Maryland baseball will be on the road again Wednesday, but they will remain close to home.
The Terps will drive a little more than an hour to Ripken Stadium for their matchup with in-state rival Towson (16-26) in Aberdeen, Maryland. The game is an annual battle for the Ripken Cup hosted by the Aberdeen Ironbirds, a Baltimore Orioles Class A affiliate owned by Baltimore great Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr.
Struggling to find a consistent starter for the middle of the week, the Terps have used the bullpen heavily in midweek matchups and will continue to do so Wednesday.
Seven different pitchers have taken the mound in the first inning of a midweek game, including weekend starter Taylor Bloom. None of these seven recorded more than nine outs in any of their outings.
“We want to get guys on the mound and keep them sharp but we don’t want to overuse them,” head coach John Szefc said.
The midweek games help the relievers stay on top of their game because they already follow a daily routine and the game situations reinforce that.
“You’re ready every day,” Ryan Selmer, who has emerged as a steady option in the eighth and ninth innings, said. “[It’s] really staying locked in and watching how the starters and relievers pitch to hitters so when you go into the game, you’re prepared to do better than that.”
With reliever Ryan Hill starting his second straight midweek game, Szefc said the plan will be for Hill to throw a few innings and then have another reliever come in for around an inning.
In their last midweek game on April 19 against William & Mary, the Terps followed Szefc’s plan to a T.
The junior transfer Hill threw three innings of no-hit ball and struck out three, then Jamal Wade picked up the win with two innings of work. Jared Price, Andrew Miller and Ryan Selmer combined for the next four innings, allowing just one hit.
“Tomorrow will be a day like [William & Mary],” head coach John Szefc said. “We’ll start with Ryan, we won’t use him too long and then we have a good stable of probably six guys, seven guys behind that.”
The five players that pitched against William & Mary have been the rock of Maryland’s bullpen. The group has combined for 43 runs allowed (33 earned) in 107.2 innings pitched for a 2.77 ERA. Each player owns an ERA below 3.50.
“The body of work for all those guys, the positives far, far outweigh any kind of negatives,” Szefc said.
Hill’s most recent appearance went a little differently than William & Mary, though. On Friday, bizarre weather postponed the Terps’ matchup with Indiana to Saturday and forced Hill to “start” in the third inning when the game resumed. He allowed three runs and walked three in one inning.
The rough outing Hill had won’t deter Szefc from throwing him back out there Wednesday.
“You can’t dwell too much on one outing or even more than one outing,” Szefc said. “You look at the whole body of work and you try to make the right decision based off of matchups, who you have, who’s coming up and the situation.”
The Texas native’s body of work is pretty solid thus far, as he leads the bullpen with 33.1 innings and is tied with Selmer with 19 appearances. He’s been pitching coach Ryan Fecteau’s go-to option in tight spots with the right-hander pitching well in almost any situation. Hill has fanned 43 batters while holding them to .203 batting average.
Even if the bullpen is struggling in a midweek game, the offense has provided a big boost. The bats have plated 69 runs in nine games played for an average of 7.67 runs per contest. Maryland holds a 6-3 record in Tuesday and Wednesday games.
After dropping two weekend games to Indiana in Bloomington, Maryland remains ranked in two of the three major polls and hold their spot at the top of the Big Ten standings. Towson is seventh in the Colonial conference with a 4-12 record.
The Ripken Cup tradition began in 2014 and Maryland has held the trophy ever since. The teams have faced off twice at Ripken Stadium, winning the first contest 4-3 and again in 2015 by a score of 9-2. The game was cancelled last year due to weather.
Maryland leads the series history over Towson 44-30-2. The Terps have triumphed in six straight meetings, last losing in 2011 when Towson won both ends of a two-game series.
First pitch is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
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