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No. 22 Maryland baseball vs. Dallas Baptist series preview

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The Terps will take their four-game winning streak into Dallas for a difficult road series.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 22 Maryland baseball has been on a four-game winning streak, with its most recent win coming in the form of a 13-7 rout of UMBC on Tuesday. Now, the Terps will now have to face Dallas Baptist University in Texas.

It is arguably one of their hardest weekend series of the entire season.

Tuesday’s win over UMBC was highlighted by some great hitting performances, specifically from sophomore second baseman Kevin Keister. The shortstop went 4-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs and a walk and was just a home run away from hitting for the cycle.

The Terps had 17 hits in the game, their second-highest mark of the season so far. Sophomore catcher Luke Shliger and junior infielder Nick Lorusso had four and three RBIs, respectively while junior outfielder Bobby Zmarzlak got a ball all the way out of the park for his third home run of the season.

The performances on the mound weren’t as strong five pitchers touched the mound for the Terrapins. Left-handed pitcher Logan Ott started, but only lasted 3.2 innings giving up three runs and throwing for no strikeouts.

Against Dallas Baptist, expect the normal weekend starters to start on the mound each day of the weekend in Dallas. The combo of Nick Dean, Ryan Ramsey and Jason Savacool has been one of the best starting rotations in the Big Ten this season.

The games will be broadcast on Patriot Broadcasting Network and fans can listen to the game live on Maryland Baseball Network throughout the weekend. Friday’s game starts at 7:30 p.m., Saturday’s is set for 3 p.m. and Sunday’s game will begin at 2 p.m.

Dallas Baptist University (13-7, 0-0 Missouri Valley Conference)

2021 record: (41-18, 18-6 Missouri Valley)

Head coach Dan Heefner is entering his 15th year at the helm of the Patriots in a season with a lot of expectations. He capped off last season by winning his conference’s Coach of the Year award, winning the Missouri Valley regular season and tournament titles, and getting his team to the Super Regionals of the NCAA Tournament. They also finished the season ranked No. 14 in the country as a mid-major.

A year like that even at a prestigious baseball program like Dallas Baptist leaves a lot of fans looking for more. Sitting at 13-7 through 20 games may not be how the program hoped it would come out of the gate after last season. However, baseball seasons are long and this team can still turn things around and make another run in the tournament.

Hitters to know

Freshman third baseman Luke Heefner — Heefner, who is the son of the team’s head coach, is showing that in his first year, he has talent and potential. With the highest batting average on the squad at .317 and 19 hits to go along with eight RBIs, he’s been putting up some of the best numbers on the team. Having not started in only three games in his freshman season, who knows what his stats will be as the sample size increases throughout the season.

Fifth-year shortstop Blayne Jones — One of the more experienced players on the team, Jones has gone all out so far this year and his statistics at that plate back that up. His hitting split of .309/360/.519 is impressive to start the season with. He leads the team with 25 hits and 16 RBIs on the season emphasizing how much the team is impacted by the experience being put on display by Jones.

Pitchers to know

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jacob Meador — Meador has had a strong start in the first third of the season. With a 1.35 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 26.2 innings pitched, this pitcher does not mess around on the mound. He also leads the team in strikeouts with 33, the closest pitcher on his team is 11 strikeouts behind him. Seeing him go up against Maryland’s Dean will be an exciting matchup on Friday.

Redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Luke Eldred — The only person who’s pitched more innings than Meador in the Patriot bullpen, Eldred’s numbers can’t be looked over either. The best WHIP on the team at .98 to go along with a 2.28 ERA, it’s been a fantastic possible send-off year for Dallas Baptist’s Saturday starter. With Ramsey coming off of an 11-strikeout day against Siena, hopefully, these two can produce an entertaining matchup.

Strengths

All-around great hitters. Only one of the team’s starters has a below .200 batting average this season, and only one of the team’s starters has a below .400 slugging percentage. They seem to be able to find a hit when they need it, even though that might be surprising as some of the team’s top-four leaders in RBIs have some of the lowest batting averages on the squad. Still, this will be toughest challenge Maryland’s weekend starters have faced all season.

Weaknesses

Inconsistency. Having some ranked opponents early on Dallas Baptist’s schedule like Texas Tech and Oklahoma State made it hard for the team to go on runs to start the season. Losing its first weekend series to unranked Southeast Missouri didn’t help them start the year with confidence either. They may have seven losses, but the talent level on this squad is that of a ranked team if they can piece it all together down the stretch.

Three things to watch

1. The pitching battles. With both teams having some really impressive hitters and pitchers on the field, one would say that these teams are pretty even talent-level wise. Seeing if fifth-year Chris Alleyne’s 13-game hitting streak will stay alive going up against Meador and Eldred will be something to watch. Also, will Dean bounce back after his disappointing performance against Siena with Meador on the other side? There are plenty of storylines to follow in this one and it should be an entertaining three-game battle between these two teams.

2. Can Maryland stay consistent away from home? Going on the road hasn’t always been easy for the Terps this season. Just a few weeks ago, they lost their midweek game against Delaware 6-3 in Newark, Delaware, a team they defeated 14-4 about two weeks earlier. Maryland has a record of 7-2 on the road this season, is 1-1 at neutral sites and is an undefeated 9-0 when playing in College Park. To be a threat down the line when the postseason rolls around, the Terps will need to become more consistent away from home.

3. Will the Terps continue to be ranked? Having gotten off to a great start, Maryland has established itself on the map. However, to hold this mark for the rest of the season could prove tough for the Terps. Dallas Baptist may be their toughest test yet, and they are yet to play tough Big Ten opponents such as Michigan and Purdue in a weekend series. Keeping their losses at a minimum could prove tough in the next stretch of games, but if they can do it, the Terps can show that they are a bonafide NCAA Tournament squad.