Burke, Costes Lead Terps to Shutout Victory, Series Win

On Saturday afternoon against Rhode Island, Maryland pitching and defense struggled mightily, allowing 11 runs and making two costly errors. On Sunday, the Terps showed almost immediately that there would not be a repeat of their poor performance, as pitcher Sean Burke, catcher Justin Vought, and shortstop Ben Cowles combined for a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play to end the top of the first. 

The defensive highlight set the tone for a game that was well-played by both sides, standing in sharp contrast to the somewhat sloppy first two contests of the series. The Terps rode Burke’s strong start and Maxwell Costes’s two solo home runs to a 3-0 victory, clinching their first series win of 2020.

For the first time this season, the Terps did not make an error, which allowed them to make up for a poor offensive performance. While Maryland had 8 hits, the Terps failed to capitalize on big opportunities, going just 2-for-9 with runners on base and 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. 

In the bottom of the first, with Maryland still buzzing after Vought’s strong throw, Chris Alleyne started off the Terps’ offensive afternoon with a bang, lining a double to deadaway centerfield. After taking third on a wild pitch, Alleyne scored on an RBI groundout by Tucker Flint. Costes doubled the Maryland lead in the third when he ripped his first home run of the season to left-centerfield. 

Burke was nearly unhittable in the early-going, allowing only 2 hits and punching out 8 in his first two trips through the order. Burke’s only early jam came in the third inning, when the Rams put runners on first and second with two outs. But Burke won a seven-pitch battle with center fielder Austin White, getting a strikeout and keeping Rhode Island off the board. 

“On Sunday you’ve just got to set the tone, and it starts on the mound.” said Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn. “I thought he did an unbelievable job.”

Burke finally ran into real trouble in the sixth inning, when the Rams used back-to-back singles to put a man in scoring position with one out. After a deep flyout moved the lead runner to third, Vaughn lifted his redshirt freshman and brought on Elliot Zoellner to escape the jam. The sidewinder got Mark Coley to fly out to center, escaping the inning and keeping the shutout intact. 

After getting the big out, Zoellner’s afternoon was over, as he gave way to Connor Staine, who worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning and stranded a runner on second in the eighth to keep the Terrapin lead at two. After Costes’s second blast of the day extended the lead to three, Staine got two outs in the ninth before allowing a single and a walk to bring the tying run to the plate and being relieved by Mark DiLuia. DiLuia fanned pinch-hitter Thomas Summers, getting the save in the Terps first shutout of the season and moving the team to 5-1. 

Costes’s home runs were his first two of the season and both were very impressive. The first was a line drive shot over the left centerfield fence, and the second a towering drive down the left field line.

Despite the change in result, Costes said that “nothing really” changed in his approach.

“I talk to [assistant coach Matt] Swope a lot before the game, a lot after games, he kind of keeps my mind in things,” Costes said. “He tells me I’m swinging at good pitches and it’s going to come together at some point, and today we needed it in a couple big spots and it came together for us.”

 

 

Terps Take First Loss in Slugfest

When Maryland second baseman Austin Chavis blasted a fly ball to right-centerfield in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game with Rhode Island, it was initially unclear whether Rams’ center fielder Austin White had brought it back or if it had cleared the fence for Chavis’s first career homer. 

When it became clear that White had come up short, the Maryland bench exploded, as the Terps’ ninth hitter had just put them back in the lead for the third time in a back-and-forth slugfest with the Rams. 

But the euphoria was short-lived, as the lead changed hands for the sixth time in the very next inning, when two Rhode Island runs scored on an error by Troy Schreffler, giving the Rams a 9-8 lead they never relinquished en route to an 11-8 victory.

The Rams jumped out in front almost immediately, when three-hitter Jackson Coutts took Nick Dean deep over the left-centerfield fence for a two-out solo homer in the first. The lead was short-lived, as Maxwell Costes ripped a single back up the middle in the bottom of the frame to bring Chris Alleyne in from third and tie the game. 

Ben Cowles put the Terps ahead in the second with the first home run by any Terrapin this season, depositing a 2-2 pitch over the batter’s eye in center field. 

