After dropping two games to Illinois over the weekend, Maryland baseball (15-17) will look to gain much-needed momentum in a midweek matchup on Tuesday against James Madison (15-15) in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
The Terps struggled to drive in runs again this weekend, though not for lack of trying. With infielders Nick Dunn, Kevin Biondic and A.J. Lee all batting above .270, and eight players total batting over .200, the Maryland offense needs to work on getting runners home and runs up on the board. In Maryland’s last midweek, the offense stranded 17 runners on base, losing to William & Mary in 11 innings.
“We did a much better job [of getting runners on base],” said head coach Rob Vaughn after the loss last week. “We took our walks, we competed better, there were some good swings in there.”
“Everyone obviously wants to win,” said pitcher Mark DiLuia. “But we had runners in scoring position and we just, we hit the ball hard just right at guys sometimes. Ultimately, the ball just didn’t roll our way.”
The lagging Terps offense goes up against a decent Dukes pitching staff, with right-hander Michael Bechtold likely to pitch Tuesday. Bechtold enters with a 3.72 ERA in 9 ⅔ innings pitched. He started James Madison’s midweek last week, and with the other midweek starter Christian Bourne struggling, with a 12.92 ERA in 7 ⅔ innings pitched, Bechtold is likely to start Tuesday’s game as well.
Bechtold has the backing of a fairly consistent bullpen, something Maryland lacks at times. Three of the Dukes’ relievers enter Tuesday with ERAs below 3.00, while only two of the Terps’ relievers boast those stats–Kevin Biondic (0.55) and John Murphy (2.60).
While Maryland’s bullpen and batters are lacking consistency, midweek starter Mark DiLuia has been finding his groove on the mound. Last week against the Tribe, DiLuia pitched six full innings and struck out six batters, allowing only four runs. If DiLuia puts up another start like that, Maryland has a chance at a win.
“If we can get a guy [like DiLuia] that we can kind of book it, that he can go out there and give us five or six [innings] every Tuesday,” said Vaughn. “Which is what he’s fully capable of, that just sets everything up to be successful.”
DiLuia faces a James Madison lineup hitting slightly better than Maryland. Freshman Josh Jones leads the Dukes with a .330 batting average, followed closely by senior Adam Sisk (.300) and sophomore Fox Semones (.291). For the Terps to win, stifling the Dukes lineup and keeping them from multi-run hits is key.
First pitch Tuesday is at 6 p.m. Fans can listen to the game on the Maryland Baseball Network.