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Maryland baseball at Minnesota series preview

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The Terps will try to capture their second Big Ten series win of the season.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland baseball has seemingly come back down to earth after its hot start, having recently lost its ranked status.

However, after coming off an 8-5 win on Tuesday against George Mason to make it five victories over its last six games, Maryland is still in a good spot to win its second Big Ten series of the season when it travels to face Minnesota.

The performance against the Patriots this past Tuesday wasn’t the most breathtaking outing from the Terrapins.

Five pitchers made appearances on the mound for Maryland, as regular midweek starter sophomore left-handed pitcher Logan Ott had an underwhelming performance going 4.2 innings and giving up four runs and only striking out two. Freshman right-handed pitcher Ryan Van Buren pitched the sixth and the seventh inning and silenced the Patriots' bats while throwing one strikeout. Right-handed pitcher Sean Heine closed out the ninth inning in style with two strikeouts to stop the scoring.

Senior first baseman Maxwell Costes hit his 11th home run of the season against George Mason to help Maryland to its 23rd win out of 29 total games in 2022. Third baseman Nick Lorusso also kept his consistency going at the plate with two RBIs in two hits.

On the mound this weekend, expect all of the Maryland starters to make appearances like they normally do. With junior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean on Friday, junior left-handed pitcher Ryan Ramsey on Saturday, and sophomore right-handed pitcher Jason Savacool on Sunday.

The three-game series can be streamed on Big Ten Plus, with the last game on Sunday being broadcast on Big Ten Network. Friday’s game is set for 5 p.m., Saturday’s will start at 3 p.m. and Sunday’s game is at 2 p.m.

University of Minnesota (8-18, 0-3 Big Ten)

2021 record: (6-31, 6-31 Big Ten)

Head coach John Anderson has the second-most wins among active Division I coaches and has been at the helm of Minnesota for 40-plus years. In his time, Anderson has won 11 Big Ten regular season titles and 10 conference tournament titles. Anderson, who is in the American Coaches Hall of Fame, is in an interesting position as his team has not had a record above .500 since 2019.

Minnesota has gotten off to a slow start this season, claiming only eight wins in 26 games. Minnesota is just 1-10 on the road entering its series with Maryland.

Pitchers to watch

Junior right-handed pitcher Sam Ireland — Even though he hasn’t pitched as many innings as the Maryland starters, his numbers are definitely on par with some of the best pitchers in the nation. A 2.79 ERA with 45 strikeouts as a starter in 38.2 innings speaks for itself. He leads the team in all of these statistics along with a 1.29 WHIP, which is third on the team. Out of all of the starters the Terps have to face this weekend, Ireland is likely going to be the most daunting matchup.

Redshirt senior left-handed pitcher Tom Skoro — Skoro is an experienced arm that has put up decent numbers this season. Last season, he had a 7.83 ERA and gave up 51 hits, which are far worse totals than what Skoro is producing this time around in 2022. So far this season in 12 innings pitched, he’s posted a 2.25 ERA with 15 strikeouts. He’s been one of the only relievers on the team without poor numbers with over double-digit innings of production.

Hitters to watch

Redshirt senior catcher/outfielder Jack Kelly — With a slash line of .405/.475/.798, Kelly manages to lead the team in all of those hitting categories. He also has a batting average that's currently higher than any Maryland hitter. Kelly leads Minnesota with 28 RBIs, showing just how valuable he is to the Golden Gophers when it comes to run production.

Senior catcher Chase Stanke — Despite only hitting with a .242 batting average, Stanke has helped Minnesota stay in games all season with his scoring contributions. He’s second on the team in RBIs for the second year in a row with 21 RBIs this season. If he’s able to see the ball come off of his bat more efficiently, he and Kelly could become a two-headed monster for this Minnesota squad.

Strength

Staying close with big teams. Even though it has been a rough season for the Golden Gophers, in their two games against ranked teams so far, they’ve stepped up to the challenge. Against then-No. 25 West Virginia, Ireland started on the mound and managed to keep the Mountaineers at bay as they only lost 4-5. In the next game against No. 13 Notre Dame, Minnesota managed to only give up three runs, but the offense wasn’t able to bring it home in the 3-1 loss. If the Golden Gophers can limit Maryland’s high-powered offense, they may have a shot to bring a win or two at home in this series.

Weakness

The bullpen. There’s no mistaking that Ireland is one of the best starters in the Big Ten this season. However, the team’s average ERA this season is 6.66, which just shows how much help he’s getting. The lowest ERA by a Minnesota pitcher with above 18 innings pitched this season is 5.68. Besides their ace in the hole, it’s hard to see how any of the other starters on the mound will last that long against a Maryland hitting rotation with four batters that have a .300 batting average or higher.

Three things to know

1. Can Maryland’s starters step up? Last weekend’s series against the Penn State Nittany Lions was a 2-1 win for Maryland, but it likely could have been a sweep if Maryland played to its full potential. The bullpen didn’t fully step up in each game, with Dean going for six innings and giving up three runs, to go along with six strikeouts on Friday. Ramsey then went eight innings on Saturday, and also surrendered three runs in an eventual loss for the Terps. Even though Savacool was red-hot with 13 strikeouts Sunday, the starters could definitely do better as a whole against subpar competition.

2. How will Maryland perform away from home? It’s been an interesting season for the Terps when they are outside of Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium. The squad’s first losses of the season came on the road when they lost to Michigan and Eastern Carolina in a midseason tournament. The Terps also absorbed a few brutal losses against Dallas Baptist in Texas, losing the weekend series 1-2. Their record at home has been 13-1, but it remains to be seen if Maryland can mimic that kind of dominance in enemy territory.

3. Is Nick Lorusso the X-factor in this hitting rotation? After head coach Rob Vaughn recently called Lorusso the team’s “MVP” so far this season, it’s worth wondering how high Lorusso’s ceiling is and if he is the best hitter in the lineup. Lorusso has got plenty of competition with fifth-year outfielder Chris Alleyne, sophomore catcher Luke Shliger, junior outfielder Troy Schreffler Jr. and Costes all hitting around a .300 batting average. The transfer from Villanova has been tearing it up, leading the team in batting average and RBIs. If Lorusso can keep this up while batting third in the lineup, Maryland will surely keep rolling at the plate.