Before Maryland baseball faced Ball State on Sunday, assistant coach Corey Muscara approached right-hander Hunter Parsons as the junior warmed up, commending Parsons for how crisp he looked.
Muscara told him to take every pitch as it came and not to get ahead of himself or dwell on his recent struggles. The advice from the Terps' new pitching coach helped Parsons en route to his career-high seven-strikeout performance against Ball State.
When Parsons struck out Cardinals center fielder Colin Brockhouse in the sixth with a runner on second, the Fruitland native clenched his fist and smacked the inside of his glove, hyped up after recovering from a disastrous season debut against Tennessee. He supplied Maryland with seven scoreless innings Sunday in a 13-1 win.
"That's the guy that we see day in and day out, so it's not even shocking when he goes out and does that," coach Rob Vaughn said. "I've seen him carve our guys up like he did today quite a bit, you know? He's got really good stuff and all in all, he just did a really good job today attacking the zone, pitching with great tempo, mixing speeds and really attacking people."
The performance continued a trend of strong starting pitching during the Terps' five-game winning streak.
The Maryland (7-4) lineup offered more than enough run support for Parsons, keeping up its hot hitting on the weekend. First baseman Kevin Biondic contributed seven RBIs — a double short of the cycle — and each Terp starter reached base at least once.
"It kind of takes the pressure off our pitching a little bit, where they've been dominant lately," Biondic said. "It takes a little pressure off us, as a lineup. We can just pass it on to the next guy."
After a calamitous first outing, allowing eight runs in one inning against Tennessee, Parsons has used clean early innings to rebuild confidence over his past three outings. He entered the contest with a 14.14 ERA, but halved it during his seven frames Sunday.
Parsons (1-1, 7.07 ERA) matched the longest outing of his career with seven shutout frames, surrendering four hits. The movement on his fastball early kept Cardinal batters off balance, and his breaking pitches kept them that way. It drew flashbacks to the promise Parsons exhibited in his freshman year, when he pitched to a 3.50 ERA in 15 appearances before regressing to a 12.05 ERA in 12 contests last season.
"I always knew I had it in me," Parsons said. "Last year was a struggle. Learned a lot from it, so to be able to come out here and show how much I've learned through that process of struggling was really awesome for me."
Biondic's first-inning three-run home run got the Terps rolling. They didn't score again until they broke the game open with 10 runs through the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, including four more RBIs from Biondic, as well as an RBI double from left fielder Will Watson, who replaced the struggling Marty Costes in the lineup Sunday.
Ball State (4-6) scored one run in the ninth inning to avoid a shutout, but that wasn't nearly enough to spoil another stellar starting pitching performance, and the Terps swept the weekend tournament behind their rotation's dominance.
"The pitchers carried us for a little while [as] our offense was scuffling a little bit," Vaughn said. "This weekend was a pretty complete weekend. We pitched the ball well, we played really good defense and we swung the bats well. So, all in all, you've got to be able to win games different ways and we showed we can do that."