Justin Vought’s winning temperament leads him to Maryland

Justin Vought is used to winning. His high school team was in the state finals in 2015 and he has been a state champion in two of his three seasons playing legion ball.

The catcher from Wyoming Valley West High School in Pennsylvania is looking to bring his winning ways to Maryland now that he is officially one of 10 signees for the Terps’ Class of 2017.

“I’ve been in some pretty big situations my whole career,” Vought said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of some winning teams with some good players around me that I’ve been able to learn from. They just push me even harder.”

One of those players is St. John’s University catcher Ryan Hogan, who was one of Vought’s closest friends and teammates in high school.

“Ryan and I have been close friends since little league,” Vought reflected. “He’s been the big brother I never wanted, to be honest with you.”

Since both Vought and Hogan play the same position, they were able to communicate thoroughly about the intricacies of playing catcher.

“He’s been a year ahead of me so I’ve always been the little guy to everybody,” Vought said. “That just pushed me to work that much harder to be just as good, if not better, than he is.”

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Photo by Jay Yozviak.

Although they have talked plenty about how to call a game from behind the plate and the approach of a hitter, Hogan said that his favorite part of having Vought as a teammate was the passion with which he played the game.

“He loves the game, that’s one thing you could say about him,” Hogan said. “He’s very strong with his skills and his abilities, but I think what really harnesses those things is the fact that he likes to work. To get to the level that we’re at it takes a lot of work on and off the field. He definitely puts it in.”

Hogan, who won three state titles during his time at Wyoming Valley West High School, agreed that winning is a huge reason why Vought will succeed at Maryland.

“We’re pretty used to the tradition of going out there and having excellence on the field,” Hogan said. “I can see why he wants to carry that on at Maryland. It’s not surprising that he chose that path.”

However, past success is not the only reason why Vought will put on the red, black and gold in 2017. He wants to help the Terps winning ways carry on to the future.

“A lot of people who I talked to said once you step on the campus, your first time there, you’re really going to feel like it’s going to be home for the next four years,” Vought said. “Once [Associate Head Coach Rob] Vaughn and [Head Coach John] Szefc started reaching out to me… it felt like home — especially coming off back-to-back super regionals.

“They felt like my second fathers for the next four years and I really want to help those guys get the next step to reach — to get to Omaha,” he said.

Hogan, who has spent countless hours in the dugout, the weight room and on the field with Vought, has no doubt that he’ll blend into the Maryland program well immediately.

“Ryan’s a really good kid. You get a lot of kids who come into school and all they care about is baseball,” he said. “Sometimes their personality lacks and sometimes they’re not good teammates. He meets those standards… He carries that excellence off the field as well as on the field.”

Mark DiLuia feeds off being in control on the mound 

Before Mark DiLuia walked to the plate with two runners on, two out in the last inning, and his team down two runs, his coach had some advice.

“I get the chills just thinking about it,” Marian Catholic High School Coach Tony DeCarlo said. “I’ll never forget what I told him. I said, ‘Hey, we don’t need a home run right now but if you hit one it’d be pretty cool.’”

Demonstrating tremendous coachability, DiLuia lofted the second pitch of the at-bat over the center field fence to give Marian Catholic a 4-3 2016 regional semifinal win over rival Homewood-Flossmoor.

He calls the home run one of the highlights of his baseball career.

“It was by far one of the best feelings of my life, beating our rival school at their field and giving us another chance in the playoffs,” DiLuia said.

DiLuia, a native of Flossmoor, Illinois and now a senior at Marian Catholic, signed on Nov. 9 to play for Maryland as a member of the 2017 recruiting class.

 

He’ll be a pitcher with the Terrapins but DeCarlo thinks his home run in last year’s playoffs is still instructive as to the type of player DiLuia is.

“The way he handles pressure is amazing,” said DeCarlo, who is entering his third season as head coach at Marian Catholic. “Whether he’s on the mound or at the plate, he’s extremely clutch in both situations and what an attribute to have on your team as a coach with a kid like that.”

Photo courtesy of Mark DiLuia
 DiLuia said he signed with Maryland not only because of baseball but also because of everything the campus has to offer.

“When I was going through the process, everyone with me during the whole thing was telling me to decide what school I want to go like if I was just going there to be a regular student and find the place that feels like home,” DiLuia said.

