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Maryland baseball preview: College Park regional

The Terps will host their first regional in program history with a chance to go to the super regional.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Maryland baseball is in the NCAA regionals for the second consecutive year, this time as the No. 15 overall seed. The seeding makes Maryland the host of the College Park Regional for the first time in school history. Maryland athletics already announced that Friday’s regional opener is completely sold out.

The Terps are coming off a rough showing in the Big Ten Tournament as they fell to the No. 8-seeded Indiana Hoosiers in their third game. It was the first time in Big Ten Tournament history that the No. 1-seed was eliminated by the No. 8-seed.

Despite this, Maryland was awarded a one-seed in the regional and will take on No. 4-seed Long Island in the opening game on Friday at 7 p.m. The winner of that contest will face off against the winner of Friday afternoon’s matchup between No. 2-seed Wake Forest and No. 3-seed UConn, while the losers of each game will also meet on Saturday.

The regional is double-elimination style, meaning a team has to lose twice before they are eliminated. The winner of the regional will move on to the super regionals, which takes place the following weekend, for a chance to play in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

No. 2-seed Wake Forest Demon Deacons (40-17-1)

Wake Forest will make its 14th postseason appearance this weekend, and its first since 2017. The Demon Deacons compete in the high-powered Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in the Atlantic division. Wake Forest finished third in its division and received an at-large bid after getting bounced from the conference tournament.

Players to know

Redshirt junior catcher Brendan Tinsman has been one of the best hitters in the nation all season long. As the cleanup hitter, Tinsman is ninth in Division I baseball in home runs (23), 32nd in slugging percentage (.703) and 46th in RBIs (65). This impressive stat line netted him Third Team All-ACC honors, an ACC All-Tournament Team Selection and recognition as a Buster Posey Collegiate Catcher of the Year Award Semifinalist.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Camden Minacci has been a problem for opponents out of the bullpen. He leads the team in appearances with 28, racking in six saves and 57 strikeouts, while holding opposing offenses to a .196 batting average and 1.85 ERA. Minacci was hittable in his last appearance, however, surrendering three hits and three runs during a three-inning stint.

Strength

Hitting. Led by Tinsman, Wake Forest’s offense is lethal. The Demon Deacons rank fourth in the nation in batting average (.319) and home runs (115), fifth in runs (521) and second in on-base percentage (.428). This elite combination of contact and power hitting will make Wake Forest a tough out.

Weakness

Starting pitching. Outside of sophomore right-handed pitcher Rhett Lowder, the Demon Deacons don’t have many starters that can give them five solid innings on the mound. Wake Forest currently posts a 4.38 ERA and an ACC-high 78 hit-by-pitches.

No. 3-seed UConn Huskies (46-13)

Despite being a lower seed, UConn may be as good, if not better, than Wake Forest. The Huskies have made five of the past six NCAA Tournaments and have won both the Big East Conference regular season title and tournament championship in back-to-back seasons. After making the regional final in 2018 and 2019, UConn is hungry to make it to the super regional for the first time since 2011.

Players to know

Sophomore outfielder Korey Morton didn’t play much in the first half of the season, but he has quickly become the Huskies best hitter. He joined the program as a recruited walk-on last season, where he mainly saw the field as a pinch runner. This season is a completely different story, however, as Morton has a phenomenal .442 batting average, albeit limited at-bats due to his late season surge.

Senior right-handed pitcher Austine Peterson has been UConn’s go-to pitcher over the last two seasons. He is a strikeout machine this year, putting away 129 batters, the eighth most in the nation. In his last outing, Peterson was on fire, pitching seven innings and striking out eight batters without allowing a single run.

Strength

Pitching. The Huskies are dominant on the mound. UConn has 12 pitchers with an ERA below 3.40, combining for an impressive 3.35 team ERA, the third lowest in the country. The Huskies’ pitching vs. Wake Forest’s hitting is an intriguing matchup.

Weakness

Fielding. UConn is by no means a poor fielding team, but it is the area it struggles the most. The Huskies allowed the second-highest stolen-base percentage (.833) in the Big East and are fourth in fielding percentage (.972).

No. 4-seed Long Island Sharks (37-19)

Long Island will make its second postseason appearance in the last five years as head coach Dan Pirillo has turned this program around. Similar to UConn, Long Island won both the Northeast Conference (NEC) regular season crown and tournament championship, overcoming No. 2-seed Bryant, 7-0. As the No. 4-seed, the Sharks will be Maryland’s first opponent, a matchup that will dictate the rest of the weekend for both teams.

Players to know

Graduate student outfielder Michael Edelman is without a doubt Long Island’s best hitter. In his first season as a Shark, Edelman led the team in doubles (13), runs (57), and slugging percentage. He was also second on the team in batting average (.326) and triples (3).

Senior right-handed pitcher Joshua Loeschorn has been the lone bright spot on a weak pitching rotation this season. As the NEC pitcher of the Year, Loeschorn recorded a 3.02 ERA, .205 opponent batting average and 102 strikeouts, the 35th most in the nation.

Strength

Relief pitching. While the Sharks starters are inconsistent, their bullpen has won them multiple games. They have three pitchers who have over 20 appearances, each of which have an ERA below 3.40. Long Island leads the NEC in saves (16), but the Sharks will have their work cut out for them with Maryland’s offense on deck.

Weakness

Strength of schedule. Long Island does have a well above .500 record, but they play in a relatively weak conference. The Sharks have the 136th ranked RPI, so it will be interesting to see if they can compete in this stacked regional against stronger caliber opponents than they typically face.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland bounce back after its Big Ten Tournament meltdown? The Terps were red hotl entering the Big Ten Tournament, but their fire was quickly extinguished when it mattered most. Maryland played its worst brand of baseball in the Big Ten Tournament, resulting in them getting bounced by No. 8-seed Indiana. With home-field advantage and a full week of rest under their belts, head coach Rob Vaughn should be able to rally the troops and take College Park by storm.

2. What will be the Terps pitching rotation? Vaughn switched up the pitching order once again in the Big Ten Tournament as sophomore right-handed pitcher Jason Savacool was on the mound on Thursday, followed by junior left-handed pitcher Ryan Ramsey on Friday and junior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean on Saturday. With Wake Forest as the biggest threat at the plate in this regional, it’s possible that Ramsey will face off against them on Saturday if both teams advance, but it all comes down to what happens on Friday. Since Maryland only played three games in the Big Ten Tournament, no one got to see who the fourth pitcher in this rotation will be. While disappointing, an early exit in the Big Ten Tournament means Maryland’s rotation should be well rested for the weekend.

3. Maryland’s path to the super regionals. Friday night’s game will determine how the rest of the bracket shakes up for the Terps. If Maryland beats Long Island, it would take on the winner of the matchup between No. 2 Wake Forest/No. 3 UConn, securing an opportunity to play on Sunday to advance to the super regional. If the Terps lose to Long Island, they would play the loser of Wake Forest vs. UConn on Saturday in a do-or-die situation.