Summer Ball Update 7/20/17: Dunn heating up on Cape, Terps continue to shine in Ripken League

As the end of July draws near, many summer leagues around the country are heading into the homestretch. Let’s check in on how Terps are doing for their various summer teams.

After a slow start, second baseman Nick Dunn is heating up in his second season with the Cape Cod League’s Brewster Whitecaps. A Cape All-Star in 2016, Dunn didn’t receive the same honors this season, but the rising junior is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak. Over that stretch, he has recorded four multi-hit efforts and six RBIs to raise his season average to .306, the second-best mark on the Whitecaps. His Maryland and Brewster teammate, Marty Costes, has not enjoyed the same summer success, as the outfielder’s average hovers around the Mendoza line, but he does have four homers, including a go-ahead three-run shot Sunday, and ranks second on the team in RBIs (15).

Elsewhere on the Cape, a pair of Terps hurlers have had up-and-down summers so far. Left-hander Tyler Blohm, coming off a Freshman All-American campaign, owns a 5.68 ERA in five outings (four starts) for the Falmouth Commodores. Right-hander Hunter Parsons hasn’t fared much better, with a 7.36 ERA in eight relief appearances, but he does have a respectable 1.23 WHIP and an 11.4 K/9 rate.

Locally in the Cal Ripken League, a pair of Terps continue to rake for the league-leading Bethesda Big Train. Outfielder Zach Jancarski ranks third in the league with a .363 average, and has 14 stolen bases, 21 runs scored and three homers in 24 games played. Catcher Justin Morris has been equally impressive at the plate, hitting .328 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games. On the mound for Bethesda, John Murphy has a 3.68 ERA in six appearances (five starts), with 24 strikeouts in 22 innings of work, while left-hander Zach Guth has given up four earned runs in two innings this season.

The CRCBL North Division-leading Baltimore Redbirds have gotten a huge boost offensively from outfielder Randy Bednar. The incoming freshman ranks in the top ten in the league in average (.337), homers (5), RBIs (24) and OPS (.994), and has hits in five of his last six contests. His Redbird teammate, infielder AJ Lee, has awakened after an early-season slump, collecting five multi-hit games in his last seven contests to raise his batting average to .245. He continues to be a threat on the bases, currently sitting third on the team with 11 steals.

A pair of Terps pitchers on the Redbirds, Mike Vasturia and Jon Dignazio, have also taken steps in the right direction after rough starts to the season. Vasturia has posted back-to-back scoreless outings, lowering his ERA to 5.40, while posting more than one strikeout per inning. Dignazio’s ERA is still a lofty 6.96, and the left-hander has 17 walks in 10.1 innings, but he did record a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in his last appearance.

With the Ripken League’s Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts, incoming freshman Tommy Gardiner continues to hit, with a .306 average. Fellow incoming freshman Richie Schiekofer has not enjoyed the same success, as he is mired in a 3-for-20 slump, dipping his average to .216.

Up north in Ontario, Kevin Biondic has played in 31 games for the Northwoods League’s Thunder Bay Border Cats. A first baseman by trade, he is slashing .242/.384/.364 in 99 at-bats, but has also seen time on the mound, getting a start and tossing four shutout innings with three strikeouts July 11 against Rochester.

Summer Ball Update 7/11/17: Four Terps make Ripken League All-Star squad

As the calendar approaches the middle of July, many Terps are in the midst of fine summer campaigns, including four who earned Cal Ripken League All-Star honors this week. Here’s a rundown of how different Terps are doing around the country.

We’ll start in the Cape Cod League, where left-hander Tyler Blohm has made four appearances, including three starts, for the Falmouth Commodores, pitching to a 4.50 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 16 frames. Fellow Terp pitcher Hunter Parsons has struggled in limited appearances for the Cape’s Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. The rising junior right-hander has made six appearances, all in relief, allowing four earned runs in 5.1 innings, but picking up six strikeouts along the way.