He found that place in College Park.

“Maryland was the perfect place,” he said. “I loved the coaches, I loved the players and what they’re all about and I felt like I could make a difference there right away.”

The 18-year old DiLuia also said being a student-athlete is key for him and, since he plans to major in something in the business field, the prestige of the Robert H. Smith School of Business was important.

“One day baseball’s going to come to an end, whether it’s in five years or 10 years or 20 years, you need to have that education because you never know when you might need to use it,” he said.

The right-handed DiLuia stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and Prep Baseball Report ranked him No. 11 in the Illinois class of 2017.

He throws a fastball that is usually 86-88 mph, a change-up, and a slider, according to PBR. PBR scouts said the slider has “tight, sweeping action” and he “consistently showed an advanced feel” for it in 2015.

DiLuia said he’s been working to improve his control before his senior season starts.

“It’s just been working on my command of all three of my pitches, trying to get that confidence to where I can throw them anytime,” he said.

DiLuia said he started playing baseball “as soon as I can remember” and first played on an organized team when he was a 6-year-old member of the Flossmoor Firebirds.

He said the camaraderie with the teams he’s played on is one of his favorite aspects of baseball but he also enjoys the loneliness of the pitcher’s mound.

“It feels good having control of every play out there,” DiLuia said of pitching. “I kind of like the pressure that everyone puts on you and I like being quote, unquote ‘The Man’ out there on the field.”

DeCarlo said DiLuia is “obviously extremely talented” but touts his makeup as well.

“I can sit here all day and tell you great things about him,” DeCarlo said. “Extremely hard-working kid who’s just a pleasure to have on a team, so I know he’s going to do a lot of great things at Maryland.”

Randy Bednar brings versatility to Terps Class of 2017

Two-hundred screaming Bullis High School fans all wanted to see Maryland-signee Randy Bednar fail.

It was the 2016 Independent Athletic Conference Championship game, and the Landon Bears were one out away from having their miraculous postseason run cut short. With his team down one with a runner on first, Bednar stepped up to the plate.

“If he doesn’t produce something, the season is over,” Landon head coach Bill Reed said.

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He’s been at Landon all his life, and now he’s bringing his talents to College Park, MD. (Courtesy of Randy Bednar)

Bednar worked a full count—the season a strike away from being over. He fouled off the next pitch to keep the at-bat alive, then fouled off the next pitch, too, and the one after that, and the one after that, in an at-bat that lasted 17 pitches.

“I was not going down on a called third strike,” Bednar told Reed after the game.

On the 18th pitch, Bednar ripped a double off the wall, scoring the runner from first to send the game into extra innings.

“That was the most special, most memorable moment of my high school career,” Bednar said.

The Bears took the lead off of an error in the infield and held on in the bottom of the frame to win the 2016 IAC Championship.

Bednar, an outfielder and left-handed pitcher, and a native of nearby Bethesda, Md., was the first player to commit to Maryland’s 2017 recruiting class.

“The moment I knew I wanted to go to Maryland was when I first made that visit,” Bednar said. “Every time I visited, more and more I started to grow in love with Maryland. Since I made my verbal commitment, I haven’t made any regrets on making that decision ever in my life.”

He committed to the Terps and head coach John Szefc the summer after his freshman year of high school, calling Szefc someone that he’s “looked up to not only as a coach, but someone I could look for advice on and off the field.”

Szefc has told Bednar he’d like to see him as a two-way player—both as a centerfielder, and as a left-handed pitcher. The versatility to both pitch and hit is rare in college baseball, but Reed has known about Bednar’s advanced athleticism for a long time.

“Even when he was a little, little, guy…you could kind of tell,” Reed said. “We’ve seen it coming. When he was a middle school kid, he would often take reps on field with varsity as a sixth and seventh grader. He was driving the ball, he was technically sound, his swing was consistent. He just looked like a young high school kid and he was in seventh grade.”

Since becoming the Bears’ coach in 1999, Reed has brought the program five IAC Championships after a 30-year drought. Bednar hopes his last season with Landon brings the program a sixth title.

“I’m trying to make this last year with him special and memorable,” Bednar said. “I’m just trying to live in the moment, make the most of it, and just have fun with my senior year. Because I know [I’m] never getting it back.”

