Maryland baseball was 1-3 and in dire straits after a tough opening series against Michigan State.
After the series ended, the Terps revealed Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Max Costes suffered a wrist injury that would keep him out for the next few weeks.
The junior’s injury left a power-hitting void in the lineup — one that the Terps needed to fill quickly. Enter Ben Cowles.
Cowles, a 6-foot-1 junior, listed more than 30 pounds lighter than Costes, didn’t appear to fit the mold. Furthermore, his .241/.364/.463 slashline in 2020 made him an unlikely replacement.
Nevertheless, Cowles shined from the get-go.
He hit lights-out in a split Rutgers series, totaling five home-runs and eight RBIs in the four-game span. Maryland walked out of the weekend 3-5 with a chance to reach .500 in March, partially due to Cowles.
“He’s put his heart and soul into this team,” coach Rob Vaughn said after the squad’s doubleheader against Rutgers on March 13.
With his performance in the Rutgers series, Cowles captured the Big Ten’s Player of the Week award and cemented his status as a top hitter for the Terps — and his numbers look similar to Costes’ at this point last year.
Cowles’ OPS is sixth in the country and second to Minnesota’s Zack Raabe in the Big Ten. All of his hitting numbers this season have shown massive improvement from where he was last season.
A big reason for his stellar OPS has been his high slugging percentage, which is tied for fourth highest in the country. Costes was better at getting on base last season, but Cowles has brute-forced his way ahead.
But for Cowles, putting bat to ball is the priority.
“I’m not really a power hitter,” Cowles said. “I’m just trying to get on base, steal bags and score runs for our team.”
And with Costes back in the lineup, Cowles will now have to share his hitting success with the incumbent star.
It’s a responsibility he’s more than willing to share.
“I’ll go back to the Rutgers weekend. I was kind of upset over there on the bench. [I was thinking] ‘Damn, I wish I could get in on this home-run fest right now,’” Costes said.
If Costes can get back to his 2020 self and Cowles can keep up his hitting success, the Terps could have one of the most dangerous hitting duos out there.
“[Cowles] put his heart and soul into improving his game and to do anything he can,” Vaughn said.