The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (36-21) vs Old Dominion Monarchs (36-24)
The Location: Columbia, South Carolina
The Time: May 30th, 1 pm EST
Proj. Starters: UMD – RHP Jake Stinnett (7-6, 2.60 ERA), ODU – Andy Roberts (6-3, 3.01 ERA)
The Maryland Terrapins are surely riding high after making their first NCAA tournament appearance in 43 years, but they’d better stay focused if they intend on playing deep into the Columbia Region. First up, the Terrapins have to dispatch the Old Dominion Monarchs, a team eerily similar to themselves in many respects.
Old Dominion, with 36 wins, finished up fourth in Conference USA and may not have made the tournament without an impressive run to the championship game. The Monarchs sport the 28th strongest schedule, and hold an RPI rank of 35 (for reference, Georgia Tech has the 32nd RPI nationally), meaning they’re a respectable squad.
The Terrapins had a similarly impressive ACC tournament run that included beating Florida State en route to the championship game, but ultimately fell short of an ACC championship with a loss to Georgia Tech. Still, having made the title game for the first time since 1971 is an accomplishment in and of itself, and Maryland seems to be fine going up against anyone.
Pitching: Advantage Terps
For this matchup, neither team will likely cede too much ground on the mound, though the Terps have a slight edge. Everything begins and ends with senior slinger Jake Stinnett and his 2.60 ERA for the Terps, and he’s one major reason why Maryland can be confident they’ll win regardless of run output. Stinnett goes pretty deep into games (104 innings in 15 outings), is a strikeout machine (123 Ks), and opponents just can’t seem to get a good read on him (.191 BA).
Contrast that with Andy Roberts, who might have a solid ERA but throws merely ordinary stuff (37 Ks in 74 IP) and doesn’t last too long. Roberts is a solid starter though, and can still get it done on the mound any outing. Nonetheless, opponents are hitting .260 off the kid, so Maryland can look forward to that.
Old Dominion’s reserves are just as underwhelming; opponents are batting over .250 against all but two of their pitchers (with ten or more innings under their belt). While Maryland isn’t spectacular in that regard, their closer, Ben Brewster, has opponents batting .132. In conjunction with starters that can go the distance, that gives you a good chance to win.
Hitting: Advantage Monarchs
Let’s be clear here: the Monarchs aren’t an amazingly dominant hitting team, they’re just consistent. As a unit, the Monarchs bat a respectable as heck .283 to Maryland’s .270. They’ve got four players (Nick Walker, Taylor Ostrich (I know), P.J. Higgins and Josh Eldridge) hitting .300 or better, and their top six hitters are great at getting on base. There may not be much power, but there are a lot of two-baggers being hit by this group (111 doubles this season).
With the pitching the Terps have had all year, they should be winning a lot more games. Unfortunately, consistency is an issue for Maryland. Brandon Lowe and Blake Schmit are reliable options, but outside of that Maryland has to get creative to get on base. They still have Charlie White, who racked up 24 steals in 28 attempts this year and have a solid .380 OB% as a team, but the Monarchs beat them outright.
These are two good defensive teams, with Maryland narrowing edging out Old Dominion in fewest fielding errors 55-54, and both teams sporting a sky high 97% fielding percentage. Neither group can afford to make errors, so they typically don’t, and it feels like this is where the game will be won or lost.