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Better Know an Opponent: Maryland Terrapins

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Tigers are better than turtles

It took a year off, but now it is a time for the return of your completely worthless Poseur Gets to Know the Opposition weekend previews! I know you’ve missed this random collection of esoteric data that bears little resemblance to helpful knowledge for the weekend, but that’s the kind of service I deliver.

It is of course the Maryland Terrapins who drag me out of my semi-retirement from previewing, my former stomping grounds and childhood home. The Terps had never been known as much as a baseball powerhouse, but they have had a recent resurgence to respectability. They even went to the tournament twice in past three years, after a thirty year absence from the field.

Maryland Terrapins

Record: 1-2 (0-0)
RS/RA: 19/25
ISR/RPI: Unavailable

The Terps started their campaign with two losses, one to Ball St and the other to Louisville, and then bouncing back for a win over Alabama St. There’s no shame in losing to Louisville, but the Terps don’t want to start this season in the hole. They were the preseason pick to win the Big Ten by the coaches and most publications, and getting off to this kind of start was not in the cards. SS Kevin Smith is a potential first round pick, and last year’s team struggled a bit with its youth. This is supposed to be the breakout year, and they haven’t broken out yet.

It’s also so early they we don’t have computer rankings yet, so nobody is hitting the panic button yet.

Mascot: Testudo

Maryland used to be the Old Liners, which is a mascot so awful that not even Auburn would steal it. Looking to change to something that wasn’t quite so stupid, the university turned to football coach and future school president Curley Byrd. His hometown was home to a mass of snapping turtles, so the student body named its sports team after the terrapin in his honor.

The school erected a bronze statue to the turtle and named it Testudo, after the Roman military formation of the same name, famed for its tortoise-like protective shell. I like mascots based on ancient Rome. If you rub the statue’s nose, it is said to bring you good luck, which is why the statue now has a shiny nose. You are not allowed to rub the nose of the guy in the turtle suit. That would be assault, so don’t even think about it.

About the School

USNWR College Rank: 60th
Most Popular Major: Biology

You’d think a school nestled just inside the Beltway would be churning out political operatives, but Maryland’s bread and butter is the sciences. And despite the more famous medical school of Johns Hopkins just up the road, Maryland’s most popular major is biology. It’s not just future doctors working on pre-med, but a deep commitment to environmental sciences thanks to the omnipresent Chesapeake Bay. There are few thing Maryland takes more seriously than the Bay, and it rubs off on the student body, apparently.

About the Team

The Offense

SS Kevin Smith (259/308/409) is a preseason All-American and expected to go in the first round in the draft. He’s a legit stud. However, he’s not the only guy who the Tigers need to worry about. OF Marty Costes (263/363/479) was a Freshman All-American last season, and he picked up right where he left off on the first weekend, slugging 667 and reach base at a 625 clip. He is the team’s biggest power threat, hitting 8 homers and 91 total bases last year. 2B Nick Dunn (300/382/392) is another of the team’s offensive anchors, as he led the team in hits and doubles last season. He also smacked a home run against Louisville in the opening weekend, so its not just gap power.

Last year, the team hit 256/351/378. They scored precisely 5.0 runs a game, giving them a good offense that at the same time doesn’t exactly terrify you. The Terps rely more on power than speed, as the only stole 28 bases on 44 attempts last year, 16 of those steals were divided between two players, one of whom isn’t on the roster this year. Madison Nickens went 8-10 on the basepaths last year and is the only major base stealing threat.

The Defense

The Terps return their top two starters for last year, and they are legit. The two combined for just 22 walks combined last year in their 29 starts, so expect them to pound the strike zone and not give anything away. Brian Shaffer (2.60 ERA, 75/13 K/BB) will take the hill on Friday, followed by Taylor Bloom (2.46 ERA, 60/9 K/BB). Much like LSU, there is not much drop off at the top of the rotation.

The issues come on Sunday for Maryland. Freshman Tyler Blohm will start, and he did well against a fairly outmatched team, so we’ll see how he does against a lineup like LSU’s. It’s welcome to the big leagues weekend for Blohm.

The bullpen is a mess. In the opener against Ball St, they took a 3-1 lead in the 5th and set it on fire, allowing 7 runs in 4 innings. The Terps lost 8-3. Bloom struggled against Louisville, leaving after three, but the pen didn’t help. They allowed 4 runs over the last 5 innings, as the Terps lost 10-7. Even against Alabama St, the bullpen took what seemed like an easy win and nearly blew it. They allowed 4 runs in the 9th inning before eking out a 9-7 win. So, in 13 innings, the Maryland bullpen has allowed 15 runs, all of them earned. Get to the pen is what I’m saying.

Tiger Bait?

The Terps can score runs, and they won’t be over-awed by Alex Box. They have played and beaten some top schools in the past. The top of the rotation is impressive, so LSU might struggle to score runs on Friday and Saturday, but the bullpen looks to be a complete tire fire right now. Any game that is close in the late inning should be a decisive LSU advantage, especially if the drunks get the crowd going.

It’s way too much to ask LSU to sweep a team this good, but the Tigers should win this series. It will likely go to a rubber match on Sunday, where the Tiger bats should bash out the second consecutive series victory.