By Ryan Decker, Originally written for West Virginia Illustrated
The Terrapins have spent much of the first half the season nationally ranked in various polls, but dropped out of the rankings following a bad weekend against Nebraska in Big Ten play.
Maryland will look to avoid its first two-game losing streak of the year, meanwhile, the Mountaineers will try to stay hot and begin another winning streak.
“They’re in the Top 25 and we’re on the road again. That’s not unfamiliar to us,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said following Sunday’s game. “This is the kind of game we get pretty excited about. We’ll go out there, and that’d be a huge win for us to get that one.”
MD will be the fourth team on the Mountaineers schedule that will have been nationally ranked for at least one week this season. WVU is 6-2 in previous such games.
West Virginia’s streak of success, in fact, started with a series win over then-No. 10 Baylor in Waco. That series win began a streak of four consecutive series wins, and a portion of the schedule in which the Mountaineers are winners of 11 of their last 15 games.
“The season’s more than half over, so if we can continue to stay motivated and grind, we still feel really good about where we’re at,” Mazey said.
Mazey and hitting coach, Steve Sabins, continue to get production from up and down the lineup. Six every-day players own averages of .294 or better, led by Cole Austin, who’s hitting at a .341 clip. Kyle Gray is piecing together better at bats, and has raised his average dramatically, and freshman catcher Chase Illig appears to be getting more comfortable at the plate.
Not only are the Mountaineers getting on base at a high rate, but they’ve also put their power on display.
Darius Hill clubbed a home run in each of the final two games of the weekend, and Jackson Cramer was one of three WVU players, along with Hill, to homer Saturday, his team-leading sixth long ball.
A total of 10 players have homered for West Virginia this year.
Maryland can also hit for power, with 11 players hitting round trippers, led by Marty Costes with seven and Kevin Smith with six.
Costes not only paces the Terrapins in home runs, but also in hits, runs batted in, and slugging percentage.
As a team, Maryland strikes out at a higher rate than the Mountaineers, which could prove important for Alek Manoah (0-0, 0.77 ERA), who make his second collegiate start.
Manoah will be going up against MD’s junior right-hander Taylor Bloom (3-2, 4.50).
Maryland has only suffered one loss at home (11-1). Meanwhile, WVU already played 20 road games, posting an 11-9 record on the road.
First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. from Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.