In superficial ways, at least, Nebraska and Maryland are mirror images, including being tied for second place in the Big Ten standings with .833 winning percentages.
The Huskers are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, including 2-0-1 in conference play, while Maryland, ranked No. 24, is 8-2 in its last 10 games, including 5-1 in conference play.
Nebraska’s team batting average is .267; Maryland’s is .266. Opponents are batting .246 against Husker pitchers and .245 against Terrapin pitchers. And so it goes.
Similarities aside, “we’ve played teams like this already this season, that if you make mistakes, they’re going to take advantage of them,” Nebraska Coach Darin Erstad said.
The Huskers and Maryland are scheduled for three games at Hawks Field this weekend, beginning Friday night. Junior right-handers are set to start, Jake Hohensee (3-2, 2.43) for Nebraska and Brian Shaffer (4-1, 1.70) for the Terrapins. Opponents are hitting only .187 against Shaffer.
Friday’s first pitch is set for 6:35 p.m., Saturday’s 2:02 p.m. and Sunday’s 12:05 p.m.
Among the differences in the teams is Maryland’s offensive aggressiveness.
“They have a lot of action on the base paths,” said Erstad.
The Terrapins rank second to Michigan in the Big Ten in stolen bases, 58-of-71, with three among the top 10 in steals: Will Watson (10), Zach Jancarski (10), and Madison Nickens (9).
The best way to deal with such aggressiveness is to keep runners from getting on base, of course. “That’s a good place to start,” Erstad said.
Beyond that, pitchers can help control the running game. “It’s the competitive picks. It’s the long holds. It’s varying our looks to second base when there’s guys at second base,” he said. “If we run a pitchout, or we stretch a fastball off the plate, it’s executing those things and playing catch.
“We have the ability to do that. Coach (Ted) Silva is very good at controlling the running game. It boils down to you’ve got to execute those situations when we have an opportunity to make a play.”
Maryland also has “some power,” said Erstad.
The Terrapins rank fourth in the Big Ten with 26 home runs. Marty Costes and Kevin Smith have each hit six. In contrast, Nebraska ranks next-to-last in the conference, with nine.
Scott Schreiber and Ben Miller have combined to hit six of the nine, with Schreiber leading the team with 24 runs-batted-in and a .339 batting average, second to Angelo Altavilla’s .344 among the regulars. Freshman Luke Roskam is hitting .361 in 13 games, including 10 as a starter.
Schreiber was taken out of the 3-1 victory at Omaha on Wednesday because of back tightness. “I anticipate he’ll be ready to go,” Erstad said. “It was more precautionary than anything.”
Freshman pitcher Connor Curry is “battling a little bit of arm soreness” and won’t be available.
The Huskers have been “finding ways to win,” said Erstad. “I think early on we made mistakes against good teams, and they got exposed.”
Maryland has shown it is capable of exposing mistakes.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.