Maryland baseball hosts Ohio State for a three-game weekend series

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

Maryland (10-12 BIG) has a rematch against Ohio State (13-9 BIG) for a three-game weekend series at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.

In the previous matchup, the teams split two games on March 28 and 29, when Ohio State won 5-4 in Game 1 and Maryland gained a 9-3 victory in Game 2.

The balance of power in this matchup is the Maryland offense versus the Ohio State rotation. The Buckeye rotation is led by Garrett Burhenn (2-1, 4.15 ERA), Seth Lonsway (1-4, 4.45 ERA), and Jack Neely (1-1, 4.01 ERA). Ohio State leads the Big Ten in strikeouts per nine innings (11) and faces a Terrapin lineup that strikes out in 30 percent of its at bats, the highest rate in the conference.

“We have to do a much better job sitting on the breaking ball, especially against those guys on Saturday and Sunday,” head coach Rob Vaughn said.

Neely was dominant in Ohio State’s 5-4 victory allowing one earned run and 11 strikeouts over five innings. Burhenn and Lonsway did not pitch previously against Maryland.

Maryland is third in runs (142) and home runs (31) led by shortstop Ben Cowles. Cowles is first in home runs (10), RBI (29), batting (.360), and OPS (1.270), and crushed Ohio State’s pitching staff. In the two previous games versus Ohio State, Cowles went 4-8 with two runs scored and four RBI.

The Maryland rotation of Sean Burke (1-2, 5.06 ERA), Nick Dean (5.84 ERA), and Jason Savacool (4-1, 5.01 ERA) are known for their strike out capability. The Terps pitchers rank towards the bottom of most pitching categories. However, Maryland is fourth in strikeouts (202) but is tenth in ERA (5.81) and allows 13.2 baserunners per game.

Conversely, Ohio State is towards the bottom of the Big Ten in most offensive categories. The Buckeyes are ninth in runs (99), ninth in home runs (18), tenth in hits (166), and thirteenth in batting average (.230).

Dean made his first start of the season against Ohio State and stuck out three over three innings and allowed one run in the Maryland 5-4 defeat. Savacool pitched five innings and allowed three runs with five strikeouts in a 9-3 Maryland victory.

Ohio State first baseman Connor Pohl is the team leader in offensive production. Pohl was the entire offense for Ohio State in its 9-3 loss to Maryland. Pohl was 1-4 with a home run, two runs scored, and two RBIs. Shortstop Zach Dezenzo went 3-3 with one homerun and two RBI in the 5-4 Ohio State victory. For Maryland to have success they’ll need to limit the reminder of the Ohio State lineup.

Vaughn emphasized the importance of avoiding “free 90s” and playing error free baseball, as the Terps have a .964 field percentage, which ranks second to last in the Big Ten.

“I want us to play clean, I want us to play gritty, and I want us to play together,” Vaughn said.

However, Ohio State also struggles with errors posting a .970 fielding percentage, good for seventh in the conference. A key theme in this series will be who can avoid the errors and play cleaner defensive baseball. In the previous matchup, Ohio State had two more errors than Maryland.

Maryland has an opportunity to right the ship at the halfway point of the season. A good showing against Ohio State can put Maryland back into the hunt for the Big Ten lead. Maryland must take advantage of its positives, which is scoring and eliminate its negatives.

“We have to do a better job at competing,” Vaughn said.