By Jake Eisenberg
For the first time since freshman year, junior RHP Mike Shawaryn will not start on a Friday.
After struggling for much of the season, the Maryland coaching staff has made a change, moving Shawaryn to start on Sunday, and shifting RHP Taylor Bloom and RHP Brian Shaffer up in the rotation. Bloom will have the ball for Friday’s game vs. Ohio State, and Shaffer will take the hill on Saturday.
“When guys are struggling you try to do some things to work through it to get them right,” head coach John Szefc said. “So we’re just trying to take a little bit of pressure off him with some of the struggles he’s had lately.”
The switch is happening for an additional reason. On Thursday, the team will hold an short intrasquad game, where Shawaryn will work on a few things with pitching coach Jimmy Belanger. Starting on Sunday allows the right-hander to rest after his work this afternoon.
“[Pitching coach Jimmy] Belanger and I had talked about it, and I wanted to get some more work in before my next start this weekend,” Shawaryn said. “I wasn’t really upset about it. Shaffer and Bloom—they do a great job. If there’s anybody I’d love to have behind me in the rotation, it’d be those two guys.”
The struggles for Shawaryn have been clear over the last few weeks. In his last three starts, the junior is 0-2 with a 5.70 ERA in 14.2 IP. The strikeouts have increased in that span, as the right-hander has fanned 17 in the stretch, but he has also allowed six walks and hit five batters.
Last Friday against High Point, Shawaryn’s most recent start, was also the shortest of his career. He lasted just 3.2 IP, allowing three runs on three hits. He did, however, strike out five, but walked a batter and hit three.
“Things happen, and it’s how you react to that—I know it’ll come around,” he said. “Do I wish this happened? No. Do I wish I could’ve easily gotten through it? Yes. But things happen for a reason and you learn from this stuff and keep trying to move forward.”
2016 has been a far cry from 2015 for the junior, when he set program single-season records in wins (13) and strikeouts (139), finishing the season with a 1.71 ERA and a spot among the finalists for the Golden Spikes award, given to the nation’s best collegiate players. Shawaryn also established the school’s new career wins record, now at 26 with his two wins in 2016.
The lone time Shawaryn has looked like his 2015 self was during his start against Rhode Island, when he tossed eight innings of one-run ball, striking out five and walked none en route to a 1-0 Maryland win.
Bloom and Shaffer, meanwhile, have blossomed in 2016, each dominating over the majority of the last few weeks.
“Bloom’s been very good,” Szefc said. “Our guys are interchangeable to be honest. Taylor’s pitched in big games—way bigger games—than a Friday night game,” Szefc said. “We’re not really worried about him pitching any game.”
The sophomore right hander has posted a 2.49 ERA over his last three starts, allowing just six earned runs over 21.1 IP, good for a 2-0 record. He’s struck out 11 and walked just one. His success this season includes back-to-back complete games—a tough-luck 2-0 loss to Bryant in perhaps his best start of the season (CG, 6 H, 2 R, 5 K, 0 BB), and a complete-game 8-4 victory over Cal St. Fullerton.
Bloom plans to attack his new role on Friday the same as he would on Saturday.
“It doesn’t really change my mentality at all,” Bloom said. “I’m still going to try and go out there and give my team a chance to win. I’m just going to try to pick Mike up and get him on the right track, because we definitely need him.”
Shaffer has perhaps been the best of the three as of late. In his last three starts, the right-hander is 2-1 and owns a 1.71 ERA over 26.1 innings. He has zero walks and 15 strikeouts, including back-to-back complete games, one of which was a complete game shutout against Cal St. Fullerton.
For a team that’s been consistently inconsistent through the first 30 games, with a 15-15 record as evidence, the emphasis is on turning things around and winning games.
“Right now I haven’t pitched up to my potential. I’m just trying to put the team in the best position to win and they’re doing a great job, so why not?” Shawaryn said. “I just have to get back to going out there and being the best Mike Shawaryn I can be.”