Feature photo courtesy of Maryland athletics.
With its offense breaking out of the early-season doldrums, Maryland baseball enters its first mid-week game of the season on a three-game winning streak.
Maryland disposed of all three of its opponents in the USA Baseball-Irish Classic, defeating Notre Dame, Dayton and No. 20 North Carolina State. Their opponent for Tuesday, William and Mary, also picked up three wins in the same tournament, beating Monmouth, Dayton and Rhode Island.
The Terrapins offense entered the tournament in Cary, North Carolina, batting a meager .245. Propelled by their middle infielders, Maryland collected 30 hits in three days, with 15 coming in the weekend finale against Dayton.
Second baseman Nick Dunn recorded four hits and three RBIs against the Flyers and scored three times Saturday against the Wolfpack.
Shortstop Kevin Smith, who came into Friday with a team-high 11 strikeouts, went 5-for-8 with three RBIs in the final two games, avoiding a strikeout in both contests.
A reinvigorated offense could take advantage of a William and Mary pitching staff that’s been shaky outside of their weekend starters. The Tribe has a 4.55 ERA as a team, but that number rises to 6.15 when starters Nick Raquet, Bodie Sheehan and Nick Brown aren’t on the mound.
The Tribe bullpen has been anything but reliable so far in the late innings; they’ve given up 15 runs in the seventh inning, the team’s most in any frame. They’ve given up seven more in the eighth. By comparison, the Tribe has given up 15 runs combined in the first two innings, their next-worst pair of innings.
In theory, the Terrapins could be set up to strike early or strike late. They did both this weekend, batting around in the first inning against Dayton and staging a go-ahead rally in the ninth against Notre Dame.
Second baseman Cullen Large is the player for Maryland to watch, plugged in at the three-hole in the William and Mary lineup. The junior leads the team with a .415 average, .707 slugging percentage, seven doubles and 11 RBIs. Center fielder Charles Ameer has also shown some power, hitting his third home run of the year Saturday as part of a 3-for-3 performance against Dayton.
Challenging Large and Ameer will be Maryland’s Hunter Parsons, making his first start of the year. The sophomore posted a 3.50 ERA with a .201 average against in 36 innings last year. He had a strong summer pitching for the Baltimore Redbirds, posting a 1.40 ERA and winning the Cal Ripken League’s pitcher of the year award.
Junior Aaron Fernandez will start for William and Mary. He’s given up five runs (three earned) in four innings this season, but posted a 4.35 ERA in 11 appearances in 2016. Fernandez is not one to fan many batters; now in his fourth season, he’s averaged one strikeout per two innings in his career.
The matchup has been pushed up to 2 p.m. in an effort to avoid inclement weather in College Park.