No. 13 Maryland baseball (2-2) is coming off a tough midweek loss to West Virginia on Tuesday, falling 8-6 due to a five-run first inning which put it in a hole it couldn’t climb out of. It will have to brush the loss off and look toward this weekend, as it takes on the reigning national champion Ole Miss Rebels, ranked No. 4 in the nation.
Against the Mountaineers, Maryland was missing junior shortstop Matt Shaw due to illness and graduate outfielder Matt Woods for the fourth straight game due to injury. Woods had an MRI on Tuesday, which showed no signs of a fracture. Woods will be eased back into practice and head coach Rob Vaughn is hopeful that he will make his debut this weekend. Vaughn also hopes to have Shaw back in the lineup.
Even without Shaw and Woods, the Terps have proved that they can produce with anyone in the lineup. Senior catcher Luke Shliger and sophomore outfielder Elijah Lambros each knocked one out of the park and Nick Lorusso collected three hits of his own and two RBIs against the Mountaineers.
The concern for Maryland has been its pitching. Outside of Nick Dean and Nate Haberthier, the starting pitching has struggled. Jason Savacool will have a tough task ahead of him after a rough debut against South Florida.
If the Terps can come away with a series win this weekend, they will prove they are legitimate national contenders.
Friday’s opener is set for a 4 p.m. first pitch. Saturday’s game is slated for a 2:30 p.m. start, and Sunday’s finale is at 2:30 p.m. All three games will be streamed on SEC Network+.
Ole Miss Rebels (4-0, 0-0 SEC)
2022 record: (42-23, 14-16 SEC)
Ole Miss has all the confidence in the world after coming off a historic season, winning its first-ever national championship. Despite having seven players taken in the MLB draft, the Rebels had the No. 2 recruiting class per Baseball America. There are no signs of slowing down for the Rebels, as they have routed their opponents in their first four games with two of those wins coming via the SEC’s new mercy rule.
Head coach Mike Bianco has been with the program since June 7, 2000. The winningest coach in Ole Miss history, Bianco is the only coach to bring home that elusive national title to Oxford.
Hitters to watch
Peyton Chatagnier, senior infielder, No. 1 — Chatagnier has been raking through four games this season. He has seven hits in 12 at-bats, earning a .586 batting average, including two home runs and five RBIs. Chatagnier has been the most prolific player in the Rebels lineup to start the season.
Kemp Alberman, junior outfielder/catcher, No. 12 — Alberman has been the man most responsible for scoring runs, leading the team in RBIs (8). He is also batting .467 with two homers and a slugging percentage of 1.000. If Alberman is up to bat with runners in scoring position, he is a real threat to do some damage.
Pitchers to watch
Jack Dougherty, junior right-handed pitcher, No. 39 — Dougherty will have the opportunity to make his first start of the season on Friday instead of Ole Miss ace Hunter Elliott, who is experiencing forearm tightness that will keep him sidelined for this series. Dougherty threw 2.1 innings in game two of the team’s series with Delaware, striking out five batters and recording a save.
Grayson Saunier, freshman right-handed pitcher, No. 25 — Saunier made his first collegiate start in game two of the Delaware series where he threw four scoreless innings, only allowing one hit with five strikeouts and four walks. Saunier had a dominant start in his debut and will look to build off that this weekend.
High-powered offense. Ole Miss has a lineup just as scary as Maryland’s, proving that it can put runs on the board by scoring double-digit runs in all four of its games so far this season. As a team, the Rebels have a batting average of .382 and have eight players with at least an OPS of at least 1.000. If the Maryland pitching staff does not show up, this lineup will do some damage.
Young pitching staff. Going from the high school level to the collegiate level can be a major adjustment for some players, especially workload wise. It is still early in the season, but at any point one of Ole Miss’ young arms could hit a wall and start to face adversity that could throw them off their game. So the big question is: can the four freshman for the Rebels keep their composure?
Three things to watch
1. Maryland’s pitching struggles. The lack of production from the pitching staff has put the Terps in somewhat of a hole early in the season. They have on multiple occasions given up multiple runs in the early innings, which puts them in a difficult spot for the rest of the game. If the starting pitching is able to limit damage early and the Maryland offense gets going from the start, the Terps will have a good shot at winning the series.
2. Hunter Elliott is out. On Tuesday, it was reported that Elliott was experiencing pain in his forearm that will keep him out of this weekend’s series. This is a major loss this early in the season and raises concerns that it could be a long-term issue for Ole Miss. Elliott is scheduled to get an MRI this week to take a deeper look at the injury.
3. Can the offense get it going early? In the two games that Maryland has gone down early, its offense has done too little, too late. Maryland needs to get its offense going from the start to gain an early lead and obtain momentum.