This is the first installment of a weekly series featuring our Maryland baseball beat writers: Andrew Kramer, Greg Goldstein, and Alex Murphy. Each week, the trio will look back at the previous week’s games and share their thoughts.
This is the first weekend, so it’s hard to form any substantive opinions. But what general takeaways do you have from the first three games of 2017?
Andrew: First, the lineup is fluid and may take a few weeks before it is etched into place. Second, I didn’t see any signs of a sophomore slump from Dunn or Costes. They’ve come out of the gate swinging, and look to build on last year’s success. Third, the bullpen will determine how far this team goes. The starting pitching and hitting seem in good shape.
Greg: It’s clear that the hype around the Terps offense is warranted. Marty Costes and Nick Dunn opened their sophomore seasons with a strong first three games. Kevin Smith struggled, but they were offset by surprising performances from Will Watson and A.J. Lee. On the negative side, the Maryland bullpen looks like it might be the achilles heel of John Szefc’s team. Mike Rescigno was roughed up in his first outing as was many other relievers, which doesn’t bode well moving forward. All in all, the Terps are still a young team that may take a couple weeks to really find their groove.
Alex: One thing that stood out this weekend was the inconsistency of the Maryland bullpen. While Ryan Selmer pitched three stellar innings in relief of Tyler Blohm on Sunday, the ninth inning was anything but stellar for the Terps. Selmer was taken out for Mike Rescigno, who gave up four runs without recording an out. Maryland went through three different pitchers in the inning and barely got the win, stranding two Alabama State players in scoring position. Maryland also had bullpen problems against Ball State, where Terps relievers gave up seven of the eight runs the Cardinals scored. For a ranked team, Maryland needs to solidify their bullpen or they will run into big trouble, especially next weekend against LSU.
Who’s the one player that stood out to you this weekend, either at the plate or on the mound?
Andrew: If I had to pick just one, it would be Tyler Blohm. After Maryland lost the first two games, and with a series against LSU looming next weekend, Sunday’s game was almost a must-win. Blohm was great with the exception of one inning, and gave his team the opportunity to win. For a freshman making his first collegiate start, that’s pretty special.
Greg: For me it was Brandon Gum. The transfer from George Mason came into the year as the biggest unknown after not playing last season due to injury. While A.J. Lee is going to start the season at third base, it’s clear that the redshirt senior is going to have a role on this ballclub. He went 4-8 over the weekend, scoring two runs and drawing two walks. It was widely known that Costes and Dunn were going to lead the offense, but if the Terps can get Brandon Gum going to start the season, it will only make the lineup that much better.
Alex: Nick Dunn by far stood out for me this weekend. After going 0-4 on Friday, Dunn stepped up and went 5-10 the rest of the weekend with a home run, 3 RBI, and a double, with his standout game being Saturday against Louisville, where he went 3-5. As a freshman, Dunn put up great numbers, and he is expected to produce just as much this season. With the numbers he put up in the last two games of the Clearwater tournament, there is promise in the second baseman to become even more of an offensive force on the team.
The bullpen struggled mightily at times this weekend, and was one of Maryland’s weaknesses last year. On a scale of 1-10, how concerned are you about this unit?
Andrew: I’d say a 5. Andrew Miller, Ryan Selmer, and Jared Price pitched well. Ryan Hill had a tough outing, but that’s just one game. Hunter Parsons and Cameron Enck will be starters, and Parsons pitches better when starting a game. We haven’t seen Andrew Green or Jamal Wade yet on the mound. But I am concerned about Stiles and Rescigno. If they can get back on track then the bullpen will be fine.
Greg: 8. This group was my main concern entering the year. The unit already wasn’t a strength in 2016. But now that they’ve lost Robert Galligan to graduation, some of the other pitchers must step up if the Terps hope to hold many leads in 2017. Cameron Enck, Hunter Parsons, Mike Rescigno, Taylor Stiles and Ryan Hill all struggled. Ryan Selmer, Jared Price and Andrew Miller did perform well, each posting zeroes in their relief appearances. Hopefully we’ll see some improvement from the pen as roles become more defined, but it certainly wasn’t an encouraging start for a unit with a bunch of questions.
Alex: 7. The offense is of no concern to me, since the Terps averaged just over six runs a game this weekend, but it’s the bullpen and the defense which concerns me. The bullpen issues I’ve previously discussed, but it’s important to note that the farthest a Maryland starter went over the weekend was five innings, which happened on Friday and Sunday. With such short outings, it’s tough to rely on the bullpen to do the bulk of the work, but the best teams have a strong bullpen, especially the back-end. As for the defense, the Terps committed five errors in their 10-7 loss to Louisville, which is very concerning going into the LSU series. They averaged just over two errors a game over the weekend, so they need to tighten up their defense pretty quickly.
The Terps travel to LSU this weekend for a three-game set. What are you looking to see from this team, and how many games do you think they pull out?
Andrew: Better fielding. The Terps let too many unearned runs cross the plate. Against a team like LSU we’ll need to bring our A+ game. I’d like to see the starters go six innings or more if possible. Most importantly, I hope Kevin Smith breaks out of his slump as he’s vitally important to the team’s chances of success. Predictions..... I’d like to see us win the series, but I wouldn’t be disappointed nor surprised if we went 1-2.
Greg: With the struggles of the bullpen in mind, I would like to see the starters go deeper into games. The Terps proven starters, Brian Shaffer and Taylor Bloom, each couldn’t get past the fifth inning because of a opening series pitch count. Tyler Blohm was impressive in his collegiate debut, hopefully he be stretched further in his coming starts. I know it’s a simple concept, but if the starters can get the team to the late innings, John Szefc will have much more flexibility to better deploy his bullpen. LSU is a strong club all around so winning the series will be a tall task. I’m thinking a Friday night victory behind a solid outing from Brian Shaffer will be enough to keep spirits high as Maryland returns home after playing their first six contests on the road.
Alex: I’m looking to see how far the starting pitching can go. The fact that none of the Maryland starters got past the fifth inning is concerning, especially going up against a top-5 team in LSU. And considering the fact that the bullpen had their struggles over the weekend, they won’t be able to get away with much before the LSU bats begin to pounce on Maryland mistakes. My feeling is that the fielding will come along with time, and the mistakes made over the weekend are just early season jitters. As for the overall series, though LSU is a force to be reckoned with, the Terps definitely can pull out a win in Baton Rouge, but I don’t see them taking the series. One win would be my estimate for the weekend.