Outfielder Marty Costes and second baseman Nick Dunn have not yet found their rhythms at the plate with the Brewster Whitecaps. Dunn, a 2016 CCBL All-Star for the Whitecaps, is fourth on the team in at-bats (59), but owns a .237 batting average and just three extra-base hits. Costes is hovering around the Mendoza line, hitting just .200, but has still shown strong plate discipline (.373 OBP) and ranks third on the Whitecaps with three homers.

Locally, pitcher John Murphy, catcher Justin Morris, and outfielders Zach Jancarski and Randy Bednar represented Maryland in the Cal Ripken League All-Star Game Monday. Murphy (Bethesda Big Train) pitched a scoreless inning, and owns a 3.31 ERA over five appearances (19 innings) this summer. Morris, who is hitting .347 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 15 contests for the Big Train this summer, walked in his only All-Star Game plate appearance, and threw out two runners from behind the dish. Jancarski leads the Big Train with a .385 average and .512 on-base percentage, and ranks third on the team with 10 stolen bases. Bednar, an incoming freshman, paces the Baltimore Redbirds with three long balls, and his .329 average is the second-best mark on the squad.

Elsewhere in the Ripken League, AJ Lee has heated up after a slow start for the Redbirds. The Maryland third baseman is hitting just .200 on the season, but has three multi-hit contests over his last five games. His Redbird teammates, Mike Vasturia and Jon Dignazio, have not fared as well on the mound. Vasturia has a 7.36 ERA in 11 innings out of the bullpen, but that mark is inflated by a couple rough outings, as the right-hander has given up one run or less in four of his six outings. Dignazio, a southpaw, owns a similar 7.44 ERA in 9.2 innings, and while his 15 walks are worrisome, he has whiffed 12 batters.

A pair of incoming freshmen have impressed with the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts. Infielder Tommy Gardiner‘s .351 batting average is second on the team, and he has been especially hot of late, collecting multiple hits in three of his last four games. His teammate, outfielder Richie Schiekofer, is hitting .242 in 11 games, but has come up big this season, collecting a walk0ff hit against Rockville in late June. Senior outfielder Will Watson has made just one appearance for the T-Bolts, going 0-for-3.

Left-hander Zach Guth has made three appearances for the Big Train, allowing four runs (all earned) over two innings of work.

With the Amsterdam Mohawks of the Perfect Game League, catcher Danny Maynard maintains a .309 average with two homers and 11 RBIs in 18 contests. Right-hander Cameron Enck owns a 2.70 ERA in six contests for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Newport Gulls. Enck has struck out 16 and walked just five in 20 innings of work this summer.

North of the border, first baseman Kevin Biondic is hitting .247 in 27 games for the Northwoods League’s Thunder Bay Border Cats. The rising senior has launched three homers and driven in 15, and has more walks (14) than strikeouts (13) this summer.

Pro Terps Update: 7/5/2017

Maryland baseball has had a busy few weeks, but former Terps have been making headlines as well. Multiple Maryland players have signed professional contracts after being drafted, while others are excelling at higher levels.

Adam Kolarek, who was called up last week by the Tampa Bay Rays, continues to come out of the bullpen and pitch well. He appeared against his hometown team, the Orioles, on July 1. Kolarek has now pitched 2.1 scoreless innings for the Rays, allowing just one hit. 

Kolarek joins Brett Cecil as the only Terps in the MLB. Cecil, a fellow left-handed reliever, has been throwing the ball very well as of late. His ERA was 5.66 a little over a month ago, but is now 3.69. He has not given up a run since June 7, and just turned 31 a few days ago.

With Kolarek graduating to the big leagues, several other Terps are tearing it up in the minors. RHP Mike Shawaryn has continued to impress with the High-A Salem Red Sox (Boston Red Sox). In his last two starts, the right-hander has pitched 12 innings, striking out 11 while surrendering just one run.

Elsewhere in High-A ball, 2B Brandon Lowe is continuing his All-Star season with the Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays). Lowe has five hits in his last four games, and leads the Florida State League in average (.333), OBP (.420), slugging (.593) and doubles (27). 

