Maryland baseball stands at 1-5 after getting swept at LSU this past weekend. Our three baseball writers are here to give their take on what needs to happen in order for the Terps to right the ship.
Football and men’s basketball started off their season with a soft schedule, which gave fans a false sense of the respective teams’ competitiveness. Coach Szefc has done the opposite, beginning the baseball season with a brutal first six games. Was this a good move?
Andrew: In most respects, yes. These games, even though losses, will boost the team’s RPI. They also demonstrated how much still needs to be done to compete with the nation’s elite teams. The only downside is that Maryland came out flat to start the year. I’m sure everyone hoped the team would have started off better.
Greg: It’s an interesting debate, because how a team starts the season can set the tone moving forward. However, I believe that Szefc is doing the right thing by challenging his club early. We all know that the SEC is light years ahead of the Big Ten in terms of competitiveness. So when the Terps start playing within the conference and winning, these games won’t matter as much. Instead, it will help prepare Maryland for postseason play.
Alex: Yes, in the sense that he was getting the Terps exposed to good opposition early in the season. That is something that Szefc stressed before the season started, but his tactics have unfortunately turned against him. In terms on conferences, the Big Ten is nowhere near the caliber of play that conferences like the SEC are, but the tough tests early in the season will benefit the Terps when they begin their Big Ten schedule. As the odds-on favorite to win the regular season conference title, they will be more than prepared to take control.
Which aspect of the team’s play is most concerning? Any bright spots?
Andrew: I’d say the overall execution has to be better. Maryland is giving away extra at-bats with errors and HBPs, and extra bases with wild pitches. Conversely, at the plate they’re striking out at a rate of 11.5 batters per game. Just putting the ball in play might result in the other team making an error or the ball finding a hole for a hit. It’s also very difficult to move runners up when so many batters are striking out. The bright spot has been consistently good performances by Marty Costes, Brian Shaffer, and Andrew Miller.
Greg: The bullpen didn’t take any steps forward this past weekend. Granted, Mike Rescigno and Ryan Hill bounced back individually, but overall the relief pitching is struggling as a unit. Part of this may be because Szefc has not given them defined roles yet. When that happens, the guys may get more comfortable. But, it’s going to be tough to win games if you’re always needing to score late in games. On a positive note, Zach Jancarski, Nick Dunn and Marty Costes make what is a fairly potent first three in the batting order. Not known for being a power hitter, Jancarski hit a double and a leadoff home run in the series finale against LSU. The Terps center fielder had only hit one long ball all of last season. All three have on-base percentages of over .360, so they should continue to put pressure on pitchers early in games.
Alex: Like I stated last week, the bullpen is still the biggest of my concerns for Maryland moving forward. I didn’t see much improvement from last weekend to this weekend. However, the Terps played significantly better opposition, so it’s not surprising that the LSU bats were able to take advantage of this. There is still enough time left to right the ship with the bullpen, but with more tough competition coming up in the coming weeks, the Terps need to be diligent.
Tyler Blohm struggled in his second start of his college career. Should Szefc continue with the freshman as his Sunday starter, or should he give Hunter Parsons a chance to see what he can do in that slot?
Andrew: I think the Blohm/Parsons competition is going to continue for quite awhile. Both are talented, young pitchers. But if Taylor Bloom can’t re-establish himself (and I believe he will) it might be that Blohm and Parsons both become weekend starters.
Greg: Facing an LSU offense so early in your collegiate career is certainly a difficult task, and it showed on Sunday. However, Blohm was a high MLB draft selection coming out of high school for a reason. He has much greater upside than Parsons and it looks like Szefc is going to ride with his youngster as a weekend starter moving forward. I think that this is the right decision because he is just the more talented pitcher. There will be some growing pains as there were this past weekend, but that shouldn’t make Maryland fans too concerned because he needs these types of starts to grow as a college pitcher.
Alex: Blohm faced a tough LSU lineup. As a freshman, it’s good for him to get that kind of experience early in his college career. I would give him a pass for that start, specifically because of how good his opponent was on Sunday. On that note, however, Parsons shows his worth last season and his arm is not one that Szefc should leave on the bench. I would give Blohm the week off and give Parsons the start to see how well he does. From there, I would platoon the two depending on how good they perform from start to start, keeping the Sunday rotation spot up for grabs.
Tomorrow’s game against James Madison is the home opener for the Terps. How important is this game?
Andrew: There’s two ways to look at this. One is that the Terps need to get on the winning track pronto. The second is that midweek games hurt us last year, and we don’t want to have that happen in 2017. So it’s pretty important.
Greg: This game is more important than the average midweek contest. A convincing win against James Madison could settle the storm and allow the team to move into the weekend on a high note. There’s still a lot of tough out-of-conference games on the schedule. So yes, the Terps really need a victory tomorrow.
Alex: This game is probably the most important game of the season so far for Maryland. After the slow start they’ve had, this game against James Madison is a must-win. Also, it’s a home game, so the Terps need to start their home slate on a good note.