Coutts struck again in the third inning. After Rhode Island loaded the bases with two walks and a single, the designated hitter laced a 2-0 fastball from Dean down the right field line for a go-ahead two-run double. The Rams broke it open on the very next at-bat, when Xavier Vargas ripped a three-run home run to right field to push the score to 6-2. 

Coutts and Vargas carried the Rams’ offense, combining for six hits and driving in 8 of Rhode Island’s 11 runs. The Terps relied on a more balanced attack, with six different players driving in at least one run. Maryland also made the most of its opportunities. Five of their seven hits went for extra bases, and the Terrapins went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position. 

The Terps closed the gap in the fourth, scoring on an RBI groundout by Matt Orlando and a run-scoring bunt single by Chavis to cut the Rams’ lead to 2. Tavin Shahidi, making his first start of the season, closed the gap to just one in the fifth with a two-out, RBI double to dead centerfield.  

One batter later, Maryland’s comeback was complete, as Troy Schreffler blasted his first collegiate home run, scoring Shahidi and putting the Terps up 7-6. However, the lead was short-lived as Rams’ second baseman Joe Fortin re-tied the game with two-outs in the sixth with an RBI double off the top of the wall in right field. 

After Chavis’s blast and the run-scoring error, the game briefly settled down, as neither side scored in the eighth. Vargas’s second homer, a two-run blast in the ninth, gave the Rams some breathing room and Tyler Brosius worked three scoreless innings for Rhode Island to slam the door on the Terps and hand them their first loss of the 2020 season. 

Terps Ride 19 Free Passes to Win Home Opener

When Sean Fisher walked off the mound with one out in the seventh inning against Rhode Island he was exiting his second straight solid effort and his second ever start for Maryland. While Fisher was excellent, escaping multiple jams and punching out four batters, the most dramatic aspect of his start was the contrast in free bases issued between him and the Rams’ pitching staff. 

After spending his first two seasons in College Park as a reliever, Fisher was named the Friday night starter entering the season, and has excelled in his two starts, allowing just one earned run in 11 ⅔ total innings. 

While Fisher issued one walk and hit one batter, Rhode Island’s pitchers lack of control, coupled with costly defensive miscues, defined the game, The Rams beat themselves badly, walking 12 Terrapins, hitting 7 batters, and committing two run-scoring errors in the 9-3 Maryland victory. 

When they did find the strike zone, the Rams pitchers mostly held Maryland in check, allowing only four hits, all of which were singles. However, the free bases allowed Maryland to score eight or more runs for the third time in four games

The Terps got on the board in the second, when second baseman Aaron Perez walked in a run after Rams’ starter Justin Cherry loaded the bases with a single and two hit batters. Cherry’s control issues continued in the third, as he walked two batters before leaving with an injury. Reliever Ryan Twitchell had no better luck finding the plate, sandwiching an RBI single by Bobby Zmarzlak between two HBPs as the Terps tacked on three more runs.  

After the long wait between trips to the mound, Fisher lost no rhythm, setting the Rams down in order on just five pitches in the top of the fourth to keep the Terps’ lead at 4-0. 

In the bottom of the frame, reliever Ryan Picone continued Rhode Island’s trend of finding Maryland batters more than the strike zone, as he loaded the bases with three hit batsmen. However, unlike Cherry and Twitchell, Picone managed to keep the Terps off the scoreboard, escaping the jam by striking out Zmarzlak on three pitches. 

The Rams’ offense finally broke through in the fifth. After getting two outs, Fisher walked center fielder Austin White on four pitches. After stealing second, White moved to third on an infield single by third baseman Tino Salgado and scored on a single to right field by second baseman Josh Brodeur. 

Maryland got the run back in the bottom of the fifth, when Rhode Island shortstop Alex Ramirez dropped a sky-high, two-out popup by Chris Alleyne, allowing Benjamin Cowles to score from third. 

The Terps added further insurance in their final two offensive innings, scoring three times in the seventh and once in the eighth to put the game firmly out of reach.

