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No. 13 Maryland baseball vs. West Virginia preview

The Terps look to get their first home win of 2023.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Broadway

No. 13 Maryland baseball (2-1) picked up its first series win of the season Sunday, winning two of three games against South Florida with a 9-5 win in the series finale. Now, the Terps get to play at home for the first time this season, hosting West Virginia on Tuesday at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus.

The Terps dropped their first game of the season against USF, as ace Jason Savacool gave up five runs in six innings, including two home runs to Bulls shortstop Bobby Boser. Maryland tried to make a late-inning comeback after a grand slam by sophomore outfielder Jacob Orr, but ultimately fell 8-7. The next two games both got out of hand for the Bulls, with the Terps hitting grand slams in games two and three and winning both handily.

The top of the lineup struggled in games one and two, going a combined 2-for-25, but in game three things picked back up. Junior shortstop Matt Shaw went 5-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs on Sunday.

Sophomore transfer outfielder Elijah Lambros did well in his Terps debut, reaching base safely in seven of his 11 plate appearances in the last series, including 2 RBIs, a triple and a stolen base.

Also showing out was senior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean, who gave up only one run, one hit and had eight strikeouts in his season debut. His performance was the best of the series among pitchers.

Maryland has a quick turnaround back home, where it hosts its first midweek game of 2023.

West Virginia Mountaineers (1-2, 0-0 Big 12)

2022 record: 33-22, 14-10 Big 12

West Virginia — one of Maryland’s old rivals — comes back to College Park after scrimmaging the Terps last fall. West Virginia recently faced former regional host Georgia Southern and lost the three-game series, 2-1. The Mountaineers scored 13 runs, including three homers. West Virginia was projected to finish sixth in the Big 12 preseason poll.

Hitters to watch

Caleb McNeely, redshirt senior infielder, No. 50 — McNeely played at Walters State Community College for four years. He was named TCCAA Baseball Player of the Year in 2022, hitting .389 with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs in 56 games. He was also an NJCAA All-American in 2022. McNeely’s power already has made an impact, hitting a homer against Georgia Southern last series.

Braden Barry, junior outfielder, No. 13 — Barry returns as a starter that had a .871 OPS and slugged nearly .500 in about 150 at bats last year. He returns as the lead-off hitter and hit one of the Mountaineers’ three home runs Sunday.

Pitchers to Watch

Gavin Van Kempen, freshman right-handed pitcher, No. 35 — Van Kempen was a highly touted prospect out of high school, ranked as the No. 7 pitcher from New York and a participant in the 2022 MLB Combine. He was drafted in the 20th round by the St. Louis Cardinals, but he elected to stick with his commitment to the Mountaineers. In his first collegiate outing, he racked up two strikeouts and one walk in relief against Georgia Southern.

Chris Sleeper, sophomore right-handed pitcher, No. 32 — Sleeper was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team last year, recording a 3.61 ERA in 42 innings pitched. Sleeper started four games last year, compiling a 3-4 record among both starting and relief appearances. He did not pitch last series, which could indicate a start against the Terps.


Consistent offense. While only scoring three runs and two runs in games one and two respectively against Georgia Southern, West Virginia does have above-average hitters from one to six. Last year, according to D1Baseball, seven of its hitters had above a 100 wRC+, and seven hitters recorded at least an .800 OPS. The Mountaineers also return all but two of their starters from last year and bring in a couple transfers. USF struggled against Maryland at times because of the amount of new players and transfers on the team; the Mountaineers do not have that problem.


Not much starpower. West Virginia doesn’t have a solid star on offense or defense. It does bring in a couple of notable transfers, like pitcher Blaine Traxel from CS Northridge, but there are many players that are on the level of Matt Shaw or Luke Shliger. West Virginia's All-Big 12 designated hitter McGwire Holbrook transferred to Florida State, which left them with solid pieces on offense but not any that are all-league-caliber. Same goes for the pitching staff — no Mountaineer received All-Big-12 honors for the preseason, not to say that can’t change going forward.

Three things to watch

1. Outfielder Matt Woods is day-to-day. One of the biggest acquisitions for Maryland in the transfer portal was reigning NEC Player of the Year Matt Woods, a fifth-year outfielder. Woods was slotted to start in right field for the Terps but was unable to make his debut in Tampa due to injury. Head coach Rob Vaughn said Saturday that along with struggling with a hamstring issue in the offseason, Woods woke up with back pain on Friday morning. Vaughn wants to be cautious, but Woods’ replacement Jacob Orr did well in his absence, hitting a grand slam in game one against USF.

2. Can the top of the lineup improve upon a lackluster series? One of Maryland’s biggest issues in its first series was a lackluster output from the top three hitters of its lineup: Shliger, Shaw and Nick Lorusso. Shaw went 5-for-5 on Sunday, which was a much-needed jump for him after one hit in two games, but Shliger and Lorusso have struggled to get back to their former selves. They’ve shown flashes — Shliger got on base three times and was brought home all three times on Sunday — and Lorusso’s first hit of the season was a grand slam to break open Saturday’s game. Going 2-for-25 in two games against a team that is outside the Top 100 RPI is an issue, but it is still early in the season. Sunday’s showing proved there is no need to panic.

3. Who will be this year’s midweek starter? Jason Savacool, Dean and Nate Haberthier pitched last weekend, and are most likely the pitchers that will be on the mound in Oxford, Mississippi, next weekend. The question is, who will be the weekend starter? True freshman Kyle McCoy looks to be a bullpen role for the earlier months, being eased into collegiate baseball, a luxury that Savacool didn’t have when he was a freshman. That leaves midweek starters from last year — junior Logan Ott and sophomore Andrew Johnson — as options, but other pitchers are also possible.