The 2018 college baseball season is about 60 percent complete, and Maryland is not anywhere near where most people thought they would be at this juncture. Sporting a 15-17 record with an RPI of 100, on paper the Terps look quite pedestrian. They have just one player hitting over .300 and one starter with an ERA below 3.50.
But if you write off the 2018 season, you do so at your own peril. There is a lot to like about this team, and with 24 games left (16 in the Big Ten), the opportunity to make some hay still exists.
To decipher the conundrum that is the 2018 Maryland baseball team, it pays to take a look at what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong so far.
What’s gone right
Maryland has been spectacular at times in the field. The outfielders cover a tremendous amount of ground and have a penchant for making web gem catches. Marty Costes has wielded a strong arm in nailing multiple players out either at the plate or trying to take an extra base. Kevin Biondic is among the best in the nation at first base. He’s become a human vacuum cleaner when pulling in throws in the dirt, and is phenomenal chasing down pop ups that other teams’ players wouldn’t have a chance of snaring.
Nick Dunn has taken his game to a new level. Leading the team in multiple offensive categories and showing some pop in his bat, he’s listed as the No. 2 second baseman in the country by D1Baseball. He’s been sharp playing second base as well, committing only two errors so far after committing 14 miscues in 2017.
Biondic might be chasing Dunn for team MVP honors. Whether it’s in the field, at the plate or on the mound, Biondic has been consistently first-rate. In terms of the latter, he’s become a co-closer with John Murphy and has an ERA of 0.55.
Hunter Parsons has also had a special year. He leads the starters with a 3.14 ERA. If you ignore his first start at Tennessee, that number drops below 1.50 for the season. Tyler Blohm has flashed brilliant stuff, and if he can consistently get his curve over then he’s unhittable.
Murphy has brought excessive juice, striking out 28 batters in 17.1 innings. His Achilles heel has been free passes, as he’s allowed 13 so far.
What’s gone wrong
Let’s begin with hitting. As a team the Terps are batting .234, which is 11th in the Big Ten. The Terps lead the league in just one batting category: hit-by-pitches. They sit at the bottom in terms of strikeouts, and it’s not that close. The strange thing is that it’s not just one or two players hitting below expectation. Everyone who’s not named Dunn or Biondic seems to be struggling.
Midweek games have been a massive problem. The Terps are 2-6 and have been swept by Delaware and William & Mary. Those RPI deflators hurt, and unless the Terps can reverse this situation, the NCAA Tournament will be out of reach.
Middle innings relief pitching has been inconsistent. Much of this can be attributed to freshman sorting things out. But the weekend starters know they have to go deep in games to give the Terps a chance at winning.
The Terps lost two players to transfer that have proven deleterious. Andrew Miller left to join former pitching coach Jim Bellanger down at Kentucky; the southpaw could have provided another reliable seasoned arm in the pen. Catcher Danny Maynard transferred to play elsewhere, and his bat could have supplied some much-needed production.
The biggest loss has been the unavailability of Ryan Hill. The Frisco, Texas, native was entering his senior year after posting impressive numbers as a junior. Hill is in the mold of Bobby Ruse and Ryan Selmer, a veritable Swiss army knife on the bump. Due to undisclosed reasons, he hasn’t been available this season. Fortunately, though, he’s now able to pitch for the Terps.
The path to the postseason
The Terps’ RPI is around 100, and according to analytics super site Boyd’s World, Maryland would need to win 20 of their remaining 24 games just to move into a top-45 RPI position. It sounds almost impossible, but earlier this season, Michigan had a 4-11 record and looked like it was on the road to nowhere. Just like that, the Wolverines have strung together 15 wins and are now 19-11. (Coincidentally, they host the Terps this upcoming weekend for a three-game set.) It would take that type of turnaround for the Terps to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The most likely, yet still difficult path is for the Terps to win the Big Ten tournament. To do so, they’re going to have to get quality starts from Taylor Bloom and Mark DiLuia, as well as having the bats come alive. All of which just might occur.