Maryland adds ten signees to Class of 2017

Ten recruits have signed their national letters of intent to play baseball for the Maryland Terrapins beginning in the 2017-18 season. Here are the recruits who recently put the pen to the paper:


Christopher Alleyne

Position: SS

High School: Chestnut Hill Academy

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Noteworthy: Alleyne was named a high honorable mention on Rawlings and Perfect Game’s 2016 Preseason All-American Team.


Randy Bednar

Position: OF/LHP

High School: Landon

Hometown: Bethesda, Md.

Noteworthy: Prep Baseball Report ranks Bednar as Maryland’s No. 2 player for the Class of 2017.


Grant Burleson

Position: LHP

High School: Parkside High School

Hometown: Salisbury, Md.

Noteworthy: Prep Baseball Report ranks Burleson as Maryland’s No. 4 player for the Class of 2017.


Mark DiLuia

Position: RHP

High School: Marian Catholic

Hometown: Flossmoor, Il.

Noteworthy: DiLuia is ranked No. 11 in Prep Baseball Reports’ Illinois 2017 Class and No. 75 in the Overall Ranks.


Sean Fisher

Position: LHP

High School: Parkside High School

Hometown: Parsonburg, Md.

Noteworthy: Ranked in the top-20 in Prep Baseball Reports’ Maryland 2017 Class.


Tommy Gardiner

Position: SS

High School: Lenape

Hometown: Mount Laurel, NJ

Noteworthy: Gardiner was named a high honorable mention on Rawlings and Perfect Game’s 2016 Preseason All-American Team.


Michael Piniero

Position: 1B

High School: Los Osos

Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Noteworthy: Piniero was named a high honorable mention on Rawlings and Perfect Game’s 2016 Preseason All-American Team.


Richie Schiekofer

Position: OF/LHP

High School: Millburn

Hometown: Millburn, NJ

Noteworthy: Schiekofer was named an honorable mention on Rawlings and Perfect Game’s 2016 Preseason All-American Team.


Justin Vought

Position: C

High School: Wyoming Valley West

Hometown: Wilkes-Barre, PA

Noteworthy: Prep Baseball Report ranks Vought as Pennsylvania’s No. 15 player for the Class of 2017.


Drew Wilden

Position: LHP

High School: West Deptford

Hometown: West Deptford, NJ

Noteworthy: Wilden was named a high honorable mention on Rawlings and Perfect Game’s 2016 Preseason All-American Team.

Stay tuned for more recruiting coverage from MBN. This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

 

Feature image courtesy of Justin Vought.

Freshmen Tyler Blohm and Barrett Smith take different paths to College Park

Of the eight freshmen that joined the Terps roster for 2017, one is a 2016 Major League draft pick, and one is a walk-on.

Freshmen LHP Tyler Blohm, who was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2016 MLB Draft, and infielder Barrett Smith, who earned a roster spot this fall, were vital members of an Archbishop Spalding team that won three consecutive Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference Championships.

Smith was second on the Cavaliers with a .444 batting average, and led the team with 14 doubles and 32 RBIs. But, the infielder wasn’t sure he’d play college baseball after missing a summer of baseball due to Tommy John surgery prior to his junior year—a crucial recruiting period.

Blohm, meanwhile, was named the 2016 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year after posting a 9-0 record with a 0.74 ERA, striking out 103 in 66 innings.

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LHP Tyler Blohm

“You could tell [Blohm] was going to be a special player from a very young age and he fulfilled his potential for sure at the high school level,” Archbishop Spalding Head Coach Joe Palumbo said.

The two have been playing together since they were twelve-years-old, from Severna Park, Md., to Archbishop Spalding, and now, in College Park, Md.

“Coming onto a team where I really didn’t know a lot of people, it’s nice to always have Barrett [Smith] there to talk to,” Blohm said.

For Blohm, it was a forgone conclusion that he’d be playing baseball past high school, whether at Maryland or professionally. The left-hander signed his National Letter of Intent to join the Terps in November of 2015.

Joining the Terps, however, meant turning down an opportunity to begin his professional career. The southpaw was drafted by his hometown Baltimore Orioles in the 2016 Major League Draft. He was the first player drafted out of Archbishop Spalding under Palumbo.

