Preseason Countdown #5: Infield preview

Maryland baseball season is just five days away. Over the last two weeks, The Maryland Baseball Network has reviewed the best moments of head coach Rob Vaughn’s first year at the helm, highlighted the best offseason performers and broken down several notable things revealed at spring sports media day.

Now, with less than a week left until the Terps take on Campbell in the season-opener, it’s time to shift our efforts to what’s to come in the next few months. We’ve previewed the starting pitchers and bullpen, and today, we continue with a breakdown of Maryland baseball’s 2019 infielders.

Sophomore first baseman Michael Pineiro Piniero090518_03

After redshirting his freshman year and showing out for the Aggies in the Fall World Series, Pineiro is one of head coach Rob Vaughn’s options to fill the Terps’ gap at first base after Kevin Biondic graduated after last season. With a strong performance during the fall, Pineiro could also find a spot in Maryland’s starting lineup in the outfield or as the designated hitter.

Freshman first baseman Kody Milton Milton090518_01

Milton has shown vast improvements since arriving in the the fall as a first-year Terp, according to Vaughn. The Terps’ head coach added that Milton will likely find himself “in the mix” with everything Maryland does this spring, citing the freshman’s “desire to be great.”

As a senior at Severna Park High School, Milton hit .514 with eight home runs and 35 RBI, ending his career with the Falcons with 21 home runs and 116 hits. At first base, Perfect Game ranked Milton No. 28 in the nation and No. 1 in Maryland.

Sophomore second baseman Tommy Gardiner Gardiner090518_03

After spending time at third base last season, Gardiner has successfully transitioned over to second according to Vaughn. As a freshman, Gardiner started 21 games for the Terps, hitting .162 with a .311 on-base percentage.

This season, the New Jersey-native will be one of three possibilities to fill the holes left after last year. At media day, Vaughn cited the sophomore as a “super steady defender [who] can handle the bat,” and could see a decent amount of playing time.

Freshman second baseman Ben Cowles Cowles090518_05

A former shortstop, Cowles has a chance to start at second for the Terps this season, as well. One of the most competitive players Vaughn says he has ever coached — second only to now-Volunteer Assistant Coach Anthony Papio — the New York native’s athleticism could put him in a prime position when the season begins.

Before Maryland, Cowles ended his senior season at Newark High School batting .512 with a .650 on-base percentage and for home runs. According to Perfect Game, he was ranked the No. 5 shortstop in New York.

Freshman second baseman Josh Maguire Maguire082818_03

Another new player who has held his own is Delaware-native Josh Maguire, who has worked hard to overcome his defensive struggles. If Maguire comes out strong in the box, he, too, could be an option at second according to Vaughn.

Ranked the No. 2 second baseman in Delaware by Perfect Game, Maguire hit .415 his senior year at Salesianum, batting above .300 for all four season with the Sallies.

Senior third baseman Taylor Wright VBSVZTBXVAYMWHZ.20170912225046

After transferring to Maryland last season, Wright is one of four seniors for the Terps this year. The Vancouver native started 44 games for the Terps last season, batting .230 with 25 RBIs and a .319 on-base percentage.

Growing more comfortable at third over the offseason, Wright rounds out the left side of Maryland’s infield. Between Wright and Lee, the left-side pairing’s “intense work ethic” is what makes them a strong duo, according to Vaughn.

Freshman third baseman Maxwell Costes Costes090518_03.jpg

Costes finds himself in a similar situation to the one his old brother Marty experienced when he came in as a freshman several years ago, before he was drafted last year and opted to forgo his final season in College Park.

With third base occupied by a senior leader, Costes likely won’t have immediate opportunities at his natural infield position. But with a depleted outfield after last season, Costes could transition to the outfield just like his brother did for Maryland for three seasons.

Senior shortstop AJ Lee Lee090518_05

Lee started all 54 games at shortstop last season after sliding over from third base, batting .232 with a .375 on-base percentage, 36 walks and 11 hit by pitches. After putting in work in the offseason and spending time after practice taking extra grounders, Lee has the potential for a solid performance his second year as Maryland’s shortstop.

The senior is also one of the three team-appointed captains, according to Vaughn, who added that between Lee and third baseman Taylor Wright, the Terps’ left side has shaped up to be one of the strongest he’s coached.

Sophomore catcher Justin Vought Vought090518_01

After serving as backup to senior Justin Morris last year,  Vought will be the primary catcher for the Terps in 2019. As a freshman, Vought started 20 games and batted .174 with three home runs, 12 hits and a .296 on-base percentage. This season, Vought is also one of three team-appointed captains and the only returning catcher on the roster. 

Freshman catcher Zach Doss Doss082818_02

Doss shined in Game 2 of the Fall World Series this past fall, supporting the Aggies in the first of two comeback wins. Before joining the Terps, Perfect Game ranked Doss No. 66 nationally and No. 1 in Maryland after his time at North Point High School. In his senior season, he batted .593 with four home runs.

Junior catcher Tavan Shahidi Shahidi090518_05

Shahidi is one of the seven transfers Vaughn brought into College Park this season, one that also features a large 11-member freshman class. The junior from Iowa Lakes Community College slashed .336/.445/.611 with 10 home runs, 11 doubles and 43 RBIs before joining the Terps for the 2019 season.