Summer Ball Update 7/20/17: Dunn heating up on Cape, Terps continue to shine in Ripken League

As the end of July draws near, many summer leagues around the country are heading into the homestretch. Let’s check in on how Terps are doing for their various summer teams.

After a slow start, second baseman Nick Dunn is heating up in his second season with the Cape Cod League’s Brewster Whitecaps. A Cape All-Star in 2016, Dunn didn’t receive the same honors this season, but the rising junior is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak. Over that stretch, he has recorded four multi-hit efforts and six RBIs to raise his season average to .306, the second-best mark on the Whitecaps. His Maryland and Brewster teammate, Marty Costes, has not enjoyed the same summer success, as the outfielder’s average hovers around the Mendoza line, but he does have four homers, including a go-ahead three-run shot Sunday, and ranks second on the team in RBIs (15).

Elsewhere on the Cape, a pair of Terps hurlers have had up-and-down summers so far. Left-hander Tyler Blohm, coming off a Freshman All-American campaign, owns a 5.68 ERA in five outings (four starts) for the Falmouth Commodores. Right-hander Hunter Parsons hasn’t fared much better, with a 7.36 ERA in eight relief appearances, but he does have a respectable 1.23 WHIP and an 11.4 K/9 rate.

Locally in the Cal Ripken League, a pair of Terps continue to rake for the league-leading Bethesda Big Train. Outfielder Zach Jancarski ranks third in the league with a .363 average, and has 14 stolen bases, 21 runs scored and three homers in 24 games played. Catcher Justin Morris has been equally impressive at the plate, hitting .328 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games. On the mound for Bethesda, John Murphy has a 3.68 ERA in six appearances (five starts), with 24 strikeouts in 22 innings of work, while left-hander Zach Guth has given up four earned runs in two innings this season.

The CRCBL North Division-leading Baltimore Redbirds have gotten a huge boost offensively from outfielder Randy Bednar. The incoming freshman ranks in the top ten in the league in average (.337), homers (5), RBIs (24) and OPS (.994), and has hits in five of his last six contests. His Redbird teammate, infielder AJ Lee, has awakened after an early-season slump, collecting five multi-hit games in his last seven contests to raise his batting average to .245. He continues to be a threat on the bases, currently sitting third on the team with 11 steals.

A pair of Terps pitchers on the Redbirds, Mike Vasturia and Jon Dignazio, have also taken steps in the right direction after rough starts to the season. Vasturia has posted back-to-back scoreless outings, lowering his ERA to 5.40, while posting more than one strikeout per inning. Dignazio’s ERA is still a lofty 6.96, and the left-hander has 17 walks in 10.1 innings, but he did record a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in his last appearance.

With the Ripken League’s Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts, incoming freshman Tommy Gardiner continues to hit, with a .306 average. Fellow incoming freshman Richie Schiekofer has not enjoyed the same success, as he is mired in a 3-for-20 slump, dipping his average to .216.

Up north in Ontario, Kevin Biondic has played in 31 games for the Northwoods League’s Thunder Bay Border Cats. A first baseman by trade, he is slashing .242/.384/.364 in 99 at-bats, but has also seen time on the mound, getting a start and tossing four shutout innings with three strikeouts July 11 against Rochester.

Summer Ball Update 7/11/17: Four Terps make Ripken League All-Star squad

As the calendar approaches the middle of July, many Terps are in the midst of fine summer campaigns, including four who earned Cal Ripken League All-Star honors this week. Here’s a rundown of how different Terps are doing around the country.

We’ll start in the Cape Cod League, where left-hander Tyler Blohm has made four appearances, including three starts, for the Falmouth Commodores, pitching to a 4.50 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 16 frames. Fellow Terp pitcher Hunter Parsons has struggled in limited appearances for the Cape’s Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. The rising junior right-hander has made six appearances, all in relief, allowing four earned runs in 5.1 innings, but picking up six strikeouts along the way.

