Maryland ace Brian Shaffer (Maryland Athletics)


Weekend Spotlight: Spartans-Terps


Maryland and Michigan State headed into the season as two of the top contenders in the Big Ten — a pair of veteran-laden teams with designs on making postseason runs. Ten weeks into the season, both teams are right in the thick of the battle for at-large position, each team having weathered a rough patch and rebounded well. They’ll face off this weekend in College Park in a series with big ramifications.

The Terrapins have had the better season to this point — their rocky stretch came right out of the chute, when they started 1-5 against a difficult schedule, with a loss to Louisville and three losses on the road at LSU. But since then, Maryland is 24-6, playing like the preseason Top 25 team we thought it would be. The Terps are 9-3 in the Big Ten, percentage points behind first-place Minnesota. They won a marquee series against Michigan and dropped a tough road series at Nebraska. And they’re sitting pretty at No. 33 in the RPI.

“We’ve just been pretty consistent, I think. We’ve done a lot of things pretty well,” Maryland coach John Szefc said. “I think we benefited going (to LSU). Some of the losses that we had early on, getting knocked around a little bit at (North) Carolina (in a midweek game), that trip to Nebraska where we only won one out of three, playing in a tough environment — it’s a very hard place to play for any visiting team. I think those experiences did nothing but help our guys prepare for the future. And we’ve got some interesting weekends coming up in conference play, this being one of them.”

The Spartans started out stronger, going 9-1 against a decent but not overwhelming schedule over the first three weeks, and then they lost three straight games against power conference teams Clemson and South Carolina. But their bigger trial came a couple of weeks later, when they dropped five straight contests — midweek games against Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan sandwiched around a sweep at the hands of Minnesota in East Lansing. But MSU has bounced back effectively over the last two weekends, sweeping Fresno State and taking two of three from Ohio State. The Spartans enter this weekend at 20-13 overall, 5-4 in the Big Ten and No. 70 in the RPI — not in at-large position, but certainly within striking distance, especially since they should get a boost from playing on the road at Maryland this weekend. This is a huge opportunity to earn a signature road series win against a talented opponent, which would give MSU’s postseason hopes a major boost.

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