After its first series win against Penn State, Maryland (5-6) travels to Columbus, OH to face Iowa (4-7) and Ohio State (6-5) for a two-and-two weekend series at Bill Davis Stadium.
Game 1 is Saturday versus Iowa at 5 p.m. Next, Maryland splits a doubleheader between Iowa and Ohio State on Sunday. Finally, Game 4 is against Ohio State.
A good showing against Iowa and Ohio State can propel Maryland up the Big Ten standings.
“It’s a great challenge,” junior shortstop Ben Cowles said. “It will be good for us to match up with them.”
In the first half of the series against Iowa, the potent Maryland lineup faces a pitching staff with a 4.26 ERA, fourth in the Big Ten. On the mound, Iowa sends out redshirt sophomores Drew Irvine (0-2, 6.55 ERA) and Duncan Davitt (1-1, 8.18 ERA) in Games 1 and 2.
Maryland does not face Trenton Wallace this time around. Wallace is Iowa’s best arm at 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched.
The Hawkeyes staff faces a Maryland lineup that has crushed opposing pitching since a subpar performance the opening weekend. The Terps hitters have been more patient at the plate, which bodes well against a Hawkeyes pitching staff that allow 5.3 walks per nine innings. Although the Hawkeyes pitching staff doesn’t have a high ERA, the Terps bats have a great opportunity to produce if they can stay patient.
The Terps scored runs at will even without one of their most potent bats in junior first baseman Maxwell Costes who missed six starts due to a wrist injury. He returned as a pinch hitter in Sunday’s loss and started in Monday’s win versus Penn State. Matt Orlando returns to the bench after performing admirably, filling in for Costes.
“I’m looking forward to actually playing a full weekend,” Costes said. “The wrist is feeling great.”
Maryland sends redshirt sophomore Sean Burke (1-1, 6.46 ERA) for Game 1 and sophomore Connor Staine (0-1, 6.19 ERA) for Game 2 on the mound. Burke is first (26), and Staine is second (21) on Maryland in strikeouts.
Iowa’s lineup hasn’t been prolific to start this season. Redshirt senior outfielder Ben Norman leads Iowa in home runs (3), RBI (10), total bases (24), and runs (7), their biggest threat at the plate. Unfortunately for Maryland, the Hawkeyes strength is Maryland’s weakness. The Hawkeyes lead the conference with 14 stolen bases, while Maryland has also allowed 14 stolen bases the second highest in the Big Ten.
“This is a team that will absolutely punish you with freebies,” head coach Rob Vaughn said.
Senior catcher Justin Vought returns to the lineup in a larger capacity, according to Coach Vaughn. Vought only started one game this season. Surprisingly, freshman catchers Luke Shliger James Heffley filled in while Vought was out.
“We will have [Vought] back this week for at least two games this weekend, which is huge,” Vaughn said. “The dude can really really throw. He is a guy we really trust behind the plate.”
Vaughn said his team has worked on drills in practice over the past two weeks to control the running game and minimize what he calls “free 90s.”
In the second half of Sunday’s doubleheader, Maryland faces Ohio State. Ohio State sends Jack Neely (1-0 4.26 ERA) and Will Pfenning (0-1, 7.71 ERA). As a team, Ohio State is fifth in the Big Ten with a 4.39 ERA.
The Buckeyes staff has struck out opposing hitters at a rate of 10.6 per-nine-innings. However, the Buckeyes staff has struggled with control issues this season tied for the highest total hit batters and wild pitches in the Big Ten each with 21. So far this season Maryland has hit .565 with less than two outs and runners-in-scoring position, and the Terps will look to take advantage of those extra opportunities in clutch situations.
Maryland will pitch sophomore Nick Dean (0-0, 0.00 ERA) for his first start this season. In 2020, Dean started four games with a 3.98 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 20.1 innings.
Freshman pitcher Jason Savacool (3-0, 2.28 ERA) is the anchor to the Terrapin rotation. In his three starts, Savacool has two complete games, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice.
Ohio State is last in the Big Ten with a .313 on-base percentage, .376 slugging percentage and ranks ninth in the conference with 50 runs scored. The Buckeyes lineup is led by freshman center fielder Kade Kern, sophomore right fielder Mitchell Okuley, senior Sam Wilson, and redshirt senior first baseman Conner Pohl.
Okuley is tied with Pohl for the team lead in home runs (3) and tied with Wilson in RBI (8) for second on the team. Kern tops the Buckeyes with nine RBI.
However, Maryland still cannot allow Ohio State second, third, or fourth opportunities. Even a poor hitting team can score with additional chances.
“If you start giving teams 28, 29, 30 outs because you are not taking care of [the ball], that is when you start getting yourself in trouble,” Vaughn said.