Maryland baseball (4-4) escapes the rain this weekend as it heads down the coast to Conway, South Carolina, to take on Radford (3-5), Coastal Carolina (8-2) and Ball State (3-4) in the Johnny Gardner Law Group Tournament.
The Terps have struggled offensively the past five games, going 2-3 and struggling to get hits. For them, the key to success this weekend will be getting on the board early and continuing to make solid contact every at-bat..
“All of us, I think we’re going through a little something,” said first baseman Kevin Biondic before the team’s midweek game against VCU.
Head coach Rob Vaughn agreed, citing Murphy’s Law; “What can go wrong will go wrong, and it did [against Army].”
All of Maryland’s starters are hitting below .300, with catcher Justin Morris batting a mere .095.
The Terrapin coaching staff hasn’t strayed from junior Marty Costes as the leadoff hitter, even though he is hitting .161. However, Costes has a .316 on-base percentage, which is likely the reason he has remained at the top of the lineup.
“You watch our guys hit, you watch them day-in, day-out, the ability’s there, the work is there,” said Vaughn after the Terps’ game against VCU. “Sometimes you get in funks, you know, and there’s times where you just can’t get that big hit.”
Coastal Carolina will pose the biggest offensive threat for Maryland, with four frequent starters hitting over .300: Cory Wood, Kyle Skeels, Cameron Pearcey and Parker Chavers. All of the Chanticleers who see solid playing time are batting over .200.
Radford has two starters hitting over .300, redshirt juniors Kyle Butler and Andrew Szamski. Ball State junior William Baker is hitting just below .450, and outfielders Jeff Riedel and Griffin Hulecki are both hitting over .300.
Against VCU on Wednesday, Maryland tallied only two hits, winning 2-0 thanks to the pitching staff. Heading into the weekend, The Terps’ rotation will look to build off that momentum.
Friday will be a righty matchup, with Maryland senior Taylor Bloom up against Radford junior Ryan Sande. Bloom has a 2.57 ERA compared to Sande’s 1.80, but has also pitched four more innings.
Saturday will be Terrapin left-hander Tyler Blohm facing off against Chanticleers right-hander Zack Hopeck. Hopeck’s ERA is twice that of Blohm, though the two have both have pitched 11.1 innings.
Maryland’s Sunday starter will likely be Hunter Parsons, who struggled to start the season but looked comfortable last Sunday against Army, helping hold the Black Knights to three runs in the Terps’ 6-3 win.
Ball State will start either left-hander Garett Simmons or right-hander Kyle Nicolas on Sunday. Simmons has a 5.62 ERA in eight innings pitched, and Nicolas has a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings pitched. Parsons has a 14.14 ERA in seven innings pitched, after giving up eight earned runs in one inning in his first start of the season against Tennessee.
While the Terps bullpen has been impactful, the team will try to conserve its pitchers, since they have a midweek matchup on Tuesday, March 6. Even so, Maryland will likely turn to first baseman-turned two-way player Kevin Biondic to help out this weekend.
Biondic has made four relief appearances this season, in addition to starting all seven games so far at first base, and has allowed no earned runs.
“It’s definitely a huge plus for us, having him so versatile,” said Morris, referring to Biondic’s new pitching role. “You can set the lineup and you can bring him in if you need him, and at the same time you don’t need to take him out of the lineup, he can still hit.”
Terrapin closer John Murphy has also allowed no earned runs in four relief appearances. Murphy, Biondic, and freshman Sean Fisher have been the most reliable for Maryland out of the bullpen.
“To see these guys continue to work, continue to grind, continue to get a little bit better and better, it’s been a fun thing to watch,” said Vaughn of the pitching staff.
Maryland takes on Radford at 11 am on Friday to start off the tournament. They then play Coastal Carolina Saturday at 3 pm, and Ball State Sunday at 11 am.
Fans can listen to the games on the Maryland Baseball Network.
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