No. 18 Maryland baseball will head to Minneapolis, Minnesota, this weekend to take on three different teams in the Cambria College Classic.
Maryland won its midweek game against Delaware on Tuesday, 8-3, a much-needed bounce-back win after being mercy-ruled 18-8 by Ole Miss on Sunday.
D1Baseball dropped Maryland five spots after going 1-3 last week, and several outlets removed Maryland from their top 25 completely. According to College Baseball Hub, Maryland’s composite ranking is No. 23, but a bad weekend in Minneapolis could rid it of a ranking entirely.
There are six teams in attendance: Minnesota, Nebraska, Maryland, No. 4 Ole Miss, No. 7 Vanderbilt and Hawaii. All Big Ten teams will play the non-Big Ten teams, and vice versa.
Maryland will play No. 4 Ole Miss at 4 p.m. ET Friday, No. 7 Vanderbilt at noon ET Saturday and Hawaii at 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday. All games can be streamed on Big Ten Plus and listened to on the Maryland Baseball Network.
Ole Miss (7-2, 0-0 SEC)
Ole Miss has had a bizarre week. After handing Maryland a mercy-rule loss on Sunday, the Rebels lost to Louisiana Tech on Tuesday in Oxford. The Rebels and Bulldogs played again Wednesday, and dangerous rain ended up cancelling the game. Due to an NCAA rain rule, the top of the seventh — where Louisiana Tech scored two runs — was nullified, giving Ole Miss a 4-3 win.
Maryland played Ole Miss just last week. The Terps look to even the season series after losing the weekend series, 2-1.
Hitters to watch
TJ McCants, junior outfielder/infielder, No. 4 — The 2021 Freshman All-American showed out in game three of the series against Maryland, hitting a three-run homer that he took a long look at. In his limited plate appearances, he has two home runs and an OPS over 1.100.
Calvin Harris, sophomore catcher/outfielder, No. 2 — Harris had an insane series last week against the Terps, getting four hits, eight RBIs and two homers on Sunday alone. He was also one of the few Ole Miss hitters that was able to get to Jason Savacool last Friday, with two hits and one of two runs that were batted in. Harris — who was D1Baseball’s No. 5 ranked catcher — is a key player for the Rebels if they want to start the weekend right.
Pitchers to watch
Jack Dougherty, junior right-handed pitcher, No. 39 — Dougherty struggled mightily against Maryland last Friday, pitching four innings and giving up six hits, three earned runs and two walks with three strikeouts. Dougherty has not pitched since then, but it seems as if Ole Miss will have to be confident with him being the Friday starter since regular ace Hunter Elliott will be sidelined until mid-April with a sprained UCL, according to a report by David Eckert of the Clarion Ledger.
Sam Tookoian, freshman right-handed pitcher, No. 47 — Tookoian looked electric in his first innings in relief against Maryland, striking out five straight batters in game two before walking four batters in a row in the fifth inning. Tookoian showed some promise last series and struck out four against Louisiana Tech.
Explosive offense. Even though Maryland’s pitching struggled last series, Ole Miss displayed its bats with serious power. In game three, the Rebels hit 10 home runs and scored 18 total runs, and they weren’t even allowed to tack on more due to the mercy rule. In game two, a bullpen implosion in the late innings allowed Ole Miss to score eight runs in the seventh and eighth innings. If Ole Miss is given the opportunity, it will punish pitchers.
Bad command. Ole Miss walked a lot of batters last series. In game two alone, Ole Miss walked 11 batters and hit another four. Maryland wasn’t able to capitalize on this due to poor situational hitting, but was able to score three runs in one inning without a hit.
No. 7 Vanderbilt (6-3, 0-0 SEC)
Vanderbilt has been battle-tested this year, finishing two straight weekends against ranked opponents. In week one it headed to Global Life Field in Arlington, Texas, for the College Baseball Showdown, going 2-1 on the weekend, beating Texas and No. 12 Oklahoma State and dropping a game to TCU. Last weekend it faced No. 17 UCLA in Nashville, Tennessee, taking the series 2-1.
Vanderbilt is a historic baseball program with multiple national championships in the past decade.
Hitters to watch
Enrique Bradfield Jr., junior outfielder, No. 51 — A unanimous preseason All-American and a member of the Preseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List, Bradfield Jr. is shaping up to be a top MLB draft prospect. He had an OPS over .900 last year and was a NCBWA first-team All-American. He is also one of the fastest players in college baseball, holding the Vanderbilt record in stolen bases.
Jonathan Vastine, sophomore shortstop, No. 13 — Vastine has started off the year hot, having a hit in eight out of nine games. Vastine already has two homers and 10 RBIs, which is good production for a hitter in the middle of the lineup.
