Maryland baseball played only three games last week, as the midweek contest against James Madison had to be rescheduled due to weather. But still there was plenty of action, as the team traveled down to Cary, N.C. for the USA Baseball - Irish Classic. The Terps played “host” Notre Dame, No. 6 NC State and Dayton, winning all three games and inching back towards .500 on the year.
The Terps open their home schedule this week, with five games at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium in College Park. They face William & Mary and Saint Joseph’s in midweek games, then host Bryant for a three-game set.
(Note: Tuesday’s home opener against William & Mary has been moved from 4 p.m. to 2 p.m. due to weather concerns.)
Here’s what our trio of beat writers have to say.
Do you think the wins this weekend will help the Terps turn things around?
Andrew: The win Friday night was huge. After the missed call on the ball Marty Costes caught, finally a break went the Terps’ way on Notre Dame’s miscue in the ninth. The way the Terps capitalized on that, and the manner in which they dominated NC State and Dayton, was very encouraging. The Terps just executed much better than in the previous two weeks. Let’s see if that continues, and hopefully we can look back at this weekend as a turning point.
Greg: Absolutely. The Terps were not feeling good with the way they played in Baton Rouge, but last weekend’s sweep has settled concern about the starting rotation and the bullpen. All three weekend starters performed well and the bullpen was the best it’s been all season long. Ryan Selmer looks to be John Szefc’s choice at closer and Jared Price and Andrew Miller have still not allowed a run in just of four innings of work this season. Maryland started the year with a rough schedule, so it’s good to see the resilience that the team showed over the last three games, which included a ninth inning comeback victory against Notre Dame on Friday. When a team is confident they generally play better and the Terps should certainly be feeling much more confident after the sweep.
Alex: The sweep over the weekend was huge for the Terps. After starting out 1-5, Maryland needed a boost going into their first home games of the season. They were able to get that boost in commanding fashion, topping off the weekend by knocking off No. 6 NC State. That was a big win for the team. Now, the Terps are 4-5 going into their first stretch of home games, five games in six days. Their pitching looked as solid as it has been this season. Their offense has continued to produce at a solid pace, and their defense has somewhat solidified, though it is the weakest link for Maryland right now. Overall, the Terps were able to get done what they needed to do.
Do you think that Maryland has pretty much settled into a consistent lineup, or is there still some fluidity going forward?
Andrew: Barring injuries, I think the starting pitchers and the bullpen have pretty much crystallized. Shaffer, Bloom, and Blohm on the weekend, Parsons and possibly Enck in midweek games. It seems that Selmer has won the closer’s job, with backend support from Miller, Hill, and Rescigno. Price has earned additional pitching time, and Stiles will factor in. There’ll be some shuffling of the lineup, as Szefc tries to get playing time for Watson, Morris, Maynard and Biondic.
Greg: It seems that John Szefc has generally decided what players will be getting regular at bats. Obviously, the likes of Zach Jancarski, Nick Dunn, Marty Costes and Kevin Smith have started every game. Others including Nick Cieri, A.J. Lee, Brandon Gum and Madison Nickens are also playing pretty much everyday. Dan Maynard and Justin Morris are splitting time behind the plate. Will Watson and Kevin Biondic have also appeared in seven games each, but at positions that they were not really expected to. Gum seemingly has taken the starting first base spot because of his strong offensive play, leaving Biondic to play third base this past weekend. Watson will split time in the outfield and as a designated hitter. The lineups will be shuffled based on certain matchups, but I think that Szefc is starting to settle in on the lineups he likes.
Alex: I feel like Szefc has found the players who he feels like will best fit into the mix this season. You can guarantee that Kevin Smith, Marty Costes, Zach Jancarski, Nick Dunn, and Madison Nickens will be in the starting lineup most all games this season. However, Szefc has shuffled Nick Cieri, AJ Lee, Kevin Biondic, and Brandon Gum in and out of the lineup in the early going. He knows the core players he wants in the lineup. It’s just a matter of how he’s going to fit them into the lineup on a game-by-game basis.
What do you envision happening over the five games this week?
Andrew: William & Mary also won three games in Cary and sit at 6-4. It’s not a “gimme” game at all. St. Joseph’s ... well, I hope they’re not the 2017 version of Mt. St. Mary’s. But we should take both games. Bryant had a rougher start to 2017 than the Terps have endured. Pitching coach Fecteau will be able to provide good intel on how to pitch the Bulldogs, as well as how to approach their pitchers. Bryant has a Friday night stud in James Karinchak. This series should be a good test on where the Terps stand right now.
Greg: Maryland will be favored in its first two home games of the season on Tuesday and Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how prospective starters Hunter Parsons and Cameron Enck perform in their seasons debuts as starting pitchers. This could cause some uncertainty, but playing at home will be a welcomed change after constant traveling over the first three weeks of the season. As for this weekend, Bryant made the NCAA tournament in 2016, but has lost seven out of its last eight games. This bodes well for a Terps team that is trending in an opposite direction. Bryant’s James Karincheck is a more than capable Friday starter, but lineups have been able to put up crooked number against this pitching staff. Once again, playing at home swings the odds in favor of the Terps and I expect the offense will continue to produce this week. Going 4-1 is a realistic possibility taking into account that it’s tough to win eight games in a row.
Alex: The Terps are going to face some tough competition for their first home games of the year. Their first opponent, William & Mary, is currently 6-4 on the season, but they’ve been up-and-down throughout the season. As for St. Joseph’s, they are currently 0-9, so the Terps shouldn’t have much trouble with them. The weekend series against Bryant will be the toughest part of the homestand for Maryland. Coming off of an NCAA Tournament berth last season, Bryant hasn’t started out the season well, having lost seven of their last eight games. However, they are still a tough team for the Terps. I can see Maryland going 4-1 or 3-2 during the homestand. I also think that 5-0 is possible, but not likely considering the fact that Maryland has had their early season troubles so far, however I still believe they will have a winning homestand.