Maryland baseball is coming off two dominant midweek wins and now looks forward to one of its biggest series of the season, as it faces Indiana in a road weekend set.
The Terps have won eight of their last 10 games, including four straight. In those four games, they’ve scored 56 runs. Despite the recent string of wins, the Terps haven’t had much movement in the RPI. Maryland is projected as a No. 3 seed in the Charlottesville Regional in the latest field of 64 outlook from D1Baseball.
Unfortunately for Maryland, it’s dealt with a bit of an injury bug headed into this huge series against the Hoosiers.
Senior third baseman Nick Lorusso exited Sunday’s game against Purdue due to an issue with his hamstring, and it is unclear if he will be good to go for this weekend. Senior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean was ruled out this past weekend due to forearm tightness and junior left-handed pitcher Tommy Kane also left Wednesday’s blowout of Georgetown with an injury. Their statuses are unclear as of now. Additionally, sophomore outfielder Elijah Lambros was ejected in Wednesday’s game versus Georgetown, which is an automatic one-game suspension, per NCAA policy.
Despite these absences, Maryland’s bullpen will be rested after a pair of blowouts, and the offense is as hot as it’s been. Those are two key pieces for a Maryland team that desperately needs this series for a tournament berth.
All three games will be available on Big Ten Plus. Friday’s game will start at 6 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday’s games set for 1 p.m. and noon, respectively,
Indiana Hoosiers (31-14, 9-3 Big Ten)
2022 record: 27-32, 10-14 Big Ten
Indiana is having a tremendous season. It’s in first place in the Big Ten, ranked No. 14 in the RPI and is a projected regional host for the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers have been outstanding at home, with a 22-1 record.
Head coach Jeff Mercer is seeking to gain the team’s first NCAA tournament berth since his first season in 2019. The winner of this series will likely be atop the Big Ten standings heading into the home stretch of the season.
Hitters to watch
Devin Taylor, freshman outfielder, No. 5 — Taylor saw limited action to start his collegiate career, but he’s been the Hoosiers’ best hitter of recent. He has 11 home runs, a .754 slugging percentage and a walk rate over 17%. Taylor leads his team in extra-base hits, home runs and walks despite having close to 50 fewer plate appearances than most of his teammates. He is a massive danger to Maryland pitchers, who give up the most home runs in the Big Ten.
Brock Tibbits, sophomore catcher, No. 9 — Tibbits had a great freshman season, in which he was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball. He broke the program’s single-season record for RBIs and home runs by a freshman, and this year, he’s been even better. He has a 150 wRC+ (100 being average) and leads the team in RBIs with 50.
Pitchers to watch
Ryan Kraft, sophomore left-handed pitcher, No. 29 — Kraft has pitched the second-most innings on the team as a reliever. He’s been outstanding with an ERA of 1.33. What makes Kraft especially dangerous is the lack of home runs he gives up, with only two in 40 innings of work. He also forces half of his batted balls on the ground and still strikes out batters a decent amount.
Craig Yoho, redshirt senior right-handed pitcher, No. 12 — Yoho has an astounding 37% strikeout percentage through 20 innings of work. Unlike some high-strikeout pitchers, Yoho also limits the number of home runs he gives up, with a 49% ground ball percentage. According to Perfect Game USA, his fastball hits 92-95 miles per hour with 20-23 inches of run. His curveball can reach 3000 revolutions per minute and 22-24 inches of horizontal movement.
Pitching. Indiana has one of the best bullpens in the Big Ten. It has a combined ERA of 4.58, and three players have an ERA under two. The Hoosiers strike out close to 10 hitters per nine innings and are not susceptible to the home-run ball. Seven Indiana pitchers have a ground ball rate over 50%.
Hitting depth. Indiana has some excellent hitters, but some players with a sizable amount of plate appearances have not fared that well. Three players have a wRC+ at or below 100, with only three qualified batters holding a wRC+ over 110. Maryland’s pitching isn’t the best, but if it can get past Indiana’s three best batters, there isn't much depth behind them.
Three things to watch
1. Which bats will stay hot? Plenty of Maryland bats have been great in the past two weeks. Sophomore first baseman Eddie Hacopian had four home runs in five games, netting him Big Ten Player of the Week honors, and junior second baseman Kevin Keister hit four home runs in the team’s two midweek games leading up to this weekend’s series. The Terps also mashed seven home runs in their blowout of Georgetown and are riding an offense that rivals any team’s in the country. But can this success continue in a road series against a top-15 RPI opponent in Indiana?
2. What will the Terps do in spite of injuries? Maryland has been hit with several injuries lately, with Dean and Lorusso’s statuses being most concerning to the success of the team. Still, head coach Rob Vaughn has found a way to fill the holes left by his key players. Sophomore utility man Jacob Orr has struggled in his appearances at the plate this year, but has filled in well at third defensively and hit a home run in his last game. Similarly, fifth-year right-handed pitcher Kenny Lippman pitched five innings of one-run baseball in place of Dean on Sunday, which could be an option if Dean isn’t ready to go this weekend. With Lambros suspended, freshman outfielder Luke Zeisloft is likely to take his place, and he’s been effective in his limited appearances this year.
3. Can the Terps pull ahead in the race for the Big Ten? Maryland was the unanimous Big Ten favorite coming into the season and was ranked No. 13 in the nation. After a rough start to the season and some serious pitching woes, it’s tumbled all the way to the bubble of the NCAA Tournament. This series is a good chance to bolster its at-large resume and position itself for a top seed in the Big Ten Tournament. After their games against Indiana, the Terps have only one top-100 RPI opponent left on their schedule.