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Maryland baseball at James Madison preview

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The Terps look to get back on track after a loss on Sunday in their lone midweek game this week.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Maryland baseball had a great start to its last weekend series, winning its first two games against Minnesota on the road. However, a tough 4-3 loss on Sunday has the Terps trying to create a new win streak as they face James Madison on Wednesday. This is the first midweek opponent Maryland will play with a winning record.

Maryland’s game on Friday against Minnesota was an example of what its bats could do on a good day. Despite junior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean allowing three runs and throwing only six strikeouts, Maryland hit five home runs with three of them accounting for more than one run. Sophomore catcher Luke Shliger homered on the first pitch of the game, which ended in an 11-7 victory.

Junior left-handed pitcher Ryan Ramsey allowed only two hits and struck out five batters, but his six walks managed to get him out of the game early in Saturday’s contest. However, Maryland’s nine hits compared to the Golden Gophers’ five helped lead them to a nail-biting 5-4 victory.

The nail biter went the other way on Sunday, even though sophomore right-handed pitcher Jason Savacool looked comfortable giving up only three runs and striking out seven batters in seven innings. However, the Maryland bats couldn’t get it going late, and relief pitcher Ryan Van Buren gave up a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to seal the win for Minnesota.

Expect to see sophomore left-handed pitcher Logan Ott or freshman right-handed pitcher Ryan Van Buren get the start against James Madison on Wednesday. Other pitchers like redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher David Falco or freshman right-handed pitcher Noah Mrotek could also take the mound if head coach Rob Vaughn doesn’t go with the regulars.

You can listen to the game on the Maryland Baseball Network live from Harrisonburg, Virginia, on Wednesday.

James Madison (17-14, 4-5 Colonial Athletic Association)

2021 Record: (11-17, 6-9 Colonial Athletic)

Head coach Martin Ikenberry has led his team to more wins than losses in two of his past five years leading the James Madison program. Luckily for the Dukes, this year has started with an above-.500 record, despite having a losing record in conference play thus far. Ikenberry has had some productive bats and great relief pitching that has helped string together some wins. James Madison has a chance to go far in the CAA Tournament this season if it can stay consistent in the second half of the season.

Pitchers to watch

Redshirt senior left-handed pitcher Liam McDonnell — Recording a 7.12 ERA last season in over 30 innings pitched, the redshirt senior came into this season looking to make an impression. So far, he has been the best guy coming out of the bullpen. In 32.2 innings as a starter this season, he has a 2.48 ERA with the second-most strikeouts (29) on the team. Along with his 1.16 WHIP, McDonnell has made hitters nervous in the batter’s box, but he probably won’t be on the mound in this midweek contest.

Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Eli Ottinger — Pitching mostly in a short relief role this season, Ottinger has had some brilliant production in 18.2 innings. The stats don’t lie, as a 2.41 ERA and a .91 WHIP have helped build the fourth-year pitcher’s confidence. He had a 9.92 ERA just last season, so this has been a nice turnaround that the Dukes’ pitching staff is witnessing. He can improve in the strikeout department, but if Ottinger can keep being effective in one inning spurts, he will be a key piece of this bullpen.

Hitters to watch

Redshirt sophomore outfielder Chase DeLauter — In his three years as a batter in the Dukes’ rotation, the outfielder has posted a new career best in batting average every year, along with on-base percentage and slugging percentage. This means that in his time at James Madison, no one has been better at the plate than DeLauter. He has the most home runs and is tied for the most RBIs on the team. DeLauter could be a nightmare for Maryland’s pitching staff to plan for.

Redshirt junior first baseman Kyle Novak — In his four years at James Madison, the first baseman has never recorded a batting average below .300. This season, he has an impressive hitting split of .307/.392/.425. He’s also tied for the team lead with 35 RBIs, showing that he is experienced and a productive cog in the Dukes lineup.

Strength

A strong hitting rotation. The team’s batting average may not be overly impressive, but seven of its nine regulars in the rotation this season have double digit RBIs. Three of the team’s top four hitters in batting average also have over 30 RBIs this season. It’s clear that they can score with people on base. When a player like DeLauter is hitting the way he is this season, it allows other batters to have success, too. Maryland’s regular midweek starter Ott’s 5.67 ERA could be in even more jeopardy if he is on the mound.

Weakness

Starting pitching. If McDonnell isn’t starting on the mound, Maryland doesn’t have much to fear from a pitching standpoint. James Madison pitchers who have pitched over 20 innings this season have an average ERA of 4.77, which isn’t eye-popping. Even though the pitcher who has pitched the most innings, graduate student right-handed pitcher Justin Showalter, has the most strikeouts, he’s also given up the most home runs and has a 5.30 ERA. Some of James Madison’s pitchers have performed with an ERA under one, but all three of them have pitched a combined 15 innings this season. Therefore, Maryland should capitalize from the start.

Three things to watch

1. Who will be the midweek starter? This has been an up and down season for regular midweek starter Logan Ott, and he finds himself in a rut right now. He’s only struck out 13 batters in 27 innings of production. Vaughn has opted to go with other starters for midweek games such as freshman right-handed pitcher Ryan Van Buren. But he has been inconsistent as well, posting a 6.23 ERA in 17.1 innings of production. It’ll be interesting to see who head coach Rob Vaughn puts his trust in on Wednesday.

2. Will the top of the hitting rotation show up? When Maryland’s top three batters — Shliger, outfielder Chris Alleyne, and third baseman Nick Lorusso — all hit with confidence, Maryland has proven to be dominant offensively. The only player with a better batting average this season is Troy Schreffler Jr., who has been the most efficient hitter on the team. They all have above-.300 batting averages, and each of them has at least 27 RBIs. They all have over 40 hits this season, showing how deadly the top of the Terps’ order can be.

3. Will Maryland stumble in a midweek game? Even though they have won four straight midweek games, the Terps’ surprise loss against Delaware still hurts for a team that was on a win streak up to that point. Now, fresh off a loss in its last game, this team has to play another game on the road. They haven’t played many quality opponents in midweek matchups. It will be interesting to see how Maryland handles this opponent on Wednesday.