Coming off a much-needed midweek victory against Delaware, Maryland baseball will look to continue its winning ways in Deland, Florida, against the Stetson Hatters.
The two teams faced off last season in College Park, with Maryland winning two out of three in a weekend series. From that point on, though, the two teams went in opposite directions. The Hatters had a 48-13 record in 2018, hosting a regional in the NCAA Tournament and reaching the Super Regionals. Maryland went 24-30, missing out on postseason play.
In 2019, however, the tables have turned the way of the Terps, as Maryland has a 7-4 record going into the weekend and Stetson is 5-7. This is Maryland’s second straight away weekend series, and despite its record, Stetson is still the projected “Team to Beat” in the Atlantic Sun Conference, according to Baseball America.
Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn said that this weekend’s starters will be the same as last week: Hunter Parsons on Friday, Zach Thompson on Saturday and Trevor LaBonte on Sunday. This is shaping up to be what the weekend rotation will look like until Tyler Blohm fully recovers; he was the Sunday starter opening weekend. However, LaBonte has looked really good as of late, with a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched this season, including six innings of one-hit ball against Louisiana Lafayette in the second game of their Saturday doubleheader.
On that note, let’s take a closer look at the Hatters before this weekend’s series.
The Hatters are returning the bulk of last year’s lineup, but are going to be without Brooks Wilson, who hit .299/.413/.455 in 2018 with 56 hits, three home runs, 36 RBI, 16 doubles and 32 runs scored. They will have account for him in the lineup, but Stetson wasn’t a power hitting team in 2018, hitting just 31 home runs in total. Where they excelled was on the base paths and in the gaps, stealing 83 bases and hitting 110 doubles.
This year it’s been tough out the gate for the Hatters, hitting .220 as a team with one home run, 15 doubles, and 16 stolen bases in their first 11 games. Two-way player Austin Bogart has led the way, hitting .349/.417/.535 with one home run and eight RBIs. Senior Jonathan Meola is also producing at the plate, hitting .293/.362/.439 with eight RBIs and six doubles. But Stetson needs the rest of its offense to step up this season if the Hatters want to make it two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
Stetson’s offense needs to step up because its pitching suffered some blows coming into the season. The Hatters lost right-handed starter Logan Gilbert, who got drafted in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft, as well as Joey Gonzalez, Jack Perkins and Wilson, who was a two-way player with the Hatters.
Gilbert, Gonzalez and Perkins made up Stetson’s weekend rotation last season, going a combined 30-8 in 296.2 innings pitched and striking out 350. Gilbert was the premier starter, going 11-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 112.1 innings, striking out 163 and walking 25. Losing all three of them leaves a lot of innings to replace.
Stetson still has left-hander Mitchell Senger, who went 9-2 as a freshman in 93.1 innings with 114 strikeouts and 28 walks. He’s struggled so far in 2019, but the Hatters have gotten quality production out of right-hander Robbie Peo, a JuCo transfer from the State College of Florida in Manatee. He currently has a 2.30 ERA in 15.2 innings this season. Stetson has rounded out its rotation with the likes of Daniel Paret, Vlad Nunez and Chris Gonzalez.
If anything, pitching is Stetson’s weakness this year, and if Maryland can jump on the starters early, the Terps can do really well, especially with their trio of Parsons, Thompson and LaBonte.
Stetson is a quality team, but the Hatters are much more vulnerable in 2019 with a depleted pitching staff and early offensive struggles. This weekend will be a good barometer of their success or if those first 11 games are a real reflection of how good this team is.