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Maryland baseball vs. Penn State series preview

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The Terps look to win their first Big Ten series of the season.

Photo by Maddie Kyler/Maryland Terrapins
Courtesy of UMTerps

After losing last weekend’s series to No. 19 Dallas Baptist, Maryland baseball is on a two-game win streak after defeating Towson on Tuesday and George Mason on Wednesday. This weekend, Maryland will take on Penn State in a three-game series in College Park.

The Terps’ offense was locked and loaded on Tuesday, putting up a season-high 26 runs and 23 hits in the 26-8 victory.

Wednesday was a different story, however, as the Terps’ offense was stagnant for most of the game, but a two-run eighth inning surge was enough to push them past George Mason, winning 3-1.

Maryland’s pitching was a little shaky on Tuesday, but sophomore Logan Ott was dialed in on Wednesday, pitching a five-inning shutout. Redshirt sophomore David Falco let up one run in the eighth, but senior Sean Heine came in for the save, recording the last four outs.

The Terps will roll with their usual starters this weekend, which entails junior right-hander Nick Dean starting Friday, junior left-hander Ryan Ramsey starting Saturday and sophomore right-hander Jason Savacool closing out the weekend on Sunday.

All three games will be aired on BTN Plus with Friday’s starting at 6:30 p.m., Saturday’s at 2 p.m. and Sunday’s at 1 p.m.

Penn State (9-13, 1-2 Big Ten)

2021 record: 18-24, 18-24

Head coach Rob Cooper is the 14th head coach in Penn State baseball history and is in his ninth season at the helm of the program. Cooper’s impact was felt immediately, flipping Penn State’s record from 14-36 to 28-27 in just his third year. While the Nittany Lions have only been above .500 once since, Cooper continues to attract top recruits, 11 of which have been drafted in the least four seasons.

This series will be Cooper and the Nittany Lions’ second conference one of the season. Penn State faced Rutgers on Friday, March 25 twice in a doubleheader in which each team picked up a win. However, on Saturday, the Scarlet Knights defeated Penn State 20-6.

Hitters to know

Junior catcher Matt Wood has been a stud since his freshman year and is perhaps the best hitter on either team. Batting in the three spot, Wood leads the team in batting average (.375), RBIs (19), home runs (4), on-base percentage (.467) and numerous other stats. Whether he is behind the plate or the designated hitter, Wood is someone the Terps will need to game plan for.

Sophomore infielder Jay Harry has started every game since joining the program and has been a consistent hitter for the Nittany Lions over the last two years. As the six-hole hitter, Harry is third on the team in batting average (.291) and second in RBIs (12), home runs (3), hits (25) and runs (13).

Pitchers to know

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Travis Luensmann transferred to Penn State this year and has started in every Friday night game thus far. Despite being the first pitcher in the Nittany Lions rotation, he has been relatively underwhelming, accumulating a 6.18 ERA, 32 hits and 15 walks in 27.2 innings pitched. Although he has been one of Penn State’s worst starters statistically, it’s unlikely to see it go in a different direction on Friday night.

Senior left-handed pitcher Tyler Shingledecker has finished top-three in appearances all four of his years at Penn State and leads the team this year with 10. In 15.1 innings pitched, Shingledecker has recorded a 4.11 ERA, 18 hits, 18 strikeouts and just two walks. While he may not pitch for long, the Terps will see him in a game or two.

Strengths

Relief pitching. Penn State’s starting rotation isn’t anything special, but it has a variety of very solid relief pitchers. The Nittany Lions’ four main relief pitchers have an ERA below 4.50, one of which is below 3.00, the third-highest on the team. Penn State is also fifth in the Big Ten in saves (6), so it will be interesting to see if Maryland’s high-powered offense can burn some of them out.

Weakness

Offense. After being an extremely good team at the plate last year, Penn State has fallen off significantly this year. The Nittany Lions are second to last in the Big Ten in batting average (.251) and on-base percentage (.328) and last in runs (77), home runs (7), RBIs (72) and hits (158). With Maryland’s elite starting rotation on the horizon, it’s hard to believe that Penn State will have much success at the plate.

Three things to watch

1. Can Nick Dean pitch the Terps to victory? Dean started off the season as expected, allowing just 11 hits and two runs in 19.1 innings pitched. After missing a game, Dean has returned and underperformed in his last two starts. In those two games, he pitched just 8.1 innings, surrendering 15 hits, 11 runs and three walks. Dean is undeniably one of the best pitchers in the conference but will have to prove that on Friday night.

2. Has Matt Shaw made it out of his slump? Sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw hasn’t been able to put together a good string of games since Maryland’s season-opening series against Baylor, even moving from third to fifth in the lineup. However, Wednesday marked his fifth game in a row with a hit, recording 10 hits, seven RBIs and three home runs in 18 at-bats over that span. If Maryland can get its biggest offensive weapon back to his usual self, it should be in good shape this weekend.

3. How will Maryland perform in its first Big Ten series? While the Terps have played Michigan already this year, they officially enter Big Ten play this weekend in a three-game series against Penn State. The Nittany Lions are not the most difficult matchup as Maryland's strengths counter Penn State’s weaknesses perfectly. The Terps are projected to win this series, but if they can sweep Penn State they might just find themselves back in d1baseball.com’s top-25 rankings.