“It’s absolutely pretty exciting,” Palumbo told The Baltimore Sun. “It’s the cherry on top to a very special season for Archbishop Spalding. Having one of our guys drafted by the hometown major league team is pretty cool.”

Blohm would have been slotted to be drafted much earlier than the 17th-round had he not had a strong commitment to Maryland. The Orioles called him in the fourth round, giving him an offer and fifteen minutes to make a decision. Blohm said the arrival of new pitching coach Ryan Fecteau was a big part of his decision to decline the offer and keep his commitment to the Terps. Still, the Orioles used their 17th-round pick on Blohm, in case he changed his mind.

A little more than a month later, and Blohm officially declared his intent on coming to Maryland.

Blohm earned a spot on the varsity team his freshman year, racking up 25 wins in his four-year high school career. His senior season, along with 9-0 record and 0.74 ERA, he held opposing batters to a .142 batting average.

“He was a very good left-handed pitcher, but I don’t think it was until his senior year that it exploded,” Maryland Associate Head Coach Rob Vaughn said.

Blohm—who was ranked Maryland’s fifth-best prospect by Prep Baseball Report—didn’t change much on the field during his four varsity seasons, but says his more dedicated preparation in the offseason between junior and senior seasons turned him into a dominant starter.

“Sophomore and junior year I did just enough, and I think senior year I had a thought process and just said ‘I’m going to go all out and see what happens,’” Blohm said.

Palumbo believes that Blohm’s success on the field is a direct result of the work he put in off of the field.

“His off-the-field work ethic is second to none in my opinion,” Palumbo said.

The Maryland coaching staff shut Blohm down this fall after he threw 66 innings his senior year and 26 more innings in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League this past summer. Blohm went 7-4 with a 2.04 ERA for the league runner-up Baltimore Redbirds, and was named a CRCBL All-Star along with Redbirds and now Terps teammates RHP Hunter Parsons, RHP Mike Rescigno and OF Marty Costes.

“I think that one thing that is pretty certain is that that guy is going to eat up quite a few innings for us this year whether that’s out of the bullpen or whether that’s in a starting role,” Vaughn said.

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Infielder Barrett Smith

Smith wasn’t sure he would have the opportunity to play baseball after high school. He had Tommy John surgery prior to transferring to Archbishop Spalding his junior year and lost recruiting time, according to Palumbo. Palumbo believes that Smith’s surgery influenced the path that he took to Maryland because he missed a whole summer of baseball.

Although Smith wanted to play college baseball, he wanted to be happy where he was going to school. He liked Maryland enough to apply by the priority deadline, even though he had never spoken to the coaches.

But, in traveling to watch the Cavaliers and Blohm, Vaughn noticed another player on the field—Smith.

“You had this kid that was an unbelievably great student who really wanted to come to Maryland and every game that I went to, the kid played really, really well,” Vaughn said.

“My goal when I went out there was to have the best day I could, whether that was at the plate or on the field,” Smith said. “I guess I showed that I could put forth the effort to get somewhere.”

Smith was offered a spot this fall to practice and workout with the team, where he earned his spot on the roster.

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Barrett Smith catches AJ Lee in a rundown during a Fall intrasquad scrimmage. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

“[Smith] said ‘I’m going to Maryland, I’m going to be awesome in the classroom and I’m gonna earn a spot,’ and that’s exactly what he did,” Vaughn said.

Palumbo believes that outside of Smith’s baseball skills, it was his willingness to compete and mental toughness that allowed him to adapt to the Archbishop Spalding baseball program and to earn a spot on the Maryland baseball team.

“I think that guys that are willing to work can far exceed expectations, ” said Vaughn.

Now, Blohm and Smith are teammates once again, trading in the white and red of the Cavaliers for the red, black, and gold of the Terps.

“It’s a pretty cool thing to be able to come into the locker room and then two lockers down is Tyler [Blohm] again,” Smith said. “It’s cool to lace up with him right there next to me.”

Former Terp Brett Cecil Signs with Cardinals

Pitcher Brett Cecil, who played for Maryland from 2005-2007, has signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as a free agent, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Passan later tweeted that Cecil, who has posted back-to-back seasons of over 11 strikeouts per nine innings, had several teams bidding for his services on the open market.

Cecil pitched six scoreless innings in the postseason for the Toronto Blue Jays over the last two seasons.

