After a successful two weeks, Maryland heads down to Orlando, Florida, to face a red-hot Central Florida team to round out its nonconference schedule.
Maryland has won eight of its past nine games, going from 4-7 to 12-8 in two weeks. Despite this, the Terps haven’t faced a top-100 RPI opponent in that span, taking midweek games against UMBC, Delaware and George Washington, and weekend series against Albany and Maine.
Now Maryland gets a real test in UCF in a three-game series that will be available to stream on ESPN+. The Friday and Saturday games will be at 6 p.m, and the Sunday game will be at 1 p.m.
UCF Knights (15-6, 0-0 AAC)
UCF is unlike any team Maryland has faced in the past two weeks. The Knights got big wins over Florida State, Troy, Clemson and Georgia Southern in their nonconference slate. Head coach Greg Lovelady is in his seventh year with the program and is looking to get the Knights to their first NCAA Tournament since his first year in 2017. UCF most recently suffered a walkoff loss at North Florida.
Players to watch
Ben McCabe, redshirt senior catcher, No. 40 — McCabe’s offensive numbers through 20 games are impressive. He has a 1.432 OPS, .912 slugging percentage, 10 home runs and an otherworldly wRC+ of 216. It is only 20 games in, but McCabe looks like one of the most dangerous hitters Maryland will face this year,
Andrew Sundean, sophomore designated hitter/catcher, No. 44 — Sundean was a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American in 2022 and was named American Athletic Conference Player of the Week last week tallying after 14 RBIs and two home runs. He has a .455 batting average and has gotten on base in more than half of his plate appearances in 14 games.
Pitchers to watch
Ruddy Gomez, redshirt senior right-handed pitcher, No. 19 — Gomez is slated as UCF’s Friday starter, and is probably the best pitcher on the staff. He currently has a 3.07 ERA and 35 strikeouts on the year, with a walk rate under 5%. Gomez is good at generating ground balls — last year, 65% of contact against him was the ground and this year his ground-ball rate is 52.5%.
Kyle Kramer, senior right-handed pitcher, No. 30 — Kramer has the lowest ERA on the team at 2.70, but when looking at his other metrics his performances have been even better. He has a 40% strikeout rate in 13 innings, and has only three walks to his 20 strikeouts. While he has allowed some hits, he is still one of UCF’s best relievers.
Offensive firepower. The Knights absolutely rake. They currently rank seventh in the nation in total home runs with 45, and four players on the roster already have over five home runs. Six players have 18 or more RBIs, and seven Knights have an OPS over .900. This team is deep with offensive talent and will be a tough matchup for the struggling Maryland pitching staff.
Allowing hits. UCF’s pitching staff has surrendered plenty of hits, averaging over eight hits per nine innings and allowing 171 total. The Knights don’t walk many batters, but they do put people on base. If Maryland’s offense can break through, it can get a rally going that could make the difference in a game.
Three things to watch
1. How will Kyle McCoy do in his first big start? Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn has given Kyle McCoy the past two Sunday starts, but has kept him on a leash in regards to pitch count. This week, Vaughn told McCoy, “it’s time to take the training wheels off,” and stated his plan is to give McCoy 85 to 90 pitches Sunday against UCF. McCoy showed he can deal after a one-hit shutout against Albany — can he do it against a high-powered offense like UCF?
2. Can Maryland’s offense produce against better talent? The Maryland offense has been wildly inconsistent. On one day, it looks like the best offense in the country, scoring 25 and 18 runs, respectively, against Maine and Albany in those series openers. But in some games, the offense has been underwhelming. The Terps were unable to pull away from UMBC and George Washington until the eighth inning, and their offense was silent when facing Albany in games two and three. Facing better pitching, Maryland cannot afford a cold spell like last series.
3. Can Maryland’s pitching deal with the heat? Maryland’s pitching has been subpar this year, and combining that with a powerful offense is a cause for a concern. But, it has not been as bad as of late, which could be a sign of a midseason turnaround. The Terps’ arms are certainly something to keep an eye on.