On a five-game winning streak, No. 23 Maryland baseball traveled to Champaign, Illinois, to take on the Fighting Illini this past weekend.
After getting blown out, 19-1, in the series opener on Friday night, the Terps bounced back, stealing both games in Saturday’s double header.
Maryland won the first game, 13-9, in extra innings as sophomore catcher Luke Shliger hit a two-run RBI double before fifth-year center fielder Chris Alleyne bombed a two-run homer over the right-center field wall.
The second game wasn’t as close as sophomore Jason Savacool went eight gutsy innings, throwing 106 pitches. Redshirt freshman Nigel Belgrave came in for the save as the Terps held the Fighting Illini scoreless for the final six innings in a 7-4 win.
The Terps will now face off against Navy on Tuesday, a rescheduled game from April 6th. First pitch is set for 6:30 and will be streamed on BTN Plus.
Navy Midshipmen (18-22, 9-13)
2021 record: 17-15, 11-12
Head coach Paul Kostacopoulos is already the program’s second-winningest coach with 481 victories. In his 16 years, Kostacopoulos has completely turned this program around. When he inherited the head coaching position, the Midshipmen were coming off of a 12-33-1 season. The very next year, Navy won 32 games, its most in over a decade. In the last five years, Kostacopoulos led the Midshipmen to a 43-win and a 39-win season, the two best in program history. Navy hasn’t had the same success this year, but with Kostacopoulos at the helm, the Midshipmen are always dangerous.
Hitters to know
Senior catcher Christian Policelli has been one of the most dominant hitters in the Patriot League over the last two years. After earning All-Patriot League First Team honors in 2021, Policelli has been even better this season. The Walkersville, Maryland native leads the team in batting average (.342), on-base percentage (.425), RBIs (28) and extra-base hits (14).
Junior outfielder Colin Smith is the second Midshipman hitting above .300 this season. Batting second, right before Policelli, Smith has tallied a team-high three home runs and 28 RBIs. Since winning Patriot League Player of the Week on April 12th, he has recorded 12 hits, five RBIs and five doubles. Smith has broken out at the perfect time for the Midshipmen as they look to make a late-season run.
Pitchers to know
Junior right-handed pitcher Thomas Russell has pitched in Navy’s last four midweek games, starting in two of them. In 10 innings pitched, Russell has surrendered 18 runs, 17 hits and 11 walks. Despite his recent struggles, the Midshipmen don’t have a plethora of options.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Nolan Jorgenson is Navy’s best pitcher. In his last midweek appearance against Mount St. Mary’s, Jorgenson was awarded the win after pitching two innings and allowing just one hit and one run.
Fielding. The Midshipmen are very solid on the defensive end as they refuse to beat themselves. Navy is first in the Patriot league in fielding percentage (.979) and last in errors (21). While the Terps should have no problems putting the bat on the ball, Navy is not prone to making mistakes.
Hitting. Navy isn’t good at hitting the ball by any means, resulting in its sub-.500 record. The Midshipmen are fourth in the Patriot league in batting average (.258), RBIs (189), slugging percentage (.364) and on-base percentage (.358). Whoever starts for Maryland shouldn’t have much trouble cycling through Navy’s lineup.
Three things to watch
1. Will Logan Ott get the start? The sophomore pitcher has been the Terps go-to midweek pitcher, but it was freshman Andrew Johson who got the start last week. Johnson played well, only allowing one hit, before Ott relieved him in the top of the third. It will be interesting to see whether head coach Rob Vaughn reverts to this strategy, or if Ott retains his usual position.
2. Chris Alleyne has been a hitting machine. Maryland’s captain didn’t have the greatest start to the season, but he has picked it up recently. Alleyne has recorded a hit in 11 of his last 12 games, with the exception being Friday night’s blowout in which Maryland only had two hits total. In the last two games, Alleyne has been responsible for a large portion of the Terps offense, raking in four hits, four RBIs and one home run.
3. Can Maryland pull off a dominant performance of its own? While the Terps did end up winning the three-game series against Illinois, their 18-run loss is not something that can be easily brushed over. Maryland scored a season-low in runs with just one, while allowing a season-high 19. An assertive win over an inferior opponent in Navy could bode well for the Terps as the quality of wins remain important.