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No. 24 Maryland baseball weekend preview: Georgetown and Cornell

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The Terps will look to improve on their 10-2 start to the season.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

After taking down VCU 8-6, No. 24 Maryland baseball will play Georgetown (8-4) and Cornell (2-4) at home, before traveling to Bethesda, Maryland, to take on the Hoyas one more time.

Compared to last weekend, the Terps should have a much easier time over this stretch of games as both programs have struggled heavily under their current regimes. Maryland’s offense is coming off of a very complete game as its runs were littered throughout all nine innings. In their two-run win over VCU, the Terps hit a total of four home runs, tied for the most this season.

“Just trying to get at least one [run] every inning,” fifth-year center fielder Chris Alleyne said. “It’s kind of our identity.”

Maryland will roll with its usual three aces of junior right-hander Nick Dean, junior left-hander Ryan Ramsey and sophomore right-hander Jason Savacool this weekend. Dean will yet again get the Friday night start, followed by Ramsey on Saturday and Savacool on Sunday to wrap up the weekend.

Friday’s series opener against Georgetown will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday’s matchup against Cornell will start at 12 p.m. and Sunday’s rematch against Georgetown is scheduled for 4 p.m. The first two games at College Park will be streamed on BTN Plus.

Georgetown Hoyas (8-4, 0-0)

2021 record: 6-25, 6-19

Head coach Edwin Thompson is in just his second season at the helm of Georgetown’s baseball program. Thompson and the Hoyas had one of the worst seasons in program history last year, finishing with a 6-25 record, but are off to a much better start this year. Prior to Georgetown, Thompson spent five seasons as the head coach of Eastern Kentucky where he guided the Colonels to a 122-123 record, including five wins over top-30 ranked teams. The Hoyas don’t have tremendous expectations for this season, but that doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly.

Hitters to know

Sophomore outfielder Jake Hyde has been a very reliable player for the Hoyas this season after only playing in about half of the games his freshman year. Hyde leads the team in batting average (.480), runs (14), hits (24) and extra-base hits (9). He is coming off of a three-hit game against William & Mary on Tuesday and will give Maryland problems if he continues this unreal level of play.

Junior infielder Andrew Ciufo has more than doubled his batting average from last season. He led the team in RBIs last year and is doing it again, already posting one more than his 2021 campaign with 14. Ciufo is the second Hoya with a batting average above .400 and leads the team in home runs (4) and is second in hits (16).

Pitchers to know

Freshman left-handed pitcher Andrew Williams has pitched in the last two Friday night outings, one of which he started. In his one start this season, Williams pitched five innings, surrendering just two hits and two runs, while striking out eight batters. Although he has only started one game, Williams has proven to be one of the Hoyas’ best and expect the Terps to see him on Friday night.

Senior left-handed pitcher Kyle Salley has gotten every Sunday start thus far, and that’s not expected to change this weekend. This is his first season with the Hoyas after transferring from Duke where he didn’t see much playing time, making just three appearances last season. Salley has struggled with the workload as he has not pitched more than four complete innings. With an ERA of 8.18 and allowing 12 hits in 11 innings pitched, the Terps shouldn’t have too much trouble with him.

Strength

Relief pitching. Georgetown’s relief pitching has been phenomenal for a large portion of the season. Six of Georgetown’s relief pitchers have an ERA below 3.40 and are led by senior Angelo Tonas who has struck out 13 batters in 10.1 innings pitched while surrendering just five hits and one run.

Weakness

Starting pitching. The Hoyas haven’t flashed any glaring weaknesses so far, but they have been unable to find a consistent pitching rotation. Georgetown has had two different Friday night starters and hasn’t been able to find a reliable midweek starter. The best way to defeat the Hoyas is by putting runs on the board early.

Cornell University (2-4 0-0 Ivy League)

2021 record: didn’t play due to COVID-19

Head coach Dan Pepicelli has not had the easiest or most successful time in his five previous years at the helm for Cornell. With a 66-99-1 record, the Bears have been living in the doldrums of the Ivy League for years. He leads a team that didn’t even play baseball last season and has had four winning seasons in the last 31 years. The Bears, with a bunch of underclassmen on the roster, are vying to develop to potentially be a winning club in the near future.

Hitters to know

Junior third baseman Joe Hollerbach is the best performer in the batter’s box for the Bears so far this season after hitting sub .200 in his freshman season before the COVID-19 cancellation. Now coming back after two years, he’s got a split of .542/.607/1.000 six games into this season. In a year where leadership needs to be found for the Bears, the upperclassmen infielder, who’s also leading his team in hits (13), home runs (2), and RBIs (6), might be able to teach a thing or two with his performances so far.

Freshman first baseman Max Jensen has been coming out of the gates swinging in his first-ever collegiate season. An impressive .421 batting average to start the year off while also starting at first baseman really shows that Lake Braddock Secondary School product has potential. Second best on the team with eight hits, Jensen might prove to be a key figure on this roster in the years to come.

Pitchers to know

Senior right-handed pitcher Luke Yacinich happens to be one of the more experienced out of the bullpen. His best season was his Junior year having a 4.70 ERA in three appearances before the COVID-19 cancellation. He currently leads the team this season with 12 total strikeouts in 8.2 innings pitched, but that isn’t much considering his ERA of 9.35. Even though these stats may look a little worse for wear, the upperclassmen could turn it around.

Junior left-handed pitcher Spencer Edwards is another barely bright spot in the Bears’ bullpen. With an 8.31 ERA that is better than a lot of the other pitchers, he at least has nine strikeouts in his 8.2 innings pitched. The second-best WHIP on the team with 1.50, the lefty in charge of pitching a decent amount for Cornell is hoping to not be the bane of the team’s problems moving forward.

Strength

Some consistent bats. It hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the Bears. Even though they’ve given up runs every game, sometimes their hitters are able to make the other people on the mound look even sillier. Four batters have been hitting above .300 for the squad out of Ithaca, New York, to start the season off. Maryland’s Ramsey might have a little more firepower than he expects to pitch against on Saturday.

Weakness

The bullpen. An average ERA of 14.04 is how the team has started off the year on the mound. Freshman pitcher Will Long has a 40.50 ERA in 1.1 innings pitched. One of the leaders in ERA for the team is junior infielder Franco Alonso with 6.23, even though he’s not listed as a pitcher. Maryland should be able to take advantage of this with experienced bats like Maxwell Costes and Chris Alleyne.

Three things to watch

1. How will the extra day of rest affect the Terps? Maryland was scheduled to play its 13th game of the season and second game against VCU on Wednesday, but it was postponed due to inclement weather. With there only being one midweek game, the Terps should be fresh and have a deeper bullpen than expected, which could end up winning them a game or two.

2. Can Matt Shaw get out of his slump once and for all? Shortstop Matt Shaw is without a doubt Maryland’s most potent hitter, but he has yet to find his rhythm, especially as of late. After going 0-for-18 over a four-game span, Shaw erupted for a two-RBI single and a home run in consecutive at-bats late in Maryland’s 12-6 win over Indiana State. Since then, he is 0-for-8 and it is unclear if he has made it through his slump.

“Matt Shaw is one of the best hitters in the country,” Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn said. “He’s kind of been in a little bit of a funk, ups and downs happen in baseball.”

3. Can Maryland get back to its early-season ways? The Terps were red-hot to start the season, accumulating an 8-0 record and climbing to No. 21 in the d1baseball.com top-25 rankings. Since then, the Terps have battled some adversity, losing their first combined three-game series of the year against some noteworthy opponents in Michigan and East Carolina. It will be interesting to see whether the Terps can use this weekend as a stepping stone to go on another win streak.