After winning all three games of its opening weekend for its best start since 2015, Maryland Baseball will look to keep the productive play rolling into this weekend’s series against Rhode Island.
Maryland’s 3-0 start was thanks in large part to the pitching staff. The Terps, who finished 2019 with a combined ERA of 5.42, finished the three game set allowing just six runs through 28 innings. Maryland will go into its home opener with a 1.29 combined ERA — the 10th-best in the nation.
Not to be overshadowed by the stellar defense, bats were also hot for the Terps. Scoring a combined 23 runs through three games, offensive efficiency was hardly a problem for Maryland. With four different Terps batting above .300, Rob Vaughn’s lineup has shown the damage it can do.
Friday’s game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m., Saturday’s is set for 2 p.m. and the first pitch will be at 1 p.m. Sunday. All three games will be streamed on BTN +.
Rhode Island Rams (1-2)
Head Coach Raphael Cerrato is looking to lead the Rams to a winning season — something the team hasn’t been able to do since 2017. Cerrato’s six years with the program have included a conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016, but things have taken a downward turn in recent seasons. After finishing 2019 with a 24-29 record, the two-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year will surely be looking to improve his team’s win total.
Hitters to know
Freshman shortstop Alex Ramirez had a fantastic opening weekend, going 3-for-10 at the plate. The 5’10 freshman made up for the Rams’ offensive woes, posting a ridiculous .300/.300/.800 line. The young infielder will look to make a dent in a Terps pitching staff that has been lights out so far this season.
Junior first baseman Jackson Coutts could prove to be trouble for the Terps following an impressive opening weekend that included two RBIs courtesy of his first home run of the season. The veteran infielder provides offensive firepower to a team that has struggled producing in previous seasons, accounting for 29 RBIs last year.
Sophomore outfielder Mark Coley rounds out the Rhode Island lineup as a powerful anchor to the offense. The second-year outfielder is looking to improve on a freshman season in which he posted a mere .192 batting average.
In Rhode Island’s opening series, Coley went 2-for-10 and knocked in an RBI as well. While the numbers might seem unimpressive, Coley contributed a home run, stolen bases and walks his freshman year. Those flashes of power and speed could be a problem if the Maryland pitching staff overlooks the sophomore outfielder.
Pitchers to know
Redshirt senior pitcher Tyler Brosius was a K machine in Rhode Island’s opening series, recording six strikeouts in 3.1 innings pitched. The New Jersey native is coming off a phenomenal junior year, in which he posted a 2.27 era and struck out 32 batters. The right-handed senior will be looking to carry his impressive weekend showing over to Maryland in hopes of slowing down Vaughn’s potent offense.
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Justin Cherry could be the biggest threat to Maryland’s red-hot offense after posting a 1.42 ERA over opening weekend. In his team’s loss to Lamar, the Virginia native struck out seven batters over 6.1 innings, while only giving up one earned run. Cherry ended last year with a 2.93 ERA and 56 strikeouts — numbers that could do some damage against Maryland’s bats.
Senior pitcher Vitaly Jangols could prove to be a silent killer for Maryland this weekend, after starting for the Rams in their only win of 2020 thus far. Jangols held Lamar to just one earned run on three hits in 4.2 innings last Sunday, setting the table for Rhode Island to eventually win, 4-2.
It should be noted that Jangols hasn’t been a high strikeout pitcher in his time with the Rams. Through his career at Rhode Island, the 6’1 righty has only cracked 30 strikeouts in one of his three years as a starter. Jangols will be looking to get outs in other ways besides Ks, so Maryland might have to add some extra hustle on the base paths.
Home run hitting power. The Rams hit two home runs in their opening series. Going up against a Maryland defense that has proven to be strikeout heavy, Rhode Islanad will be looking to drive the ball out of Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
Scoring Runs. Although the Rams have proven to possess the power to drive the ball, they hardly put it to good use during opening weekend. In the three games the Rams played, they scored two, three, and four runs, while only hitting .179. If Rhode Island can’t back up its power with efficient run support, it could spell trouble for the Rams.
Three Things to Watch
1. Will the Terps have better luck with wild pitches? Maryland batters were hit by pitches 12 times over the weekend, which is currently the third most in the nation. While getting hit by pitches isn’t pleasant for any batter, the Terps attracted a fair amount of stray pitches last weekend. It also comes with its fair share of injury risks as well. Maryland catcher Justin Vought took a particular nasty pitch to the hand, leaving some wondering if he would be available for the upcoming matchup.
“Justin got hit in the hand pretty hard but they X-rayed and it was all negative,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “He’ll be good to go back this weekend, he’s fine.”
Odd enough, having such a high number of batters hit by pitches shouldn’t come as a surprise for fans. Last season Maryland was tied for tenth in the nation in HBPs with 96, so it will be interesting to see whether the balls keep finding batters or not.
2. Will Tucker Flint continue to impress? Freshman Tucker Flint has been nothing but pleasant surprises for the Terps. The Freshman DH had a phenomenal opening weekend against all three of Maryland’s opponents, posting an insane .545 average from the three game set. How Flint builds on his impressive debut could be a determining factor for Maryland. Following his productive weekend, Flint talked about how he settled into the batter’s box during his first few games.
“The first game helped me a lot with getting relaxed,” Flint said. “Getting that first hit and going through that first at-bat really helped me.”
It will be interesting to see how Vaughn will utilize Flint differently, it at all, to adjust to Rhode Island’s defense.
3. Does Rob Vaughn’s pitching staff continue to excel? After a 2019 season where Maryland allowed opponents’ batting average to reach .250 amidst a lack of quality starting pitching, Vaughn and his pitching staff have started the new season on a hot note.
Whether it was the scoreless debut of freshman pitcher Sean Burke, the five strikeout opener from Sean Fisher, or the powerful performance put on by the bullpen throughout the weekend, it’s safe to say that pitching is shaping up to be Vaughn’s biggest improvement from last season. The mindset of the staff throughout the series also played a big part in the three wins.
“I felt good. I felt confident,” Burke said. “Just knowing you have a good team behind you that’s going to put up runs for you always helps.”