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No. 1-seed Maryland baseball Big Ten Tournament opening round preview: No. 8-seed Michigan State

The Terps won the Big Ten regular-season title for the second straight season.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

No. 20 Maryland baseball secured back-to-back Big Ten regular-season titles after defeating Penn State, 7-4, this past Saturday. The Terps will now shift their focus to the Big Ten Tournament.

The No. 1-seeded Terps will take on No. 8-seed Michigan State in the opening round Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The tournament follows a double elimination format, which means that the opening round winners/losers are placed into separate brackets. The winner of the tournament will also earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Regardless of the Terps’ success in the tournament, they’ll almost certainly make the NCAA Tournament. The Terps are currently projected to be the No. 2 seed in the Gainsville, Florida regional, per D1Baseball.

No. 8-seed Michigan State 32-20 (12-12 Big Ten)

How they got here

The Spartans had a solid season, finishing 12 games above .500. Unfortunately, they were just mediocre in the Big Ten. They were on the cusp of not making the Big Ten Tournament after being swept against Illinois and Iowa, but they pulled out a series win over No. 2-seed Indiana to keep their season alive.

Head coach Jake Boss Jr. is in his fifteenth season with the program. He’s won a Big Ten regular-season title with the Spartans, but hasn’t conquered the Big Ten Tournament.

Hitters to watch

Brock Vradenburg, junior first baseman, No. 28 — Vradenburg is the most dangerous hitter in this lineup. He leads the team in almost every major statistical category. He has a 1.218 OPS and a 175 WRC+. He also has a team-high 66 RBIs.

Trent Farquhar, junior second baseman, No. 1 — Farquhar is another dangerous bat in the lineup. He posted 19 doubles this season and has the ability to drive in runners.

Pitchers to watch

Joseph Dzierwa, freshman left-handed pitcher, No. 16 — Dzierwa has been the Saturday arm for the Spartans this year. He picked up the win last week over Indiana, allowing one run off of four hits.

Nolan Higgins, freshman right-handed pitcher, No 41 — Higgins has been the Spartans’ usual series opener. Going into Tuesday, he’ll have had the most rest out of the three guys that went this past weekend.

The Road Ahead

If Maryland is able to defeat Michigan State on Tuesday, it will face the winner of Nebraska vs. Rutgers.

No. 4-seed Nebraska (31-21-1): Maryland took care of Nebraska earlier this month with a series win that was capped off with a dominating victory, 20-5.

Since then, the Cornhuskers have been on a tear, winning six out of their last seven games. That included a sweep over Penn State.

No. 5-seed Rutgers (33-21): Maryland took the series against Rutgers when the teams squared off in College Park at the beginning of April. The Scarlet Knights are currently a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament and need a strong performance in the conference tournament to keep their season alive.

Three things to watch

1. Maryland is on two days rest. After clinching the outright Big Ten title on Saturday, the Terps have a quick turnaround for Tuesday’s game. The Terps are used to having two days of rest when they have midweek games, but could experience a championship hangover this time out.

2. Can the Terps go further than last year? Maryland experienced a quick exit this year, but has a chance to vindicate itself this year. Head coach Rob Vaughn feels that last year’s team was more talented from top to bottom, but this year’s squad knows how to win more.

3. Maryland pitching. The pitching staff has been a concern all season for Maryland and will most likely be one of the biggest worries headed into postseason. Freshman Kyle McCoy has been out for the past two weeks with forearm tightness and could potentially be out longer than that. Senior Nick Dean and junior Jason Savacool have also dealt with minor injuries.