Maryland (20-10) has had trouble finding a reliable mid-week starter in 2017. So when they face a tough West Virginia team (19-11) at home Tuesday, they will turn to their regular Saturday starter, Taylor Bloom.
West Virginia is third in the Big 12 with a 6-3 conference record. That’s impressive considering there is just a single team in the conference having a sub-.500 season: Kansas.
The Mountaineers beat that Kansas team to get two conference wins, but they also won their series with No. 10 Baylor and No. 23 Oklahoma State. Even more impressive, those victories over Baylor and Oklahoma State both came on the road.
Maryland is looking to add some big names to its own resume, which could be why Bloom will get the call to start Tuesday. The Terps rejoined the Top 25 last week but fell back out after they lost two of three in Nebraska.
West Virginia received one vote fewer than Maryland in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, garnering six votes and placing outside the Top 25.
Bloom didn’t last long in his start Saturday against the Cornhuskers, getting knocked out after picking up four outs and surrendering three earned runs. He only threw 39 pitches, less than half of his season average of 83 per start, so Maryland hopes he’s fresh enough to throw a few innings on two days’ rest.
West Virginia shouldn’t be an easy opponent for Bloom. The Mountaineers are hitting .287 as a team and have seven regulars hitting .290 or better.
Infielder Cole Austin leads the starters with a .341 average and 27 runs. First baseman Jackson Cramer ties Austin in runs scored while also leading the team with six home runs and 26 RBIs.
Bloom had the best ERA on the Terps last year (2.46), but the righty has had a tougher time in 2017, pitching to a 4.50 ERA and .308 batting average against.
Opposing Bloom, freshman right-hander Alek Manoah will make his second start for the Mountaineers. Manoah has pitched in 11.2 innings over 10 games and has compiled a 0.77 ERA.
Be it the West Virginia lineup or arm fatigue that knocks Bloom out of the game, Maryland will likely need a healthy contribution from its bullpen.
Long relief outings aren’t unusual for the Terps on Tuesdays and Wednesdays: the bullpen has averaged seven innings in six midweek games, never throwing fewer than 6.1 innings.
Maryland will hope to avoid using too many arms Tuesday because it travels to Fairfax, Virginia, the next day to face George Mason.
The Patriots (12-20) don’t have the same pedigree as the Mountaineers, as they are ranked 237th out of 299 Division I baseball teams, according to RPI. George Mason is hitting .235 as a team, but it shows some patience, walking 4.28 times a game for an on-base percentage of .341.
The Terrapins will look to improve their 5-7 road record. Six of those losses came to North Carolina, LSU and Nebraska, all top 50 RPI teams. The other came against UNCW.
For offense, Maryland should feel comfortable turning to outfielders Zach Jancarski and Marty Costes right now. The leadoff-hitting Jancarski has gotten on base in nine straight, and Costes is hitting .411 in his last 12 games with five home runs and 11 RBIs.
Tuesday’s game in College Park will take place at 4 p.m., and the action in Fairfax Wednesday begins at 3 p.m.
Edited by Austin Kleber.