The Maryland baseball team is picking up a head of steam going into this weekend’s series with Nebraska. The Terps have won 18 of their last 21 games, including their last five.
Nebraska is also firing on all cylinders, owning an 8-1-1 record over its last 10 games and a six-game winning streak at home.
Each team will try to douse the other’s fire this weekend when the 19-8 Terps take on the 17-10-1 Cornhuskers at Hawks Field in Lincoln, Nebraska.
But despite Maryland’s hot streak, it holds just a 4-5 road record.
The Terrapins have acted as both the broom and the dustpan while on the road, getting swept by LSU early in the season and romping Rutgers in three games last weekend. The other road games resulted in a two-game split with UNC-Wilmington and a midweek loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Maryland head coach John Szefc has played around with his lineup a lot during the Terps’ recent winning ways, and he may have to continue doing so with shortstop Kevin Smith day-to-day with a shoulder injury. Hed did not play in the double-header Sunday against Rutgers and Tuesday against Richmond.
Szefc has never needed a replacement for the junior during his time at Maryland. The shortstop started all but one game, which he played in, prior to the Rutgers series. Smith averages .267 with 23 hits and six home runs.
“I know he wants to play, he works very hard and I think he’ll be back in the saddle real soon,” Szefc said. “We don’t push guys to come back. They come back when they’re ready.”
Senior preferred walk-on Patrick Hisle has looked the part in Smith’s place. He’s come up big for the Terps in clutch situations, scoring the winning run in the Terps’ comeback win over Richmond.
“It doesn’t really surprise me, honestly because the guy’s a senior, he’s been in the system for four years,” Szefc said. “He practices as hard as anybody. He’s an easy guy to root for.”
Hisle isn’t the only one stepping up offensively in Smith’s absence, as sophomore catcher Dan Maynard went 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs Tuesday. He’s hit .333 in 15 appearances and clubbed the first home run of his collegiate career against Richmond.
“Dan’s awesome. It seems like whenever his name’s called, he just gets it done,” centerfielder Zach Jancarski said. “It doesn’t matter what time in the game, whether he’s starting or off the bench, when he comes in, that dude’s a gamer and he’s getting it done.”
The pitching rotation allows Szefc the wiggle room to make these lineup changes, and it showcased that last weekend against Rutgers. Brian Shaffer and Taylor Bloom each allowed just one earned run in their starts, while Tyler Blohm ceded no earned runs.
In 21 combined appearances, the weekend starting trio has pitched 116.1 innings with a 2.55 ERA. Those 116.1 innings are just under 50 percent of Maryland’s total innings, and the three rested during Maryland’s six weekday games.
They’ll oppose Nebraska’s weekend rotation, which has put up similar numbers this season. Jake Hohensee, Derek Burkamper and Jake Meyers have combined to toss an impressive 2.42 ERA in 96.2 innings.
Hohensee will likely take the mound against Shaffer on Friday. In his last start against Indiana, Hohensee threw 7.1 innings and allowed three earned runs. He holds batters to a .207 average at the plate this season. Shaffer has been lights out with a 1.70 ERA and a .187 opposing batting average.
Burkamper owns a 3.04 ERA and is expected to pitch Saturday against Bloom, who has thrown for a 3.89 ERA. On Sunday, Blohm and Meyers will face off. Blohm has pitched 34.2 innings and a 2.38 ERA, while Meyers has logged a 1.96 ERA in 36.2 innings of work. Meyers also plays centerfield, starting all but one game for the Huskers, and bats .297.
Nebraska’s Angelo Altavilla and Scott Schreiber are two players that the Terps will need to watch closely from the mound. Altavilla, the sophomore infielder, hits .344 and holds a .426 on-base percentage. Schreiber bats .339 and leads his team with 24 RBIs.
The first pitch of the series is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. in Lincoln, followed by a 3:05 p.m. start time on Saturday and 1:05 p.m. on Sunday.
Edited by Joe Catapano.
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