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No. 23 Maryland baseball vs. Northwestern preview

The Terps look to win their fifth Big Ten series in as many tries.

Photo Courtesy of Joe Noyes/Maryland Terrapins
UMTerps

No. 23 Maryland baseball continued its hot streak with a midweek win against Navy on Tuesday, and the team has the most wins through 41 games in program history.

The Terps will try to keep their winning ways in College Park this weekend as they take on Northwestern in a three-game series.

It wasn’t all positive against Navy as Maryland blew a 9-2 lead in the fourth inning that had them tied at nine in the sixth inning. But the Maryland bats took over from there, scoring nine runs in the next three innings to take an 18-10 victory.

The top of the order came alive, with sophomore designated hitter Luke Shliger and fifth-year center fielder Chris “Bubba” Alleyne combining for eight RBIs and three homers on Tuesday. Sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw wasn’t too shabby either, adding 4 RBIs and a homer to help Maryland get the win.

The whole batting order had a nice day, recording 16 hits and hitting a whopping six home runs to help silence the Midshipmen.

The Maryland pitching was subpar, fueling Navy’s comeback in the middle of the game. But graduate student right-handed pitcher Nick Robinson had a good performance late, allowing no hits in two innings, which helped Maryland’s hitters recapture the lead.

Expect the pitching rotation to be a little bit different than what we’ve seen so far this season. With Ryan Ramsey going on Friday, Jason Savacool up on Saturday and Nick Dean on the mound Sunday. Matt Levine was first to report the news.

All of this weekend’s games can be streamed on BTN Plus or heard live on the Maryland Baseball Network from Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium. Friday is set for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch, Saturday is set for 2 p.m. and Sunday is slated for 1 p.m.

Northwestern University (19-17, 6-6 Big Ten Conference)

2021 record: 15-21 (15-21, Big Ten)

Interim head coach Josh Reynolds was promoted from associate head coach in May of 2021 following the firing of Spencer Allen toward the end of last season. Now almost a year later, he still holds the interim title as he tries to guide this team to its full potential. It’s hard to try and turn the tide when you’re taking over a program that hasn’t had more wins than losses since 2000. But behind some brilliant starting pitching, Reynolds has managed to put the team above-.500 at this point in an attempt to finally change the culture in Evanston.

Hitters to watch

Sophomore infielder Jay Beshears — An underclassman with a hitting split of .379/.479/.569 is definitely nothing to scoff at. Despite only starting 18 games this season, the consistency from Beshears has been quite astonishing. He is tied for the least strikeouts among starters and has had 11 RBIs in his 22 hits, meaning that his contributions tend to impact the scoreboard. While his numbers for the year may not match up to some of the stalwart starters, he is sure going to be a challenge for the Maryland bullpen to catch swinging.

Senior infielder Anthony Calarco — After starting last season for the first time and posting a .295 batting average, Calarco has been even better this season. He’s tied for the second most hits on the team (43) and ranks third on the team with seven home runs. Calarco has also made his presence felt in the batter’s box, being walked a team-high 24 times this season. He’s been showing his team how to perform all season, and it’s clear that the senior has had a positive impact.

Pitchers to watch

First-year left-handed pitcher Sean Sullivan — Following Maryland’s midweek win, head coach Rob Vaughn said, “We got a really good arm coming at us on Friday from Northwestern.”

He didn’t say a name, but he was probably talking about Sullivan. His 2.68 ERA ranks fifth among all starting pitchers in the Big Ten, and he’s already pitched 53.2 innings in his first year in college baseball. He has the seventh-most strikeouts in the Big Ten with 65 and is showing the potential to become a pro prospect. He holds a 5-0 record and is looking to stay undefeated against Maryland.

Graduate student right-handed pitcher Michael Farinelli — Having pitched 62.2 innings for Northwestern this season, the most on the squad, you can tell that Reynolds has confidence with Farinelli on the mound. A transfer from Middlebury, Farinelli has impressed in his first year with his Wildcats, posting a 3.59 ERA and throwing 43 strikeouts this season. With a 4-4 record, he’ll have to perform well this weekend if Northwestern wants to win this series.

Strength

Consistent starting bullpen. Northwestern could potentially pull off the series upset this weekend just because of the strength of some of their arms. The two pitchers who have pitched the most innings for the Wildcats also happen to have the second and third best ERA and WHIP on the team. If Northwestern’s starting bullpen can have consistent production throughout a series, that would put a lot of pressure on Maryland’s starters to put forth strong performances. This could make the game plan for Vaughn and company change significantly.

Weakness

Inconsistent offensive production. While the Wildcats have been turning it on as of late, winning two of their last three conference series, they started off the season on a low note. They went 2-8 in their first 10 games, only scoring more than seven runs in three of those contests. Northwestern also managed to get swept by Illinois — a team Maryland beat in a series — a series in which they didn’t manage to score more than seven runs once in the series. No matter how good the pitching might be, they’ll need to be able to score runs to beat Maryland this weekend.

Three things to watch

1. Big change in the starting pitching rotation. As of Thursday morning, it was announced that Nick Dean will be moving to the Sunday starter spot for the rest of the season. Ryan Ramsey will shift to Friday, and Jason Savacool will start on Saturday. Dean has been struggling as of late, most recently being pulled after four innings against Illinois last week after letting up 5 runs. He has the worst ERA of all of Maryland’s starters (4.53), so it’s not a shock that Vaughn would want to put his best arms up against teams early in the series for the rest of the year.

2. Can Maryland move atop the Big Ten this weekend? After moving into second place with a series win over Illinois last weekend, the Terps could pull into the driver’s seat for the Big ten regular season title this weekend. Current first-place team Rutgers has three more wins than Maryland, but it also has just as many losses. This means that if the Scarlet Knights manage to lose one game in Columbus against Ohio State, and Maryland sweeps the Wildcats, it would claim first place in the conference on winning percentage.

While it may be a tough task for Maryland to sweep Northwestern this weekend, it just needs to have less losses than Rutgers after this series to end up on top.

3. Will the bats stay hot? The Maryland bullpen has had its highs this year, but this team is not at full strength unless its bats are being productive. This was especially on display when Maryland lost 19-1 to Illinois last Friday, with the bats only able to get two hits all game. This Friday, they go up against Sullivan, who has one of the best ERAs in the Big Ten this season and is an impressive young talent.

Even though the Terps were able to score 18 runs midweek, Shaw mentioned that midweek offensive explosions are tough to transition into the weekend because “midweeks and weekends [are] very different vibe[s]. You got less fans, you got different pitching.” The Terps hope to continue mashing this weekend.