Outfielder Marty Costes and second baseman Nick Dunn have not yet found their rhythms at the plate with the Brewster Whitecaps. Dunn, a 2016 CCBL All-Star for the Whitecaps, is fourth on the team in at-bats (59), but owns a .237 batting average and just three extra-base hits. Costes is hovering around the Mendoza line, hitting just .200, but has still shown strong plate discipline (.373 OBP) and ranks third on the Whitecaps with three homers.

Locally, pitcher John Murphy, catcher Justin Morris, and outfielders Zach Jancarski and Randy Bednar represented Maryland in the Cal Ripken League All-Star Game Monday. Murphy (Bethesda Big Train) pitched a scoreless inning, and owns a 3.31 ERA over five appearances (19 innings) this summer. Morris, who is hitting .347 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 15 contests for the Big Train this summer, walked in his only All-Star Game plate appearance, and threw out two runners from behind the dish. Jancarski leads the Big Train with a .385 average and .512 on-base percentage, and ranks third on the team with 10 stolen bases. Bednar, an incoming freshman, paces the Baltimore Redbirds with three long balls, and his .329 average is the second-best mark on the squad.

Elsewhere in the Ripken League, AJ Lee has heated up after a slow start for the Redbirds. The Maryland third baseman is hitting just .200 on the season, but has three multi-hit contests over his last five games. His Redbird teammates, Mike Vasturia and Jon Dignazio, have not fared as well on the mound. Vasturia has a 7.36 ERA in 11 innings out of the bullpen, but that mark is inflated by a couple rough outings, as the right-hander has given up one run or less in four of his six outings. Dignazio, a southpaw, owns a similar 7.44 ERA in 9.2 innings, and while his 15 walks are worrisome, he has whiffed 12 batters.

A pair of incoming freshmen have impressed with the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts. Infielder Tommy Gardiner‘s .351 batting average is second on the team, and he has been especially hot of late, collecting multiple hits in three of his last four games. His teammate, outfielder Richie Schiekofer, is hitting .242 in 11 games, but has come up big this season, collecting a walk0ff hit against Rockville in late June. Senior outfielder Will Watson has made just one appearance for the T-Bolts, going 0-for-3.

Left-hander Zach Guth has made three appearances for the Big Train, allowing four runs (all earned) over two innings of work.

With the Amsterdam Mohawks of the Perfect Game League, catcher Danny Maynard maintains a .309 average with two homers and 11 RBIs in 18 contests. Right-hander Cameron Enck owns a 2.70 ERA in six contests for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Newport Gulls. Enck has struck out 16 and walked just five in 20 innings of work this summer.

North of the border, first baseman Kevin Biondic is hitting .247 in 27 games for the Northwoods League’s Thunder Bay Border Cats. The rising senior has launched three homers and driven in 15, and has more walks (14) than strikeouts (13) this summer.

Maryland hires Corey Muscara as new pitching coach

Maryland baseball has hired Corey Muscara to be the team’s next pitching coach, the team announced in a press release Monday. Muscara joins a coaching staff led by newly-minted Head Coach Rob Vaughn. He is the third Terps pitching coach in as many years, after Ryan Fecteau left to join former Maryland head coach John Szefc at Virginia Tech earlier this month.

Corey Muscara. (Photo courtesy of St. John’s University)

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity work with such a great young passionate staff,” Muscara said in a Maryland press release. “The future is very bright at with Coach Vaughn and the players we have here. I’m excited to get started and I think we can achieve great things at the University of Maryland.”

For the last five years, Muscara has served as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for St. John’s University. Under his tutelage, a Red Storm hurler has been named Big East Pitcher of the Year for three straight seasons, as right-hander Sean Mooney captured the title this spring. Muscara also led the Red Storm to the Big East ERA title this year with a 3.11 mark that ranked eighth in the country. St. John’s led the conference in strikeouts in two of his five seasons there (2014 and 2015).

