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No. 24 Maryland baseball vs. VCU preview

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The Terps will look to shake off their loss to East Carolina.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

With plenty of games still left to play in March, No. 24 Maryland baseball can’t afford to get into a rut after its first pair of losses this season over the weekend.

Now at a 9-2 record, the Terps look to put their season right back on track when they take on VCU on Tuesday and Wednesday in their first midweek series of the season.

In the LeClair Classic, the Terps were not able to rely on their pitching from their weekend starters as much with Nick Dean, Ryan Ramsey, and Jason Savacool all giving up multiple runs early in each game.

Against Michigan on Friday, a three-run home run in the eighth inning by Wolverines’ pinch-hitter Joey Velazquez broke the tie to give Maryland its first loss of the season, 7-4.

Maryland’s lone win against Indiana State came from a productive day in the batter’s box. Outfielder Chris Alleyne and shortstop Matt Shaw both had three-RBI outings, with both players hitting a home run. Despite giving up six runs, Maryland managed to overpower the Sycamores by six runs.

Savacool was the only weekend starter to pitch seven innings, despite giving up five runs in the first three innings against East Carolina. And while Maryland tried to come back, it was only able to score three runs all game as East Carolina’s pitchers just seemed to have the upper hand in the Terps’ 6-3 defeat.

Head coach Rob Vaughn has been satisfied with midweek starting pitcher Logan Ott’s two starts so far, so it’s safe to say he might be in line to make a start against VCU. As for the other game, look for a trusty reliever like Will Glock or Sean Heine to get their first start of the season.

The games will be played on Tuesday in College Park, Maryland and in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday. Coverage will be available on Big Ten Plus and ESPN+, respectively.

Virginia Commonwealth University (3-7, 0-0 Atlantic 10 Conference)

2021 record: (38-16, 13-3 Atlantic 10)

Head coach Shawn Stiffler is coming off one of the most impressive team performances in the country last season with 38 wins. VCU lost in the Starkville Regional against both Campbell and the eventual national champions in Mississippi State. Entering his 10th season at the helm of the program, the 2019 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year hopes to turn the season around after a 3-7 start. But the head coach has only had one season at VCU with less than 30 wins, so turning this season around doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

Hitters to know

Redshirt sophomore third baseman Tyler Locklear — Locklear has been one of the bright spots for the Rams over the last few years. The D1Baseball First Team Preseason All-American was the best hitter on the team last season with a .345/.515/.686 slash line to go along with 66 RBIs and 16 home runs to bolster the team’s offense. This year, he already has the most home runs and RBIs on the team, with four and 11, respectively.

Redshirt junior outfielder Logan Amiss — Amiss has taken a great leap from his performance last season to try and be one of the leading bats in the clubhouse. After hitting at just a .235 clip last season, Amiss has started out this season with consistency. Having the second-best batting average on the team at .324, the outfielder is trying to show this squad what it takes to improve.

Pitchers to know

Freshman right-handed pitcher Chase Hungate — In the first 10 games of the season, it’s the freshman Hungate who has been the best starter for VCU. He has a 0.75 ERA in his first 12 innings pitched on the season. His best performance came against Rutgers last weekend, striking out five and only letting up one run in four innings pitched. He may not start in the midweek series, but this impressive start to his collegiate career definitely has eyes turned toward Hungate’s direction after only four games pitched.

Freshman left-handed pitcher Cade Dressler — Another freshman making an impact in his first-ever performances out of the bullpen, Dressler has had a nice performance in a reliever role. With a 0.00 ERA in five innings pitched with five strikeouts, the stats look strong early on. If other midweek starters Kevin Gunn and Tyler Davis don’t get the call, expect the young lefty to potentially get a start for the squad.

Strength

The youth. Players like Hungate and Locklear have been putting in the best performances so far as underclassmen for VCU. Only two of the team’s five best starters according to batting average from last season remain on the squad. So it can be understandable why VCU has struggled to find consistency with that much turnover in the dugout. But so far, some of the younger faces are performing in their new roles, and they’ll need to step it up a notch to beat this Maryland team.

Weakness

Starters and relievers in the bullpen. To start the season off, a big reason why the team hasn’t found much success is due to a lack of performance from the starters and relievers. Besides Hungate, no VCU pitcher who has pitched more than six innings this season has an ERA under 3.75. If they can’t improve or help out the offense for the rest of the year, this team could be looking at their first losing season of the Stiffler era in Richmond.

Three things to watch

  1. Starting pitchers under the spotlight. Ott has been solid so far after being thrown into the midweek starter role due to an injured Terrapins bullpen. In both of the games he’s started, the Terps have won, but he has a 5.19 ERA in 8.2 innings pitched. While there hasn’t been another midweek starter so far, Glock has pitched the most innings without starting. The reliever has an impressive 2.45 ERA in 7.1 IP, expect him to get a look for the starting role on Wednesday.
  2. Can Maryland capitalize with runners on? On Sunday against East Carolina, Maryland struggled to score with runners on base. A few times the team loaded the bases or had two runners on and were sent out of the inning due to strikeouts, ground outs or fly outs. If Maryland can get back to making big plays in multiple RBI situations against VCU, it will have no problem racking up runs in this two-game series.
  3. Will VCU be resilient with a deficit? This season, the Rams have lost games by six runs or more three times. Getting blown out in that fashion is an example of the team losing focus when their backs are against the wall. Against a high-powered offense like Maryland has, falling behind is something VCU cannot do on Tuesday.