Preseason Countdown #24: 2018 Pitching MVP

Right-hander Hunter Parsons allowed eight runs in his first inning of the 2018 season, but that ugly outing quickly became a distant memory.

The first start of Parsons’ junior campaign was shortened to three outs when Tennessee tagged him for six hits on the first Sunday of the season. But after that game, he worked a 2.66 ERA the remainder of the year to become Maryland baseball’s most consistent and dominant pitcher.

Each subsequent appearance from Parsons seemed to improve after that disastrous inning against the Volunteers. The rapid growth under first-year Terps pitching coach Corey Muscara culminated into a season polar opposite from Parsons’ sophomore year, one that yielded a 12.05 ERA in only 21.2 innings.

DSC_0124All it took was self-confidence and a new grip on his two-seam fastball. For the rest of the year, no opponent touched Parsons the way Tennessee did. He finished with a 3.44 ERA, inflated by the lone ugly outing.

Parsons didn’t miss a start while Maryland struggled to keep its entire weekend rotation healthy in 2018. He led the team with five wins, 89 innings pitched, 62 strikeouts and a .225 batting average against.

His newfound ability to pitch deep into games reduced extra work from a short-staffed pitching arsenal. He tossed two complete games, the first coming against Bryant in a game that demonstrated Parsons’ trust in his ability.

When coach Rob Vaughn asked Parsons if he wanted to stay in the game with the go-ahead run at the plate in the ninth inning, the righty was eager to record the 27th out instead of handing the ball over to closer John Murphy. He got the next batter to weakly ground out to earn the 5-3 win over Bryant and clinch the series victory. 

Two weeks later, Parsons outdid himself. This time it was a complete game shutout in a 2-0 win over Stetson, a team that found itself playing into June in an NCAA Super Regional. Parsons allowed only two hits while striking out a career-high nine batters, again clinching a series win for the Terps. The performance garnered Big Ten co-pitcher of the week honors.

Parsons turned into the team’s ace, taking the hill in the last two series-openers. Maryland’s late postseason push, however, fell short on the final day of conference play. The right-hander wasn’t selected in the MLB draft, so he’ll look to build off his breakout season in his final year in College Park this spring.