Over his five seasons at St. John’s, nine of Muscara’s pitchers have been drafted, including Thomas Hackimer (4th round, 123rd overall, 2016 MLB Draft), who in 2016 became the first reliever in more than a decade to win Big East Pitcher of the Year.

“The number one thing that I was looking for in hiring a pitching coach was a guy that had a ton of passion for developing young men and had a vision for what this place is going to be,” Vaughn said in a press release. He also noted that Muscara has an excellent resume as a recruiter.

Muscara graduated from Franklin Pierce in 2009 after playing two seasons there and two at Siena. After his collegiate career, he coached the Danbury Westerners of the NECBL for two seasons.

Prior to his time at St. John’s, Muscara served two stints on the coaching staff at Southern New Hampshire University, in 2010 and 2012, and spent the 2011 season as the pitching coach at Binghamton.

At Maryland, he inherits a staff that ranked fourth in the Big Ten in ERA (3.91) and second in strikeouts (479), thanks in part to ace Brian Shaffer, who recently signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Muscara will work with a young staff that has lost not only Shaffer, but relievers Ryan Selmer, Jared Price, Jamal Wade, Mike Rescigno and Tayler Stiles. Key remaining arms include starters Tyler Blohm and Taylor Bloom and reliever John Murphy.

 

Former Terps lefty Adam Kolarek called up to Tampa Bay Rays

Former Maryland left-hander Adam Kolarek has been called up to the Tampa Bay Rays after spending parts of eight seasons in the minors. Kolarek, 28, pitched for the Terps from 2008 to 2010 before being selected in the 11th round (332nd overall) by the New York Mets in the 2010 MLB Draft. He joins fellow southpaw reliever Brett Cecil as the only Terps currently in the major leagues.

Over his three years at Maryland, Kolarek made 60 appearances (51 in relief) spanning 111 innings. The Catonsville, Maryland, native pitched to a lofty 5.03 ERA but often kept hitters off balance, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning in both his freshman and junior seasons. He was a workhorse for the Terps, ranking in the top three on the team in appearances in his first two years in College Park.

After being drafted, Kolarek spent his first six pro seasons in the Mets organization. He enjoyed great success early in his minor league career, posting a sub-3 ERA in three of his first four campaigns. In 2013, he turned what was at that point his finest performance in the minors. After struggling in a brief stint in Triple-A, he dominated for the Double-A Binghamton Mets, tossing 63 frames with a 1.71 ERA and .204 opponents’ batting average. He couldn’t replicate his success at the same level, however, posting an ERA north of six in 2014 and a 4.43 mark a year later in 2015.

At the end of the 2015 season, the Mets released Kolarek, and he briefly signed on with his hometown Baltimore Orioles, before being claimed off waivers by the Rays.

He began the 2016 season and his Tampa Bay organization career with the Montgomery Biscuits (Double-A), making 13 appearances with a 3.32 ERA before his promotion to Triple-A Durham. In 34 relief appearances with the Bulls, he pitched to a 3.05 ERA and held opponents to a meager .194 mark at the plate while averaging over a strikeout per inning. He continued to dominate this spring with Durham, posting a 1.36 ERA in 33 innings pitched, which earned his call-up to the show.

The promotion is well-timed, as the Rays travel to Baltimore this weekend for a three-game set with the Orioles, so Kolarek may get the opportunity to pitch in front of his hometown crowd.

With Kolarek joining Cecil in the big leagues, there are multiple Terps in the majors for the first time since September 1, 2015, when former Maryland outfielder Justin Maxwell was designated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants.

Featured image courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Rob Vaughn named eighth head coach in Maryland history

Rob Vaughn will take over as Maryland baseball’s head coach, the team announced Thursday. Vaughn, 29, has been on the Maryland coaching staff since 2012 and will replace John Szefc, who left the program June 9 to take a head coaching job at Virginia Tech. 