LHP Alex Robinson is having his most consistent professional season with the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins). Robinson has an ERA just over 3.00, and is striking out nearly 12 batters every nine innings. His fellow Terp in the Twins system, OF LaMonte Wade, is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts (Minnesota Twins). Wade has increased his average to .280, and has more walks (54) than strikeouts (46).

3B Jose Cuas is hitting under .200 this year with the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and High-A Carolina Mudcats (Milwaukee Brewers), but has been walking a lot, with an OBP near .300. RHP Jake Stinnett of the Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs) has still not seen any action yet as he returns from an injury.

Numerous Terps have started their professional careers over the past few weeks. RHP Ryan Selmer, who was assigned to the Kingsport Mets (New York Mets) of the Appalachian League, has thrown two scoreless innings on the mound. SS Kevin Smith started out in rookie ball with the Bluefield Blue Jays (Toronto Blue Jays). He began his professional career very slowly, hitting .161 in his first seven games, but has five hits in his last three games, including three doubles.

RHP Brian Shaffer, a sixth-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks last month, has made two appearances, one in rookie-ball and one in Short Season-A. The tall right-hander struck out two in his first inning of work for the Short-Season Hillsboro Hops. RHP Jamal Wade, LaMonte’s brother, recently signed with the Seattle Mariners, and has thrown one scoreless frame for the rookie-ball AZL Mariners. 

Maryland hires Corey Muscara as new pitching coach

Maryland baseball has hired Corey Muscara to be the team’s next pitching coach, the team announced in a press release Monday. Muscara joins a coaching staff led by newly-minted Head Coach Rob Vaughn. He is the third Terps pitching coach in as many years, after Ryan Fecteau left to join former Maryland head coach John Szefc at Virginia Tech earlier this month.

Corey Muscara. (Photo courtesy of St. John’s University)

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity work with such a great young passionate staff,” Muscara said in a Maryland press release. “The future is very bright at with Coach Vaughn and the players we have here. I’m excited to get started and I think we can achieve great things at the University of Maryland.”

For the last five years, Muscara has served as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for St. John’s University. Under his tutelage, a Red Storm hurler has been named Big East Pitcher of the Year for three straight seasons, as right-hander Sean Mooney captured the title this spring. Muscara also led the Red Storm to the Big East ERA title this year with a 3.11 mark that ranked eighth in the country. St. John’s led the conference in strikeouts in two of his five seasons there (2014 and 2015).

Over his five seasons at St. John’s, nine of Muscara’s pitchers have been drafted, including Thomas Hackimer (4th round, 123rd overall, 2016 MLB Draft), who in 2016 became the first reliever in more than a decade to win Big East Pitcher of the Year.

“The number one thing that I was looking for in hiring a pitching coach was a guy that had a ton of passion for developing young men and had a vision for what this place is going to be,” Vaughn said in a press release. He also noted that Muscara has an excellent resume as a recruiter.

Muscara graduated from Franklin Pierce in 2009 after playing two seasons there and two at Siena. After his collegiate career, he coached the Danbury Westerners of the NECBL for two seasons.

Prior to his time at St. John’s, Muscara served two stints on the coaching staff at Southern New Hampshire University, in 2010 and 2012, and spent the 2011 season as the pitching coach at Binghamton.

At Maryland, he inherits a staff that ranked fourth in the Big Ten in ERA (3.91) and second in strikeouts (479), thanks in part to ace Brian Shaffer, who recently signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Muscara will work with a young staff that has lost not only Shaffer, but relievers Ryan Selmer, Jared Price, Jamal Wade, Mike Rescigno and Tayler Stiles. Key remaining arms include starters Tyler Blohm and Taylor Bloom and reliever John Murphy.

 

Former Terps lefty Adam Kolarek called up to Tampa Bay Rays

Former Maryland left-hander Adam Kolarek has been called up to the Tampa Bay Rays after spending parts of eight seasons in the minors. Kolarek, 28, pitched for the Terps from 2008 to 2010 before being selected in the 11th round (332nd overall) by the New York Mets in the 2010 MLB Draft. He joins fellow southpaw reliever Brett Cecil as the only Terps currently in the major leagues.

