Due to impending rain showers forecast for the weekend, the three-game series between Boston College and Maryland had to adjust its schedule. Instead of playing Friday-Saturday-Sunday, the Eagles and Terps will now play a doubleheader on Friday with the game to honor military veterans now being played on Sunday.
BC Offense vs. Maryland Defense
Jake Stinnett and Mike Shawaryn get the start in the first two games for Maryland, which means BC instantly becomes a substantial underdog in both of those. Stinnett has a 2.68 ERA and Shawaryn is at 2.63. Stinnett leads the ACC in strikeouts (84) and complete games (3). Shawaryn is tied for second in the ACC for wins (7). In 54 innings this year, Shawaryn's only allowed 18 runs. Stinnett's allowed 25 but in 20 more innings.
But if there's something for BC to hold onto against those two guys, it's that they can be prone to giving up runners. Shawaryn has a WHIP of 1.90. Stinnett is slightly better at 1.75. That's not lights out, but it's not great either. Of course, even if a pitcher is prone to giving up runners, we've seen that BC cannot hit with men on. They've struggled with that all year, and even with guys in scoring position, it's rare to see someone drive in runners as opposed to getting them in with a grounder. The BC offense can steal bases and execute sacrifice bunts, but that can only get you so far.
The third expected starter for Maryland is Jake Drossner. The Terps have won five of his seven starts, meaning he has a 4-0 record (to go along with a 2.45 ERA). He will present a matchup nightmare if he can be productive from a Sunday perspective, where BC typically throws Jeff Burke.
The BC offense hasn't been terrible as of late. They really woke up over the weekend against NC State, putting together some games that looked like their season opening performances. They did dip back against Northeastern and St. John's, but at this point, I'd classify this lineup as one that is trying to maximize a machine that is sorely lacking in several areas. They know they have raw talent, and they're using that talent to get to a certain point. But since the machine (i.e. the talent) isn't remotely close to refined, they ultimately can't maximize it as best as they can. Therein lies the problem.
But that doesn't mean BC can't put together a decent enough showing. Chris Shaw ripped the cover off the ball last week, and he's now pushing up around the .300 mark. Joe Cronin is hitting .274, and Blake Butera is around .270 with a 10-game hitting streak. If I'm Mike Gambino, I'm rolling with Cronin in the two hole in the order, Butera in the third spot, and Shaw hitting cleanup. And I'd consider batting Michael Strem lead off even though he's not a prototype for the spot. But he can actually get on base, which helps.
Drastic times call for drastic measures.
BC Defense vs. Maryland Offense
I'll say this - BC pitchers have done a good to decent job of holding opponents from killing the ball. Andrew Chin, while erratic with his control, doesn't allow many base hits, and that offsets a John Gorman ability to strike guys out while allowing some hits. Jeff Burke is the classic case of a guy who might not start elsewhere, but he's got the drive to at least stay on the hill as a weekend starter for BC.
Maryland is going to start a lineup that isn't going to look intimidating but will use gumption and straight up strategy to score runs. Brandon Lowe (.315) and Blake Schmitt (.301) aren't probably on par with Chris Shaw in terms of hitting, and the rest of the lineup is good to average for the Terps. But it's how they score runs that help. They have 11 homers and scored nearly 30 runs more on the season than BC. Their slugging percentage is nearly 60 points higher, while the team batting average is 30 points higher. So that means there's no real significant drop off between the top of the lineup and the rest of the hitters. If one guy gets going, the next guy up can probably do something with him on. The Maryland team on base percentage is just under .400.
That's going to pose problems for a BC defense that has the ability to struggle. BC is only fielding at a .964 rate, and their infield is prone to fielding errors with anxiety over plays. Extended innings cost the Eagles against St. John's - the game-winning and insurance runs were both unearned. If they get into jams again caused by the defense, watch out.
The difference between last year's BC team and this year's is that last year's team was automatically getting swept in nearly every weekend. They've improved marginally to the point where I don't really count them out of every game anymore. I think the potential is clearly there, and in following this team all season, I'll never say they're guaranteed to get swept.
But I can't ever, in my right mind, take them to win a weekend. Last weekend's win at NC State bucked the trend of the last month or so. Maryland enters this weekend in ninth place in the ACC, trending upwards in the race for the conference tournament. They need to prove they can go out, shut down BC in this weekend, get it done, and head back down south with a tourney berth clearly in hand. They can eliminate BC from contention if everything breaks properly.
BC leads the all-time series with the Terps, but that's ancient history. Maryland is a team that should compete in the Big Ten when they head there next year, and they're looking to leave an ACC mark on the way out the door. Pencil the Terps to take two of three, ending the Eagles' fading postseason hopes on the Shea Field turf this weekend.