Maryland baseball will head to Champaign, Illinois, carrying a lot of momentum thanks to a weekend rotation that’s finally clicking just in time for its final Big Ten road series.
The Terps will take on the Fighting Illini (19-23, 5-10) and look to retain their spot atop the Big Ten standings.
Though junior Taylor Bloom started the season as the Saturday starter, he was moved to Sunday to get an extra day of rest after a midweek start. He was one of the top returning pitchers after finishing the 2016 campaign with a team-best 2.46 ERA in 102.1 innings pitched.
But Bloom strained to start 2017 and had trouble maintaining consistency after that. He began the season with two starts where he pitched a combined five innings and surrendered 12 total runs. He worked closely with pitching coach Ryan Fecteau to try and get back on track.
“Coach Fecteau and I just went back and looked at last year’s mechanics,” Bloom said. “[We] even looked at some video of me in high school, like what I was doing then.”
The right-hander found his front side was too loose and his delivery wasn’t consistent. Because he doesn’t throw for power and relies more on command, repeating his wind-up allows him to command his pitches.
“With him, I think it was more of a mental thing,” head coach John Szefc said.
After a string of successful starts, he struggled to get past the fifth inning. In a couple outings, he allowed three runs in less than three innings. After a midweek start against West Virginia where he walked three and ceded three runs in 1.1 innings, he was moved to start on Sunday for the following series with Penn State and threw seven innings of two-run ball.
“After [West Virginia] leading up to the weekend, [we] just worked on some small things,” Bloom said. “Just small things here and there, small tweaks which I think just led to my recent success.”
Since the move to Sunday, Bloom has logged three straight quality starts. He’s pitched over five innings in each start and hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs. Typically, Sunday pitchers are younger players that are not as experienced or don’t throw a lot of strikes. Bloom, on the other hand, has pitched in an NCAA Super Regional and 64.7 percent of his pitches are strikes.
“If I’m another team in our league, I don’t want to face him on a Sunday,” head coach John Szefc said. “I think it actually makes us better him pitching on Sunday.”
With Bloom throwing Sundays, freshman Tyler Blohm shifted to Saturday. The southpaw has pitched 57 innings and owns a 2.52 ERA with 53 strikeouts. Mike Shawaryn, one of the best pitchers in school history who left early for the 2016 MLB Draft, recorded a 3.12 ERA in 92 innings and fanned 72 batters in his freshman year.
With the weekend rotation filling out in this way, opposing teams like Illinois will struggle to find breathing room in the opening innings as Brian Shaffer, the Big Ten leader in earned run average, starts on Fridays.
“I don’t really want to face an 89-90 [mph] lefty throwing strikes on a Saturday right behind Shaffer, the best pitcher in the league,” Szefc said of Blohm.
Shaffer will take the mound Friday at 7 p.m., while Blohm will get his Saturday started at 4 p.m. Bloom will round off the weekend with the series finale beginning at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
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