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.
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.
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.
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.