Over his three years at Maryland, Kolarek made 60 appearances (51 in relief) spanning 111 innings. The Catonsville, Maryland, native pitched to a lofty 5.03 ERA but often kept hitters off balance, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning in both his freshman and junior seasons. He was a workhorse for the Terps, ranking in the top three on the team in appearances in his first two years in College Park.

After being drafted, Kolarek spent his first six pro seasons in the Mets organization. He enjoyed great success early in his minor league career, posting a sub-3 ERA in three of his first four campaigns. In 2013, he turned what was at that point his finest performance in the minors. After struggling in a brief stint in Triple-A, he dominated for the Double-A Binghamton Mets, tossing 63 frames with a 1.71 ERA and .204 opponents’ batting average. He couldn’t replicate his success at the same level, however, posting an ERA north of six in 2014 and a 4.43 mark a year later in 2015.

At the end of the 2015 season, the Mets released Kolarek, and he briefly signed on with his hometown Baltimore Orioles, before being claimed off waivers by the Rays.

He began the 2016 season and his Tampa Bay organization career with the Montgomery Biscuits (Double-A), making 13 appearances with a 3.32 ERA before his promotion to Triple-A Durham. In 34 relief appearances with the Bulls, he pitched to a 3.05 ERA and held opponents to a meager .194 mark at the plate while averaging over a strikeout per inning. He continued to dominate this spring with Durham, posting a 1.36 ERA in 33 innings pitched, which earned his call-up to the show.

The promotion is well-timed, as the Rays travel to Baltimore this weekend for a three-game set with the Orioles, so Kolarek may get the opportunity to pitch in front of his hometown crowd.

With Kolarek joining Cecil in the big leagues, there are multiple Terps in the majors for the first time since September 1, 2015, when former Maryland outfielder Justin Maxwell was designated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants.

Featured image courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Summer Ball Update 6/26/2017: Dunn, Jancarski among Terps enjoying summer success

2017 summer ball is underway all throughout the country and many Terps are off to hot starts. Let’s check in and see how the Terrapins are doing.

Four Terps are in the Cape Cod League: two on the Brewster Whitecaps, one on the Falmouth Commodores and one on the reigning league champion Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. In Brewster, second baseman Nick Dunn is off to a hot start, hitting .296 with eight hits, the third most on the team. Dunn is looking to replicate his successful 2016 summer in which he was named to the Cape Cod League All-Star roster. His Whitecaps teammate, fellow Terp Marty Costes, is just 4-of-19 with six strikeouts, but his power stroke is still working. He picked up where he left off in Maryland, belting two early home runs on the Cape, including a walkoff homer Sunday against Bourne. Costes’ seven homers last summer led Maryland players in summer ball action.

Elsewhere in the Cape, sophomore left-handed pitcher Tyler Blohm has made a start and a relief appearance for Falmouth. In his summer debut, Blohm walked two and allowed a run in three innings of relief. In his lone start, the southpaw struck out seven in five innings, allowing two runs and earning the win. Hunter Parsons, the 2016 Cal Ripken League Pitcher of the Year, allowed four runs in his season debut for the Y-D Red Sox, a loss, but picked up the win in his second relief appearance after tossing a scoreless inning.

In the local Cal Ripken League, Zach Jancarski‘s bat remains hot with the Bethesda Big Train. The Terps leadoff hitter and center fielder is hitting .379 in eight games, including a leadoff home run in his first at-bat of the summer. Justin Morris‘ first hit of the summer was also a home run – the Terps catcher hit a grand slam on Father’s Day for Big Train, and is hitting .375 in eight contests.

Jancarski and Morris are joined in Bethesda by a pair of Terps arms: John Murphy and Zach Guth. Murphy, one of former head coach John Szefc’s favorite bullpen weapons, has a 3.00 ERA in three starts. With Brian Shaffer and Ryan Selmer departing for pro ball, Murphy is primed for an even larger role on the Maryland pitching staff next spring. Guth has allowed four earned runs in two innings of work.

