Our countdown to the first pitch of the Maryland Baseball season is down into single-digits. Now that we’ve previewed the entire Big Ten and introduced the Terrapins’ deep bullpen, let’s review the outfield corps for the 2017 season.
After five seasons in College Park, Anthony Papio transitions from an athlete in the outfield to a student assistant coach on the bench for the Terrapins. Papio made 50 starts in the outfield in his final season in 2016 with only two errors in his time in both center and right field. At the plate he hit .261 with four home runs, 28 RBIs and was tied for a team-high with eight steals. He finished his career with 230 games played, the most in Maryland Baseball history.
Although Papio will be missed in the outfield this season, the Terps have solid players to fill the void. Let’s introduce those players, starting with the position Papio leaves behind: right field.
After making 52 starts as a freshman last season, most of which came in left field, sophomore Marty Costes will likely cross the outfield to become the starting right fielder for the Terrapins to begin the season. Costes’ emergence as a powerful bat in the lineup last season forced Coach Szefc to find him a place in the field. With Kevin Smith occupying his high school position at shortstop, Costes got his chance in left field. He went 2-for-3 with an RBI in his first start in the outfield, and his hot hitting continued, making him an everyday left fielder from that point on.
He led the Terps and all Big Ten freshmen with nine home runs and 37 RBIs to go with a .263 batting average and a .363 on-base percentage. Not only did he provide an offensive spark last season, but Costes recorded just two errors in the field, establishing himself as one of the team’s better defensive outfielders. After a strong summer with the Baltimore Redbirds of the Cal Ripken League (.314, 7 HR, 24 RBIs), he will be an essential member of the outfield this season both defensively and offensively.
After starting the final 20 games last year, junior Zach Jancarski will return in center field when Maryland begins its season in Clearwater, Florida. Jancarski began last season in center before being replaced by Papio just a couple of weeks later. But when Jancarski started to warm up in mid-April, he returned to the starting lineup as the everyday center fielder.
In addition to making zero errors in 46 appearances in the field, Jancarski hit .257 with four doubles, 18 runs scored and a .348 on-base percentage. The junior played in for the Sanford Mainers in the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer, where he hit .288 with 10 doubles and 13 RBIs. Jancarski will not only lead the outfield with his solid defense, but he is also likely to lead the offense near the top of the Maryland lineup.
While Costes and Jancarski appear to have their spots in the outfield locked up to start the year, left field still poses a bit of a mystery for Maryland and might continue to confuse us in the first weeks of the season. Although senior Madison Nickens will likely switch from right field to left field to start the season, Coach Szefc has options in the third outfield spot. As a transfer from LSU-Eunice a year ago, Nickens started 54 games primarily in right field. He led the team with 40 runs scored, tied with Papio for the team lead with eight stolen bases, and finished second behind Costes with eight home runs. When Jarcarski reclaimed his position in center field mid-way through the season, Papio moved back into right, giving Nickens some time in the DH spot to finish the season.
Nickens might start the opening game in left field for the Terps, but there will be plenty of opportunities early in the season on Sundays and mid-week games for others, such as Will Watson, to earn more playing time. Watson, a junior transfer from LSU-Eunice, hit .312 with 11 doubles, four homers and 21 stolen bases in 46 games last season for the Bengals. Just like Nickens a year ago, Watson will get opportunities early in the season to show if his success playing Division II baseball can translate into Division I.
Even though Jamal Wade has been working on transitioning to the mound since last season, he could also be given opportunities in the outfield like in his freshman and sophomore seasons. In addition to his 1.58 ERA in 11.1 innings, he hit .267 with two homers for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene Swamp Bats this summer. After starting four games in 19 appearances for the Terps last season, Wade could compete for playing time in the outfield, returning to his freshman year form where hit started 26 games between DH and the outfield.