Through 15 games, few expected Maryland baseball to have a 10-5 record, but the Terps have done well, winning two out of their last three series against Maine and Stetson.
However, this weekend, they will face their toughest opponent arguably of the season, No. 14 East Carolina, who the Terps played last season in North Carolina. The Pirates swept the Terps, outscoring them 26-4 in the weekend series. Maryland was shut out twice and lost in an 18-4 blowout.
ECU made the NCAA Tournament last season, finishing the season 44-18 and winning the AAC Championship to get there. However, they were bounced out in the Greenville Regional.
This year’s team is led by seven upperclassmen and the Pirates were able to return a lot of their starters from last season, so the 2019 version of ECU might even be more dangerous.
Let’s take a close look at East Carolina for this weekend’s matchup.
So far this season, the Pirates are hitting .290 as a team with five players hitting over .300 and two hitting over .400. They are led by sophomore Alec Burleson, who’s hitting .469/.479/.688 and leading the team in hits, doubles, RBI, total bases, average, OBP and slugging.
The offense has carried this team, with an OPS so far this season of .824 and 16 total home runs. Seven players have multiple home runs so far for the Pirates, with Francisco Thomas leading the team with three. Thomas is also second on the team with a 1.036 OPS and third with a .600 slugging percentage.
Bryant Packard, Bryson Worrell and Spencer Brickhouse are also leading the charge on offense, with two home runs each and 26 combined RBIs. All three also have 10 runs scored or more, combining for 35. If anything is carrying this team, it’s by far the offense, which has been very productive so far this season.
The Pirates have a four-headed starting pitching monster, starting with Burleson, who was the AAC Rookie Pitcher of the Year in 2018. In 20 innings this season, Burleson has a 2.70 ERA, a 1-0 record and 22 strikeouts in addition to his stellar offensive production. The other three, Jake Kuchmaner, Jake Agnos and Tyler Smith, are also having good seasons. Kuchmaner, Agnos and Burleson all have sub-3.00 ERAs.
Agnos is the Friday starter this weekend, and through 22.2 innings pitched, he has a 2-1 record in four starts, a 2.78 ERA and 34 strikeouts. Kuchmaner is 1-0 with a 2.11 ERA this season in 21.1 innings pitched and 20 strikeouts, giving up just five earned runs. In the bullpen, the Pirates are led by Evan Volvia, who in eight appearances and 12 innings pitched has a 2.25 ERA, three earned runs allowed and 21 strikeouts, almost two per inning.
Keys for Maryland
Last season did not end up well for the Terps, getting swept in North Carolina, but this year’s team is off to a much better start. Having the series at home is also a big boost, and there should be good crowds coming out this weekend with nice weather in the forecast.
If Maryland wants to win, it needs good pitching performances from weekend starters Hunter Parsons, Zach Thompson and Trevor LaBonte. The Terps also need their offense to click. Chris Alleyne and Maxwell Costes have both been on fire at the plate over the past week or so, but Maryland needs a complete team performance in order to take this series against a probable NCAA Tournament team and possible College World Series contender.