The win moves the Terps to 4-0, their best start since they started with the same record in 2015. 

Preseason Countdown No. 3: Top 5 Series for 2020

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As they have the past few years, Maryland baseball faces national blue-blood programs on the road early in the season and will have to get past some of the Big Ten’s elite in order to reach the conference tournament.

Here are the Terps’ top five series of the 2020 season. 


@ Coastal Carolina, February 28-March 1

After opening the season in South Carolina on February 14, the Terps head back to the Palmetto State at the end of the month to face off with the Chanticleers. It’s the third straight year Maryland will face Coastal, losing 7-2 in one game last year, and beating the Chants 7-6 in 2018.

Coastal’s offense, which finished last season fifth in the country with 525 runs,  will be led by outfielder Parker Chavers. Baseball America named the junior a second-team preseason All-American coming off last season, when he batted .316 with 15 home runs.

Control will be key for the Terps’ pitching staff, as Coastal finished 11th in the nation last season with 350 walks, drawing eight in their matchup with Maryland. Coastal can also make free bases hurt, as they stole 79 bases on 93 attempts in 2019 (opponents were 78-95 against the Terps last season). The Chanticleers serve as a useful early-season measuring stick, as the first of five NCAA tournament teams the Terps will face this year. 

@ TCU, March 13-15

The Terps play five straight home games after their trip to Conway, South Carolina, before they head to Fort Worth, Texas to take on the new-look Horned Frogs. Coming off an NCAA tournament berth, the Horned Frogs lost their ace, Nick Lodolo, and their top three hitters to the MLB draft last year.

Despite the roster turnover TCU has plenty of talent, with top-15 recruiting classes in three of the last four seasons. Pitcher Charles King will be looking to step into the ace role left behind by Lodolo, coming off a junior season where he had a 3.36 ERA in 21 appearances, including eight starts. The Horned Frogs’ bullpen should be anchored by junior Augie Mihlbauer, who led the team with a 2.35 ERA in 28 relief appearances last season.

On offense, TCU returns only four players who appeared in more than 40 games, though those four players include reigning RBI leader, infielder Austin Henry, who hit .288 with 43 RBI and started all 62 games last season. Like the Terps, TCU will lean heavily on a young, yet talented roster, with impending learning curves making it difficult to project where the two teams will be when they meet.

@ Iowa, April 17-19

Entering the last series of 2019, Maryland needed to sweep Iowa to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament. The Terps secured that sweep, battering the Hawkeyes’ pitching staff to the tune of 26 runs in three games in College Park.

This year Iowa’s pitching staff, led by senior Grant Judkins, will look to quiet Maryland’s offense in Iowa City. Judkins was the team’s most reliable starter last season, with a 2.72 ERA in 15 starts, punching out 65 hitters while allowing just 70 hits in 82 2/3 innings.

The pitching staff will also be bolstered by the return of redshirt sophomore Jack Dreyer, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury. When healthy, Dreyer looked sharp, striking out 11 and allowing just 2 runs in 7 1/3 innings over two starts.

The Iowa offense maintains most of its biggest weapons, with the team’s three batting leaders, Izaya Fullard, Zeb Adreon, and Austin Martin, all returning. Outfielder Ben Norman, the only player to start all 55 of Iowa’s games, also returns, coming off a season where he led the team with 12 doubles and 34 RBI along with six home runs, the second-most on the team.

Picked by Baseball America to finish fifth and sixth respectively in the Big Ten, both Iowa and Maryland should be looking to this series as a key time to pick up quality conference wins. 

@ Ohio State, May 8-10

This season the Terps drew a favorable conference schedule, avoiding the defending regular-season champion Indiana and national runner-up Michigan. Maryland will, however, have to face the defending Big Ten Tournament champs when they travel to Columbus.

The Buckeyes lost their tournament hero and closer Andrew Magno to the draft, but did retain their entire weekend rotation of Seth Lonsway, Garrett Burhenn and Griffan Smith. Lonsway was the Buckeyes’ most dominant pitcher the Buckeyes, punching out 126 batters in 92 1/3 innings and recording a 3.70 ERA.

