James Madison baseball coach Marlin Ikenberry understood if Maryland baseball didn’t want to play them.
As several contending teams — Texas A&M, Ole Miss, TCU and Texas State among others — canceled mid-week games against mid-majors, Maryland coach Rob Vaughn mentioned that Ikenberry said he’d respect the Terps’ decision to do the same.
Vaughn said he shot down Ikenberry’s suggestion. The Terps played the Dukes and routed them with an impressive 12-2 beatdown on Tuesday. Their decision goes against the recent trend of canceling games to preserve postseason standing in college baseball — one Vaughn is strongly against.
“I looked around college baseball this week and it’s, in my opinion, very disgusting what people are doing in college baseball [in] canceling games,” Vaughn said. “We do this for these kids. That’s why we have a job, and there are seniors that are losing games because people don’t want to hurt resumes. I think that’s a joke to be honest with you.”
Texas A&M kicked off the uproar by canceling its final regular season home game against Incarnate Word citing a “mutual agreement” between teams. Aggies skipper Jim Schlossnagle gave a much more straightforward explanation: his team’s RPI.
“I’m not going to hide from it,” Schlossnagle told The Eagle. “I think, when the NCAA committee puts such an emphasis on RPI and different things and then conference games matter so much, when you get to this time of the year you have to manage that.”
Rating Percentage-Index is a metric that plays into many postseason decisions and is a rough measure of a team’s caliber based on its strength of schedule. Many of the teams undergoing cancellations were in positions where those midweeks didn’t help their RPI.
Incarnate Word, Tarleton State, Arkansas State and Houston Baptist — the teams that were scheduled in the canceled games — all had low RPIs that could potentially burden a playoff contender’s RPI if they played, much less lost.
While he didn’t like canceling A&M’s game against Incarnate Word, Schlossnagle told The Eagle playing just didn’t make much sense “given where we are in the season … and for where they are.”
That contrasts with Vaughn’s view.
“We scheduled this game. It’s the right thing for both of us,” Vaughn said. “If something’s wrong and you can’t come, we’ll have a conversation, but we are not [canceling]. We’re gonna play the games we have scheduled.”
For other teams that commitment seemed to fray under the weight of maintaining RPI. However, playing the Dukes didn’t hurt Maryland’s case — the Terps came into the game ranked tenth and jumped up a spot the next day.
That jump isn’t necessarily because of JMU, who first baseman Max Costes praised as a perennially good mid-major team.
A variety of factors, including the teams above Maryland and ones they’ve already played, could’ve influenced their standing in the metric.
At the same time, Maryland would have slotted in that group of midweek cancellations. A playoff contender with important games on the horizon going up against a mid-major.
But instead the Terps played and won.
Maryland still has an important series against Purdue this weekend on short rest. But the Terps will try to channel a midweek blow-out into their quest to win the regular-season Big Ten title.
“We control what we can control,” Nick Lorusso said. “These games are good for us leading up to the weekend. All of our guys just want to compete and want to play. I’m glad we play these games.”