Elsewhere in the Ripken League, the Baltimore Redbirds have benefited from incoming freshman Randy Bednar‘s bat and arm. The outfielder is hitting .290 with a team-high two home runs and pitched two scoreless innings in Baltimore’s 11-3 blowout over Rockville on June 18. However, it has not been an easy summer so far for AJ Lee, Maryland’s fourth-leading hitter in 2017. The Terps third baseman is hitting just .132 with 15 strikeouts in 12 games. On the mound, Mike Vasturia has allowed three earned runs in 3.1 innings while Jon Dignazio is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three relief appearances.

While Bednar has powered the Redbirds, another incoming freshman is leading the local Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts. Infielder Tommy Gardiner is 8-for-23 (.348) in six games to open the season. Two other Terps have seen limited action thus far for the T-Bolts; Will Watson is 0-for-3 and Richie Schiekofer is 0-for-6, but they have each drawn a walk.

The only other Cal Ripken League teams with Maryland products are the Alexandria Aces and Gaithersburg Giants. Catcher Justin Vought has not appeared for the first place Aces while Nick Pantos has looked sharp out of the ‘pen for Gaithersburg. The right-hander has hurled nine innings over five appearances, allowing just one run with 11 strikeouts.

There are a few other Terps across the country over the summer. First baseman Kevin Biondic is hitting .200 with a homer and seven RBIs in 14 games with Canada’s Thunder Bay Border Cats of the Northwoods League. Danny Maynard, a member of Perfect Game League’s Amsterdam Mohawks, is hitting .172 in nine games. With the NECBL’s Newport Gulls, Cameron Enck has a 3.27 ERA in four appearances — all four earned runs he has allowed coming in his lone start.

Fecteau, Haines to join Szefc at Virginia Tech

Former Maryland Head Coach John Szefc will be bringing two of his Terps assistants with him as he takes over as the head coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies. Ryan Fecteau and Corey Haines are now listed on the Virginia Tech website as Assistant Coach and Director of Operations, respectively.

This is the second time in two seasons that Maryland will search for a new pitching coach, as Jim Belanger left the Terps staff last June to take a job at Kentucky.

Pitching Coach Ryan Fecteau visits the mound early in the second inning to confer with sophomore Hunter Parsons. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

Fecteau, who replaced Belanger, departs Maryland after a one-year tenure as the team’s pitching coach. The New Hampshire native came to College Park in the summer of 2016 following a six-year stint at Bryant, where he molded a pitching staff that consistently dominated the Northeast Conference.

In four of his final five seasons with the Bulldogs, Fecteau’s staff boasted the NEC Pitcher of the Year. That trend continued when the coach moved on to Maryland as the Terps’ Brian Shaffer took home the top pitching award in the Big Ten in 2016.

This season, Fecteau led the Terps to a 3.98 ERA, and helped develop young arms such as Tyler Blohm and John Murphy into key pieces on the Maryland pitching staff. He will inherit a Virginia Tech pitching staff that ranked dead last in the ACC in ERA this spring with a 5.79 mark.

Unlike Fecteau, Haines was a long-term member of Maryland’s staff, serving the last five years as an assistant coach under Szefc and three previous years (2009-2011) as a student assistant and volunteer.

In his most recent stint in College Park, Haines focused on developing hitters and working with the team’s infielders. He worked with players such as Brandon Lowe (3rd round pick, Tampa Bay Rays, 2015 MLB Draft) and Kevin Smith (4th round, Toronto Blue Jays, 2017 MLB Draft), two of Maryland’s most decorated infielders in recent years.

Haines is an Elkton, Maryland, native and a Maryland alumnus, having graduated with a degree in kinesiology in 2011.

With the departure of Fecteau and Haines, new Maryland Head Coach Rob Vaughn now has two more spots to fill on the coaching staff.