On offense, the two biggest losses for the Buckeyes were Dominic Canzone and Brady Cherry, who had 16 homers apiece last year. The lineup still returns three 30-RBI players in Conner Pohl, Brent Todys and Zach Dezenzo, but the thump-and-fear factor provided by Canzone and Cherry will be difficult to replace.

Ohio State is also perhaps the most vulnerable of the Big Ten’s elite. While they found their stride in the postseason, the Buckeyes also were swept at home by Northwestern (by a combined score of 30-11), and went only 12-12 in conference play. 

vs. Minnesota, May 14-16

For the second year in a row, the Terps finish the regular season at home, this time with a three-game set against the Golden Gophers. Minnesota finished tied for third in the Big Ten last season, with a 15-9 conference record, and took two-of-three from Maryland in Minneapolis last year.

While the Gophers look to be near the top of the Big Ten again, they have a lineup that can be pitched around; the most dangerous hitter in the lineup, infielder Jordan Kozicky, had 11 home runs and 49 RBI last season but hit only .237 and struck out 62 times. Kozicky was the only player with more than 30 RBI and no qualified player hit over .300.

On the mound Minnesota will be led by ace Max Meyer. The now-junior led all Big Ten starters with a 2.11 ERA, had an 87-20 K/BB ratio and held opponents to a .202 batting average in 76 2/3 innings last season. Junior Joshua Culliver also figures to be a key part of the Minnesota pitching staff. Culliver led the team with 13 starts last season, and his ability to bring his ERA down from last season’s mark of 4.64 will be a key factor in Minnesota’s success.

After last year’s dramatic end to the season, the Terps know their series against the Golden Gophers could be the key to their postseason hopes and the deciding fate in their season. 

Preseason Countdown No. 16: Standout Summer Pitchers

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Over the summer of 2019, nine Maryland pitchers appeared across five different summer leagues. These pitchers combined for seven wins and five saves 78 appearances, 15 of them starts. Of the nine hurlers to get innings over the summer, the two who stood out the most were two veteran bullpen arms, Sean Fisher and Elliot Zoellner. 

Sean Fisher, LHP, Brewster Whitecaps (Cape Cod League): 12 apps, 25.1 IP, 3-0, 3 SV, 2.84 ERA, 15 K/4 BB

Fisher, a junior from Parsonsburg, led the Whitecaps in appearances and was named the teams reliever of the season. Fisher’s role in Brewster was similar to his one in College Park, often going multiple innings, including over three innings four times.

The southpaw pitched to contact over the summer as he did in the spring, with relatively low numbers of both strikeouts and walks. But while his style remained the same, his results differed wildly, with an ERA more than four runs lower than his mark from the spring.

While Fisher was solid from start to finish over the summer, his two-week period from July 10 to 24 sealed him as the team’s reliever of the season. Over four appearances in that span, Fisher went 12 ⅔ innings over four appearances without allowing an earned run and recording three wins and a save.

With the departure of closer John Murphy, Fisher figures to take on a larger role in the Terps’ bullpen, with more appearances in more crucial situations.  

Elliot Zoellner, RHP, Bethesda Big Train (Ripken): 12 apps, 16 IP, 1-0, 1 SV, 1.12 ERA, 17 K/5 BB

Zoellner was a key cog of the Big Train’s championship team, coming second on the team with 12 appearances and allowing only two runs. The senior from Annapolis was coming off a tough spring where he had a 7.40 ERA in 18 appearances. Like Fisher, Zoellner was almost lights-out from start to finish, with 11 of his 16 appearances ending scoreless, including six consecutive shutout appearances to end the summer.

Zoellner was mostly a short-innings option, going only an inning over four times. While he did not have many long outings, he was also consistently getting outs, never going less that a full inning after failing to record three outs eight times in the spring.

Like Fisher, the righty sidewinder has the potential to be a key veteran presence in the Terps bullpen, as the only senior reliever on the roster. While the experience can be helpful regardless of on-field performance, Zoellner’s ability to carry his summer-ball form into the spring could be a key to the reliability of Maryland’s bullpen.