Maryland baseball faces first-place Nebraska for a three-game series

Maryland First Baseman Maxwell Costes (Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

After winning three of four last weekend, Maryland (9-10 B1G) will look to build on its momentum as it hits the road for a challenging matchup with Nebraska (13-5 B1G).

After starting the season 5-4, Nebraska has won eight of its last nine games and is undefeated at home (4-0).

“They are in first place because they are executing offensively, and they play lockdown defense,” head coach Rob Vaughn said.

Nebraska’s lineup brings a lot of power and is one of the main reasons its enjoyed such a strong start to the season. The Cornhuskers are in the top three in the Big Ten most offensive categories. They’re first in runs scored (135), first in on-base percentage (.397), second in batting average (.292), second in home runs (29), and tied for first in stolen bases (24) with Maryland.

Nebraska right fielder Joe Acker took over the leadoff spot 10 games ago. Since ascending to the leadoff spot, Ackers has an on-base percentage of .489. He’s also scored 13 runs and has provided instant production reaching base in his first at-bat six times.

The Maryland rotation of Sean Burke (1-1, 4.78 ERA), Nick Dean (0-0, 4.50 ERA), and Jason Savacool (4-0, 3.82 ERA) must limit early damage. Walks early in games have been troubling for the Terps staff and have put them in some early deficits.

Second baseman Cam Chick has an OPS of 1.086, which leads seven batters in the Nebraska lineup with an OPS over .900. Chick is first in home runs (6) and RBI (21). Catcher Luke Roskam, shortstop Spencer Schwellenbach, and first baseman Jack Steil, centerfielder Jason Hallmark, and designated hitter Max Anderson round out a potent lineup.

Schwellenback leads the team in runs scored (22), tied for first in the Big Ten. Anderson and Hallmark lead in hits (26), which is third in the Big Ten.

“They have a unique skill set offensively,” Vaughn said.

In comparison, the Nebraska rotation of Cade Povich (2-1, 3.95 ERA), Chance Hroch (2-0, 5.04 ERA), and Shay Schanaman (2-0, 5.87 ERA) face a Maryland offense that will look to replicate its production from last weekend. Maryland is second in runs (127), tied for first in stolen bases (24), second in on-base percentage (.378), third in slugging percentage (.445), third in batting (.261), and second in home runs (26).

Maryland center fielder Chris Alleyne and right fielder Randy Bednar set the table for the Maryland lineup. Alleyne leads the team in runs (20), which is fifth in the Big Ten.

Shortstop Ben Cowles has led the Terrapins in every major offensive category this season. Cowles tied Rutgers first baseman Chris Brito for the Big Ten lead in home runs (9), second in RBI (25), and has the highest slugging percentage (.833).

First baseman Maxwell Costes is heating up at the plate as well. After only batting .192 with one RBI in his first 10 games, Costes batted .500 with nine RBI over his last four games. Since returning from injury, Costes has been one of the main sources of production in Maryland’s lineup.

“Even when bad times come, I can make it through it,” Costes said. “I didn’t feel any pressure. All I needed to do was go back to the drawing board, see what I was doing wrong and make adjustments.”

In a matchup of teams with such potent offenses, the games will come down to pitching and defense. Nebraska allowed the second-fewest runs (81) and walks (59) and is the best fielding team in the Big Ten (.984).

On the other hand, Maryland is eleventh in fielding (.965). The Terps committed the second-most errors in the Big Ten (24), which will need to change if they want to have success against the Cornhuskers. The deciding factor in the game is if Maryland can limit its mistakes and capitalize on the few that Nebraska commits.

“They thrive on mistakes, they put a lot of pressure on the defense, and they want to force you to play clean,” Vaughn said.

Game 1 is Friday at 7:30 p.m., Game 2 is Saturday at 3:00 p.m., and Game 3 is Sunday at 1 p.m.