He posted a 3.93 ERA over 36.2 innings in 2016 and joins a Cardinals team that ranked 13th in bullpen ERA last season (3.62).

The 30-year old Cecil is entering his eighth big league season after striking out 94 hitters in 101.1 career innings at Maryland. The southpaw is second all-time at Maryland in career saves, holding the record until it was broken my RHP Kevin Mooney in 2015.

Cecil is the only former Terrapin currently in MLB.

Terps welcome three transfers, eight freshmen, to 2017 roster

Maryland baseball released its official roster for the 2017 season and welcomes 11 new student-athletes to the program.

Infielder Brandon Gum, RHP Ryan Hill and outfielder Will Watson join the team as transfers and are likely to contribute on the field immediately. Hill, a right-hander, will pitch out of the bullpen for the Terps, while Gum is expected to play the left side of the infield and Watson likely to stake out either corner outfield position, according to head coach John Szefc.

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Infielder Brandon Gum
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Outfielder Will Watson
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RHP Ryan Hill

Gum, a graduate transfer from George Mason University and a career .297 hitter for the Patriots, said Maryland’s recent success, including two super regional appearances in 2014 and 2015, made the Terps an ideal landing spot.

“I remember playing against [the 2014 and 2015 teams] and watching them in the Super Regional and it was cool because I knew [former Maryland infielder Brandon Lowe] and I knew how good the program was,” Gum said. “I know some people thought it was just a flash in the pan, they had just two good runs.”

Gum was limited to just 11 games at George Mason in 2016 after suffering a torn rotator cuff but expects to be fully healthy for the spring. Maryland and George Mason will play once this season, on April 12 in Fairfax, Va.

Hill served as the closer for Grayson College last season, pitching 39.1 innings and recording 53 strikeouts with a 2.29 ERA.

Coming into a new program, Hill said he wants to do whatever he can to contribute to overall team success.

“We all want to get to Omaha, we all want to win it,” Hill said. “And my contribution to that is whenever I get my chance to go pitch and whenever my opportunity comes to do my job and to help the team as much as I can.”

Watson comes to Maryland from LSU-Eunice, where he appeared in 46 games for the Bengals in the spring, collecting 18 extra-base hits and 40 RBIs. Watson is the second player to transfer to Maryland from LSU-Eunice, joining his former Bengals—now Terps—teammate outfielder Madison Nickens.

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Freshman Ty Friedrich high five sophomore AJ Lee and freshman Barrett Smith during the Fall World Series. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

The Terps also welcome eight freshman to College Park, including standouts LHP Tyler Blohm, catcher Ty Friedrich and outfielder Elliot Zoellner. LHP Jon Dignazio, RHP Nick Pantos, outfielder Nathan Panzer, RHP Mike Vasturia and walk-on infielder Barrett Smith round out the group of first-year players for the Terps.

“I think some guys are more ready than others right out of the gate,” Szefc said. “I mean we kind of have an older, veteran team this year but I think we have some guys that will be ready to make quick contributions and other guys kind of come gradually as they get some experience.

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LHP Tyler Blohm

Szefc singled out pitchers Blohm and Zoellner, along with Friedrich, a catcher, as freshman he feels are ready to contribute in the spring.

“Tyler Blohm stands out as being probably our guy that’s most ready in that class,” Szefc said. “He was an all-star in the Cal Ripken League last summer and was drafted by the Orioles in the 17th-round and he’s adhering to things pretty quickly.”

Maryland’s fresh faces look to fill the holes left by graduating seniors LHP Robert Galligan and outfielder Anthony Papio—who is now a student assistant coach—as well as all-time wins, strikeouts and innings-pitched leader RHP Mike Shawaryn, who was drafted in the 5th-round by the Boston Red Sox. Andrew Bechtold, Tyler Brandon, Nick Browne, Kengo Kawahara, Brandon Smith, Peyton Sorrels and Truman Thomas are also no longer with the program.

With 25 players from last year’s squad returning, Szefc said there is no need to force the development of his freshmen.

“In our case we have a lot of returning guys so a lot of those [freshmen] can progress slowly and get a good feel for the speed of the game and the opponents we’re playing, without having a ton of pressure come at them right away,” Szefc said. “That helps in their transition.”

Maryland opens the 2017 season on February 17 against Ball State at the Clearwater Tournament in Clearwater, Florida.