The Terps (1-3 B1G) return to Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium for the first time in 366 days to host Rutgers (2-2 B1G) for a four-game weekend series.
Unlike last season, Maryland’s pitching staff has been a strength through four games with a combined 3.77 ERA and 36 strikeouts. However, Maryland lost three of its four games against Michigan State in large part due to its struggling in the field. The Terrps committed eight errors that led to seven unearned runs against the Spartans.
“We didn’t have the best opening weekend,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “But we learned a lot about our team.
Maryland faces a Rutgers lineup with some thump in their bats. The Scarlett Knights scored 28 runs on 34 hits and bashed eight home runs in their first four games. A point of emphasis for the Terps will be limiting the error and not giving the Scarlet Knights extra runners on base and opportunities to score.
Rutgers redshirt sophomore infielder Chris Brito is hitting the cover off the ball, slugging .833 with two home runs and six RBI. Tied with Brito in RBI are redshirt freshman first baseball Jordan Sweeney and fifth year infielder Danny DiGeorgio. Rutgers has five players with an OPS over 1.110.
“They are definitely a lot better than everybody gives them credit for in the past couple of years,” sophomore infielder Matt Orlando said. “I’m actually from New Jersey and I know a lot of those guys. We all know that they are a good team.”
In practice this week the infielders have done more drills simulating in-game pressure situations to help minimize the potential number of errors.
“Getting out of those first weekend jitters,” freshman infielder Matthew Shaw said. “That kind of went along with our defense. “Now that we are back on our home turf, I have all confidence we are going to make most of the plays.”
Maryland’s offense could come alive against a Rutgers pitching staff that has a 4.76 ERA so far this season. However, the Terps are only hitting .200 and .167 with runners in scoring position.
“We have been doing a lot of 2-strike drills,” Orlando said. “Our big emphasis this week was to make those at-bats tougher.
In game 1, Sean Burke (0-1) takes the mound against Rutgers’ Harry Rutkowski (1-0). Even though Maryland lost 6-0, Burke was electric against Michigan State with 13 strikeouts in six innings, the most by a Terp since 2016. However, Rutkowski pitched fantastic against Indiana, allowing only one run with eight strikeouts over six innings.
Following in Game 2, Sean Fisher (0-1) matches Rutgers’s Ben Wereski (1-0). Wereski allowed three hits over six innings and struck out five against Minnesota. Up next in Game 3, Connor Staine (0-0) faces Brett Teller (0-1). Staine will look to repeat his dominant performance over six innings with nine strikeouts against the Spartans. Teller was wild against Indiana, giving up four walks in 3 2/3 innings.
Finally, Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Jason Savacool (1-0) closes the series. Savacool dazzled in his first career start with a complete game with two strikeouts against Michigan State.
Rutgers has yet to announce a Game 4 starter.
First pitch of the series begins at 4 p.m. on Friday.