Rob Vaughn has been named Maryland head coach. He replaces John Szefc, who left June 9 to take the same position at Virginia Tech. (Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

“I’m thrilled to be able to continue what we started under coach Szefc the last couple years,” Vaughn said Thursday. “Maryland’s a special place… built around really good people and doing things the right way. That’s something that we’ve done over the last five years and something we’re going to continue to do.”

Vaughn, who was promoted to associate head coach last year, has spent most of his time in College Park as the Terps’ hitting coach. He has been instrumental in the program’s recent success, building an offensive unit that he calls “The Pack.” In The Pack, each player has a different role: run, drive in runs, or execute, or a combination of the three. This philosophy has proven successful; since Vaughn took over, the Terps have made three NCAA Tournaments, two super regionals and set a program record 42 wins in 2015.

Under his tutelage, Maryland has thrived offensively, eclipsing 300 runs in all but one year since 2013 and hitting at least 50 homers twice, in 2015 and 2017. Vaughn has helped the Terps utilize their speed on the basepaths as well. In his five years on staff, Maryland has finished second in the conference in stolen bases three times, including this season with 101 steals.

Vaughn has mentored several successful Terps’ hitters, including Brandon Lowe and Kevin Smith, two top-five round picks in the 2015 and 2017 MLB Drafts, respectively, who put up impressive numbers in their time at Maryland.

He inherits a coaching staff without pitching coach Ryan Fecteau and assistant Corey Haines, who both accompanied Szefc to Blacksburg. It is the second time in as many years that Maryland will conduct a search for a new pitching coach, but Vaughn isn’t worried, saying that he was determined to find coaches that share his vision for the program, even if it takes time to finalize the staff.

He also emphasized that he expects returning players to step into a larger role in the coming season.

“I want this to be a player-led team, not a coach-led team,” Vaughn said. “When you have guys like [Justin Morris] and [Zach Jancarski] and [AJ Lee], they know what’s expected and those are the guys that will take over.”

The Humble, Texas, native made it clear, however, that each player will have to work to earn their role on the team, and no preferential treatment will be given to veterans such as Morris, Jancarski or senior right-hander Taylor Bloom.

“This team is coming off a successful five-year stint, I don’t think anybody would argue that,” Vaughn said. “My biggest thing for [the team] to understand is the group assembled in the fall of 2017 hasn’t earned anything yet. That’s something we’ve been really good at is that there hasn’t been any complacency in this program; whether its in the classroom, whether its on the field, you get what you deserve.”

In addition to serving as the hitting coach and associate head coach, Vaughn has spearheaded Maryland’s recruiting efforts while on staff. In 2015, D1Baseball ranked the Terps’ recruiting class as the 17th best in the nation, the highest mark in program history. He has helped bring in players such as Marty Costes and Tyler Blohm, who received Freshman All-American honors in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

A native of Humble, Texas, Vaughn played four years at Kansas State, helping lead the Wildcats to their first ever NCAA Tournament berth, before being drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 30th round of the MLB Draft in 2009. He spent parts of two seasons in the White Sox organization before returning to Kansas State in 2010 as an assistant coach, where he worked on a coaching staff with Szefc. Vaughn came to College Park in 2012 shortly after Szefc was hired as head coach.

Six current Terps, three signees selected in 2017 MLB Draft

Kevin Smith and Brian Shaffer highlighted a list of nine Terps, three of whom are incoming freshmen, who were taken in the 2017 MLB Draft this week.

Kevin Smith was drafted in the 4th round by the Toronto Blue Jays (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

Smith, who received preseason All-American honors in January, was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 4th round, 129th overall. The shortstop hit .268 with a team-best 13 homers and 48 RBIs this season, and was named to the Big Ten Tournament All-Tournament team. A native of East Greenbush, New York, Smith is the highest draft pick out of Maryland since the Tampa Bay Rays took Brandon Lowe in the 3rd round in 2015.

Like Smith, Shaffer received numerous accolades this season, including Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and Third Team All-American, after going 7-4 with a 2.66 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 108.1 innings. The 6-foot-5 right-hander was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 6th round, 172nd overall, giving the Terps two top-2oo picks for the second time in three years.

