On the biggest stage Maryland baseball had been on in recent memory, it ran out of arms.
Impaired by Nick Dean’s freak injury before the 2021 Greenville Regional, the Terps had to start Connor Staine, who had underwhelmed on the mound during the 2021 season, even though his last two appearances had gone well.
But against the Pirates, Maryland would need an ace. And of the five pitchers the Terps put on the mound, no one could stabilize a reeling Maryland. Winning a 9-6 heartbreaker, East Carolina sent a promising regional team scrambling.
Now, the Terps will have another shot at the Pirates. And this time, they have firepower.
“We got three starting pitchers that are three number ones in my opinion,” coach Rob Vaughn told ABC7. “They can run out on Friday nights for most teams.”
An improved Jason Savacool is expected to take the mound for the 8-0 Terps as both squads find themselves in very different positions than in the 2021 postseason. East Carolina has been largely a mixed bag so far as the Pirates were swept by Bryant to start the season, but they have also squeezed out wins against quality opponents.
Before Maryland can enact revenge for its playoff exit, Big Ten rivals Michigan and Indiana State await in front. The Wolverines won’t count as an official conference game, but the opportunity presents itself as the Terps’ first opportunity to measure up to a familiar opponent this season.
Both Maryland and Michigan have been explosive offensively, with Michigan racking up 13 or more runs in three of its last four games. Michigan’s Clark Elliott has been particularly impressive, after being named the Big Ten’s best MLB prospect.
Elliott has an impressive .385/.479/.795 slash line along with nine multi-base hits this season and will likely be one of the more impressive batters Maryland faces. However, the Terps are expected to start Nick Dean on the mound, and he is the only starting pitcher in the Big Ten with zero earned runs this season.
The opposing players will look to duel it out on Friday.
Despite the challenge, Maryland baseball is looking better than ever at the eighth consecutive-win mark. After looking just above-average on offense for most of the season, the Terps broke out against Delaware Tuesday with most of their lineup contributing at the plate.
“We’ve also been really efficient offensively,” Vaughn said. “We played [in a] move-them over, get them-in type situation, but at the same time, we got into small hits and doubles too. That’s what you want out of your offense is to be able to score in a lot of different ways.”
It’s important to note Maryland was able to cycle at its highest gear without much help from one of its best offensive players as well. Matt Shaw went 0-for-6 and two strikeouts against the Blue Hens as the rest of the lineup collectively picked up the slack plus some.
Troy Schreffler Jr. hit well against Delaware. The junior has quietly blossomed at the plate this season — slamming four hits against the Blue Hens and is currently leading the team in batting average.
“Past few weeks we’ve all been hitting a little extra and giving each other feedback,” Schreffler said. “For me, to have those guys on the team to help me and pick things out that I might be doing wrong or something that looks weird … that was a clear showing of the help they’ve given me.”
This Maryland team looks decidedly different at the plate without Ben Cowles’ home-run production, but it looks to operate well enough as a whole in comparison. Maxwell Costes may look to replace Cowles’ power production, so far, with a trio of homers and four doubles to start the season.
This weekend will be Maryland’s toughest yet. There’s no debate about that. And its notorious pitching rotation will be tested tremendously.
The Terps will look to keep their perfect season alive against all three of their opponents. But with East Carolina lingering at the end of the weekend, one could surmise they may want to gun for the team that swiftly ended their postseason dreams not too long ago.