Maryland took two out of three games from Cal St. Fullerton this weekend to move to 27-11 on the season. The Terps took the first game 2-1 behind a career performance from sophomore Mike Shawaryn and won the second game 9-5 with offensive help from Brandon Lowe and Anthony Papio, and a strong relief performance from Rob Galligan. The third game went into extra innings scoreless, as Jake Drossner and John Gavin put up zeros in each of their frames. The Titans took the series finale 1-0 after a 10th inning solo home run from Taylor Bryant off of Alex Robinson—the first earned run the southpaw has given up this season.
Here are some takeaways from the weekend:
1. Mike Shawaryn is making a case to be named the best player in college baseball.
The sophomore ace pitched eight shutout innings Friday and recorded a career high 13 strikeouts. The outing drops his ERA to 1.67 and gives him his conference leading 9th win of the season. In addition, it was his 20th win in his Terrapin career, tying the school record set by John Rayne. Shawaryn battled with Titans ace Thomas Eshelman, another member of the Golden Spikes award watch list. With nine wins in nine starts and conference leads in wins and strikeouts, Shawaryn is making his case to be awarded the Golden Spikes.
“You can see that guy pitch in Yankee Stadium one day, I’m telling you,” Szefc said after Friday’s game. “I bet my life on it. I’ve [coached] a few big leaguers, but he’s as good as any guy I’ve been around.”
2. After a scary moment Saturday, the Terps showed mental toughness.
On the second pitch of the game, a line drive off the bat of Dustin Vaught struck Taylor Stiles flush in the face. It was a scary moment for the entire team, as the sophomore southpaw lay face-down in front of the mound. The players took a knee and the medical staffs of both teams attended to him. Rob Galligan came in to relieve Stiles, and Vaught came around to score, giving the Titans a 1-0 lead. Galligan finished after pitching six innings of one-run ball and striking out six.
In the bottom of the first, the Terps struck back. They lifted the spirits of the rest of the team and the crowd by scoring three runs. Brandon Lowe led off with a double, and Kevin Martir drove him in with an RBI single. An error and fielder’s choice brought in the following two runs.
“If they put up a zero there in the first inning that would have been tough,” Galligan said.
Stiles is currently recovering from surgery to repair fractured ortibal bones, but team coaches and staff reported that the sophomore did not suffer any head trauma, and posted a picture of the pitcher to the team Instagram account before Sunday’s game, giving him The Bow.
3. Drossner earned himself another weekend start, but weekend rotation still not set.
Junior Jake Drossner made his fifth start of the season and twirled a gem, going a career-high eight innings, striking out six, all while not allowing a run. John Gavin pitched just as well for the Titans, so each pitcher earned a no-decision. However, with Stiles now out indefinitely, Drossner has earned himself a spot in the weekend rotation with his strong Sunday performance. The lefty had struggled with control throughout the season, but gave up just one walk against Fullerton.
“I went in there knowing that if I can command my fastball, they’re not going to be able to his us,” Drossner said. “I think that halfway through the season, I kind of realized that I had good stuff and that my team believed in me. If I can go out there and command the zone with my fastball and get ahead of the hitters, it was game over. I really believe that.”
Szefc and pitching coach Jim Belanger have given more than a few Terps a chance to claim the last rotation spot, including Drossner. Bobby Ruse and Willie Rios have each made five starts, Brian Shaffer has made four, and Kevin Mooney three. Alex Robinson, now the closer, made starts last season as well. Rob Galligan and Ryan Selmer have pitched well in relief as well, and they may get their first opportunities of the season. The midweek series against VCU will be an opportunity for the team to evaluate some arms and decide who gets the ball on Sunday. The coaches said they are considering all options.
4. Freshman Kevin Smith continues to swing a hot bat.
Despite battling hand and shoulder injuries, freshman Kevin Smith continues to shine in the 2-hole. The shortstop had six hits during the series, including a 3 for 4 performance in Saturday’s win. He was also the only Terp to record more than one hit during Sunday’s pitcher’s duel. For the series, Smith hit .500 with 2 RBIs and one run scored.
“I’m just trying to be more aggressive and hit that first pitch strike,” Smith said. “I’m getting better pitches to hit. I’ve been hitting it hard.”
His average still sits at a pedestrian .259 as a result of a mid-season cooldown, but the freshman is showing life in the second half of the season. That could pay dividends, as pitchers will have to respect Smith by going after Brandon Lowe, as well as pitch to Smith due to Martir looming behind him.