Pitchers to watch
Hunter Owen, junior left-handed pitcher, No .33 — Owen is slotted as the Saturday starter against Maryland. In two starts, Owen has only surrendered two runs and struck out 13 batters in almost nine innings pitched. He has walked five batters and gave up five hits in eight innings, but he will be the Maryland offense’s biggest test.
Bryce Cunningham, sophomore right-handed pitcher, No. 97 — Cunningham pitched 3 1⁄3 innings last Friday against No. 17 UCLA and four innings against Texas two weeks ago. He has yet to surrender a run, credited for two saves and 11 strikeouts in 7 1⁄3 innings.
Pitching depth. Vanderbilt’s starting pitchers performed well against No. 17 UCLA, throwing 15 1⁄3 scoreless innings and striking out 18 while allowing just five hits. UCLA was shut out in game one of the series. D1Baseball rated Vanderbilt a 70 out of 80 in bullpen strength. Its relentless recruting and development constantly pumps out MLB-level talent.
Defense. Other than Bradfield Jr., Vanderbilt’s position groups don’t have any defensive studs, which is a cause for concern when facing an offense like Maryland. D1Baseball ranked its defense a 55 out of 80 in its top 25 preview, which is not a huge concern but one of Vanderbilt’s few flaws.
Hawaii (4-3, 0-0 Big West)
Despite Hawaii not being as tough as Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, it is no pushover. It started off the season against reigning Horizon League champion Wright State, winning three of four games in Honolulu. It then went 1-2 in the Tony Gwynn Legacy tournament, dropping a game in seven innings to San Diego, beating North Dakota State by 12 and losing to San Diego State. Hawaii was ranked in the top 120 in RPI last season. This is Maryland’s first-ever meeting with the Rainbow Warriors.
Hitters to watch
Jared Quandt, redshirt sophomore outfielder, No. 21 — Quandt has started off the season hot, posting a 1.869 OPS. He currently has three home runs, nine hits and two stolen bases. His .563 batting average is one of the best in the country, and although the averages are inflated, it just emphasizes his blazing hot start.
Ben Zeigler-Namoa, sophomore infielder/left-handed pitcher, No. 4 — Zeigler-Namoa is one of the few two-way players in college baseball, but his offensive production has been the most impressive so far. In seven games, he has a 1.355 OPS and leads the team with 10 RBIs. Zeigler-Namoa is a transfer from Yavapai College, where he hit .397 with four home runs, 33 RBIs and 10 doubles in his freshman season. Namoa has already pitched three innings this season, and got the win against Wright State two weeks ago.
Pitchers to watch
Harrison Bodendorf, freshman left-handed pitcher, No. 41 — Bodendorf is a likely starter Sunday, getting the start against San Diego State last Sunday. Bodendorf struck out six batters and only let up two hits and a run in 3 2⁄3 innings last Sunday. He was one of the Rainbow Warriors’ top recruits.
Trevor Ichimura, redshirt junior right-handed pitcher, No. 29 — Ichimura’s season was cut short due to injury last year, but he has started off this year strong, not giving up a run in three innings pitched. Ichimura has shown flashes in his time at Hawaii, including pitching almost six innings of scoreless relief against San Diego State last year. He has not seen much use yet, but he could be a key bullpen piece on Sunday.
Blazing hot offensive start. Hawaii currently ranks third nationally in on-base percentage, sixth in slugging and sixth in batting average. It has exploded against some teams, including a 10-run win over Wright State and an 11-run win over North Dakota State. After two tough games against top-10 opponents, whatever is left of the Maryland bullpen will have a tall task ahead of it.
First real test. Hawaii has not faced a ranked team yet but will be doing so in Minneapolis. While San Diego was highly ranked in RPI last year, the Rainbow Warriors have not faced an offense like Maryland’s. They will face Minnesota (currently 0-8) on Friday and Nebraska, a team that finished outside of the top 150 in RPI last season, on Saturday.
Three things to watch
1. The sophomore sensations. Maryland’s two breakout performers this season so far have been sophomore designated hitter Ian Petrutz and sophomore centerfielder Elijah Lambros. Both have been magnificent to start the season. Petrutz has a hit in every game this season, including five home runs, and a 1.344 OPS in eight games. Lambros has also been great, with three homers this year and a 1.271 OPS.
2. Big Ten vs. SEC showdown. With Hawaii being the exception, this tournament will serve as a defacto Big Ten-SEC Challenge. It will be interesting to see if Nebraska and Minnesota can upset Ole Miss or Vanderbilt.
3. Can Maryland overcome its pitching shortcomings? Maryland’s offense has not stalled yet this season, scoring at least six runs in all eight games played. But besides the two aces in Nick Dean and Jason Savacool, every pitcher on the staff has been either average or bad this season. Both game two and game three of the series against Ole Miss slipped away from the Terps due to bullpen implosions, with game three seeing the Terps give up two seven-run innings. If they want to perform well in Minnesota, they need to straighten out their pitching woes.