After being swept at Bill Davis Stadium by a scorching-hot Illinois team last weekend, Ohio State baseball got back on track in midweek affairs with Miami (OH) and Cincinnati. The Buckeyes, who stand 33-13 for the season, will wrap up their home schedule for the year by welcoming one of the Big Ten's new programs to Columbus for the first time.
Maryland, which at 11-7 in conference play sits just a game behind the scarlet and gray in the standings, also suffered a home sweep last weekend (by Indiana), and is solidly on the bubble to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament. Just a win away from a trip to Omaha and the College World Series last season, the Terps are 32-16, and have seen their RPI ranking drop to 51st.
LGHL: It's Maryland's first season in the Big Ten. What has you impression been of the conference so far from a baseball standpoint? Any surprises?
Kramer: I've been pleasantly surprised at the high level of competition, particularly from a pitching and defense standpoint. The ACC might have a few more power hitters, and the lower third of that conference is better than the B1G's basement, but overall the two conference are roughly equal this year. (BTW: Nice win for you guys against Louisville.)
LGHL: Last season, Maryland was one win away from a trip to Omaha. Of course it's a new season, but how has this year's club been different from the one that fell to eventual national runner-up Virginia?
Kramer: The 2014 club had dangerous hitters throughout the line-up, more speed on the base paths, and two stud pitchers. This year's team has a number of hitters capable of tying the score with one swing of the bat, but the bottom third of the line-up has been ineffective. On the mound, Maryland would have had two stud pitchers again this year, but Tayler Stiles suffered an awful injury against Cal State Fullerton. So even this late in the season the starting rotation is a work in progress. The bullpen this year has been an improvement over last year, which is why Maryland doesn't get blown out that often.
LGHL: Mike Shawaryn has been special since he arrived in College Park, but had an uncharacteristically rough start last time out against Indiana. Any reason to think that game was anything other than an aberration?
Kramer: It was an aberration. Shawaryn has been so consistently lights out, that when he has an off-game eyebrows are raised. His slider stayed up against Indiana, and the strike zone was a mystery (to both sides' pitchers). Even so, he was one errant throw away from leaving the game with a 4-3 lead and possibly going 11-0.
LGHL: Is there anyone on the team who's performance this season has really stood out or surprised? Who should B1G baseball fans not as well acquainted with Maryland's program know about?
Kramer: Kevin Martir went on a hot streak the last 1/3 of 2014 and has remained on fire in 2015. He can hit for average and power, and is great in the clutch. Brandon Lowe's average has cooled off a bit, but he gets on base at an amazing rate. Kevin Smith, the freshman shortstop, has been the biggest surprise, and he'll be on the B1G freshman of the year team. On the bump, Kevin Mooney has been a Jekyll/Hyde person. If his curve is on point then he is a virtually untouchable. If not, then he'll issue walks and HBPs, with things getting messy quickly.
LGHL: After being swept by the Hoosiers, falling out of the polls, and seeing their RPI drop to 51, how big of a series is this weekend's for the Terps?
Kramer: Huge for a number of reasons. You've already touched on RPI. If the Terps can't take this weekend's series, then they'll have to make hay in the B1G tournament to reach the NCAA tournament. Second, the Terps' bats have been silent for much of the past three weeks. Scoring runs against a good OSU pitching staff would be a great sign moving forward, and perhaps help the Terps regain much of the mojo that they had earlier this season.
Land-Grant Holy Land returned the favor over on Testudo Times. You can check it out here.