Usual Sunday starter Nate Haberthier allowed 10 runs in 7.1 innings over his last two starts, both resulting in Terps losses. Coach Rob Vaughn knew a change was needed for Maryland to secure its first weekend series sweep of the season.
He turned to Kyle McCoy, a freshman who primarily appeared in relief roles and as a midweek starter, to open the game on the mound. After three innings and one run allowed, Vaughn then deployed Haberthier.
The unique approach yielded favorable results. The two worked together to hold Maine to one run over seven innings. And with another impressive offensive showing, the Terps swept Maine with a 9-1 win.
“They pair up so well together,” Vaughn said. “Those guys paired up … it really allows you to shorten the game.”
Vaughn said in the preseason that McCoy’s arm wasn’t built up enough to withstand a starter’s workload. That was the main reason why the coach tabbed Haberthier as the game three starter. But with the Ohio State transfer’s early season struggles, a shakeup was necessary.
Haberthier particularly struggled in the early innings of his starts. The first batter he faced of his first two starts both took him deep, and he allowed four total runs in the first innings of his three outings.
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Additionally, McCoy had experience pitching as an opener. The freshman left-hander tossed a clean first inning in Maryland’s Feb. 28 midweek win over Delaware before Logan Ott took over and worked into the sixth.
McCoy worked quickly through the bulk of the opposing lineup, retiring the first seven Black Bears he faced in just 20 pitches. A third inning solo homer was Maine’s first hit, but McCoy rebounded to get the next two outs before exiting for good.
“Really efficient, attacked the zone, a lot of weak contact, that’s what you want out of your starter,” Vaughn said. “I thought [McCoy] was outstanding.”
Haberthier threw perfect fourth, fifth and sixth frames. The junior halted the Maine attack as the Terps’ lineup slugged — and walked — their way to a five-run lead. Maryland scored four in the third without recording a hit in the inning via three walks and three hit batsmen. Kevin Keister added on in the fourth with a two-RBI double.
The pitcher ran into trouble for the first time in the seventh, his fourth inning on the mound, when the Black Bears doubled and singled, threatening to close the gap. It was their first base runners since the third-inning solo home run.
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But Haberthier, still largely fresh after efficiently cruising through the middle innings, sent down the next two batters swinging. The two pitchers totaled 11 strikeouts with no walks in their new roles and allowed the bullpen to remain inactive until the eighth inning.
“Our stuff’s totally opposite,” Haberthier said. “I’m a two seam guy with a slider, he’s a four seam guy, so it was a different look. … It’s kind of just complete opposite. I think that’s why it works really well.”
Vaughn has heralded McCoy as the future ace of the Maryland pitching staff after Jason Savacool and Nick Dean’s expected departures following the season. Getting a taste of making a weekend start will prove valuable for the freshman as he continues getting acclimated to a new level.
The win marked Haberthier’s first scoreless appearance as a Terp and Vaughn’s first real look at McCoy’s potential future role. It could be what it takes to solidify Maryland’s Sunday games.
“You’ll see both of those guys in some form or fashion whether it’s longer Kyle, shorter Nate or shorter Kyle, longer Nate,” Vaughn said. “If those two guys can pair up on Sunday in some way, shape or form, we got a chance to be really good.”