With just one season on the mound under his belt, Jamal Wade was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 17th round. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

After Smith and Shaffer went on day two of the draft Tuesday, right-hander Jamal Wade (17th round, 513th overall, Seattle Mariners) was the first to go on day three. Wade spent the first two seasons of his college career as a power-hitting outfielder and DH, but after seeing time on the mound last summer, transitioned into a flame-throwing bullpen arm. The Owings Mills, Maryland, native touched the mid-90s with his fastball this season, which he paired with a devastating curveball that gave him 33 strikeouts in 19.2 innings.

Outfielder Marty Costes, who earned First Team All-Big Ten honors this spring and Freshman All-American honors a year ago, was taken in the 25th round, 751st overall, by the Houston Astros. A draft-eligibile sophomore, Costes hit .322 with 46 RBIs and tied with Smith for the team-lead in home runs (13). Over two seasons in College Park, he slashed .296/.400/.517 with 22 homers and 83 RBIs.

A mainstay in the Terps’ bullpen for three seasons, Ryan Selmer went to the New York Mets in the 31st round.
(Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

Ryan Selmer, the 6-foot-8 right-hander who served as the Terps’ closer this season, went in the 31st round, 937th overall, to the New York Mets. While he doesn’t possess the strikeout stuff that Wade does, Selmer anchored himself as one of the most reliable arms in the Maryland bullpen over his three seasons as a Terp. His 85 appearances (81 in relief) over the past three years lead the Terps in that span, and the Beltsville, Maryland, native will go into the pro ranks with a 3.07 college ERA to his name.

Another right-handed bullpen arm, Jared Price, was selected late in the draft, going to the Miami Marlins in the 37th round, 1109th overall. Price, a fifth-year senior, sits in the mid-90s on the radar gun, and after posting a 3.04 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 23.2 innings this season, proved he can be a valuable late-inning asset.

In addition to the six Terps selected, three Maryland signees who are scheduled to arrive on campus in the fall heard their name called on Wednesday. Randy Bednar, an outfielder and left-handed pitcher out of the Landon School (Bethesda, Md.) was selected in the 27th round, 800th overall, by the Atlanta Braves. Bednar went 27-for-49 (.551) at the plate this spring while striking out 32 in 19 innings on the mound. Justin Vought, a catcher from Wyoming Valley West High School (Plymouth, Pa.), was taken by the 31st round, 930th overall, by the Kansas City Royals. The incoming freshman hit .474 in 43 at bats as a senior this spring. Right-hander Mark DiLuia (Marian Catholic, Chicago Heights, Ill.) was taken in the 38th round, 1154th overall, by the Texas Rangers.

Jared Price drafted in 37th round by Miami Marlins

Maryland reliever Jared Price was drafted in the 37th round (1109th overall) of the 2017 MLB Draft Wednesday. It is the second time Price has been drafted, as he was drafted out of high school in 2012 by the New York Mets (33rd round).

Red shirt senior Jared Price pitches for Team Martir 10/23/16 Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Price, a fifth-year senior, has had an up-and-down career in College Park, but finished on a high note with his best collegiate season in 2017. He struggled in his first three years as a Terp, pitching to an ERA around six in each of those three seasons. Looking to end his career strong, Price instead missed most of his senior season in 2016 with an injury, making just two appearances.

He received an extra year of eligibility to pitch in 2017 and made the most of it, becoming an integral part of the Terps’ bullpen. He threw 23.2 innings, more than he had in 2015 and 2016 combined, and turned in a career-best 3.04 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. Price, who features a mid-90s fastball, struck out 27 batters in 23.2 frames while walking just nine.

His best outing as a Terp was one of his last: a 4.2 inning outing against Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament in which he picked up the win and helped Maryland solidify its NCAA Tournament resume.

Before the draft, MBN’s Noah Gross broke down Price’s draft prospects.