13-5 the rest of the way. The return of Wade and Lewis will help, but there's no doubt that Stiles' injury is a major concern going forward. Nick Cieri isn't scheduled to return until the B1G tournament. So the Terps have their work cut out for them. But I expect that come post-season they should be armed and ready.