The Gophers started the season with seven games against Houston and Texas -- two nationally ranked teams in the preseason -- and went 0-7 on the road.

Since then, they've fared better, going 7-3, but they face another tough opponent this weekend in Maryland.

The Terappins were named the preseason conference favorite in a coaches' vote -- ahead of Nebraska and Illinois -- and so far have lived up to that hype.

Maryland is 14-4.

“Our bullpen is the strength of our team right now,” Maryland coach John Szefc said. “We have good hitters up and down the lineup, but the bullpen has allowed us to get back in games. They give us multiple chances to get back in the game.”

Maryland, ranked No. 23 by USA Today and as high as No. 14 by, beat Elon, N.C. 7-3 on Wednesday night for its seventh consecutive win. The Gophers lost the same night to Richmond 13-2.

The Terps are coming off their first trip to an NCAA Super Regional and have several bona fide stars.

Among them is sophomore infielder Brandon Lowe, a returning All-America pick. He hit .348 as a freshman with 42 RBI, tying for team high. Now he is hitting .412 with 28 runs scored. His 1.59 runs per game leads all Division I players.

On the mound, sophomore Mike Shawaryn had 11 wins last season while junior Kevin Mooney had 13 saves, both program records.

The Gophers expect to pitch Ben Meyer (0-2), Dalton Sawyer (3-2) and Tim Shannon (1-1), in that order, against Maryland. Games are set for 3 p.m. Friday (time moved up because of expected bad weather), 1 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.

A couple of resons to be optimistic about the Gophers:

* Right fielder Matt Fiedler. He is hitting .422, second in the Big Ten, and has 13 RBI and two homers. He also pitches. In four appearances, he has a win, a save and a 1.50 ERA.

* More power. The Gophers have 12 homers already -- two more than all of last season. Tony Skjefte, a third baseman, has hit three to lead the team.