Morris, Dunn lead Old Liners to victory in Fall World Series opener

Mike Vasturia’s curveball dropped in, freezing Randy Bednar for strike three. The 6-foot-7 right-hander pumped his fist, having worked out of a bases loaded jam to close out the game and send the Old Liners home with a 5-2 victory over the Aggies in the opener of Maryland’s Fall World Series.

Second baseman Nick Dunn and catcher Justin Morris, both coming off summer playoff MVP honors, stayed hot in the opener , driving in three runs collectively in the victory, while right-hander Taylor Bloom tossed four solid innings of two-run ball. Second baseman Kevin Biondic collected three hits for the Aggies, and third baseman Taylor Wright drove in both runs.

Morris, who won Ripken League LCS MVP in July, got the Old Liners off to an hot start in the second. After Richie Schiekofer singled with one out and came around to score on an error, the senior catcher lined a two-out double down the right field line, scoring Dunn to give them an early 2-0 lead.

“Two out hits, that’s what can win a game,” Morris said. “I was just looking for a fastball to hit and try not to do too much with it. It’s pretty easy to hit with this lineup we’ve got over here, if it’s not you that’s gonna get the hit, the next guy’s gonna step up.”

They added another in the third on Bubba Alleyne’s RBI single through the right side, which scored fellow freshman Michael Pineiro. Clinging to a one-run lead in the fifth, Dunn, the reigning Cape Cod League LCS MVP, lined a two-run homer just inside the right-field foul pole, extending their lead to 5-2.

Aggie starter Elliot Zoellner lasted just two-plus innings, getting pulled after Alleyne’s single in the third. A pair of freshman lefties, Grant Burleson and Randy Bednar, went the rest of the way for the Aggies.

Bloom, meanwhile, cruised through the Aggie lineup for the first two innings before running into trouble in the third. Zach Jancarski, Tommy Gardiner and Biondic opened the frame with back-to-back-to-back singles to center to load the bases. Bloom struck out Will Watson, but Wright followed with a double just past the diving Pineiro at first, scoring two runs, and knotting the game at 2 for the time being.

Ryan Hill, a mainstay in the Terps bullpen a year ago, came on in relief of Bloom and worked a scoreless fifth, teaming up with Morris for a strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play. He struggled to find the strike zone to open the top of the sixth, however, walking the bases loaded to open the inning, hastening his exit in favor of Vasturia. The redshirt freshman went to a full count on Watson, the first batter he faced, but set him down. After inducing a pop up from Wright for out number two, he struck out Bednar to seal the deal in the six inning contest.

“I know I’m coming in for a reason, so I just do the best that I can do,” Vasturia said after the game. “It feels awesome [being the one to close it out], I think it gives our team a ton of confidence going up 1-0, but they’re gonna come out hungry tomorrow and they’re a really good team too, so we’ve gotta come out and be ready to play.”

The Old Liners and Aggies will be back at it Thursday at 4 p.m. for Game 2 of the Fall World Series.

Summer Ball Update 8/15/17: Dunn named Cape Cod LCS Co-MVP

After helping the Brewster Whitecaps to their first Cape Cod League title in 17 years, Nick Dunn earned CCBL League Championship Series Co-MVP honors. The Maryland second baseman hit .500 (5-for-10) in the three-game championship series, including a 3-for-3, three RBI performance in game two.

It is the second straight summer a Terp garnered CCBL playoff MVP honors; Kevin Smith earned the same award in 2016 after leading the Y-D Red Sox to the Cape Cod championship. Dunn is the second Terp named playoff MVP this summer, as Justin Morris earned Ripken League LCS Most Outstanding Player honors at the end of July.

Dunn’s award caps off a fine summer on the Cape for the rising junior infielder. He finished the regular season third in the league with a .333 average, thanks in large part to a 17-game hit streak he rolled off across late July and early August. He led Brewster in average, hits (41) and doubles (7). His regular season performance carried across into the playoffs, where he hit .306 with seven RBIs and five walks in 11 games, including his .500 mark in the LCS.

Dunn’s Whitecap teammate Marty Costes also played an integral role in the team’s title run, hitting .265 with two homers and a game-saving catch with the championship on the line. The rising junior outfielder hit .293 with five homers, 23 RBIs, and a team-best .938 OPS in the regular season.

Elsewhere on the Cape, right-hander Hunter Parsons finished the regular season with a 6.75 ERA in 14.2 innings for the Y-D Red Sox. In the Northwoods League, first baseman Kevin Biondic led the Thunder Bay Border Cats with five homers, while hitting .254 with 20 runs scored, 26 RBIs and 18 walks in 49 contests. He also saw time on the mound, pitching to a 1.62 ERA in seven appearances, spanning 16.2 innings.

For a full rundown on how other Terps did in their various summer leagues, click here.

Summer Ball Update 8/1/2017: Morris named Ripken League Playoff MVP, Dunn stays hot

A key player down the stretch for the Cal Ripken League Champion Bethesda Big Train, catcher Justin Morris was named the CRCBL League Championship Series Most Outstanding Player. In four playoff games (three in the championship series) Morris hit .500 (6-for-12), with two doubles, four RBIs, five runs scored and three walks. In the decisive championship game Sunday, his bases-clearing three-run double provided all the offense Big Train would need in a 4-2 victory.

Morris hit .308 with three homers, 12 RBIs and 13 walks in 20 regular season contests for Big Train this summer. He’s coming off a spring season in which he hit .211 with five homers, but came on strong at the end, hitting .267 in the final 14 games, including a .350 mark in the Big Ten Tournament.

“Some things started clicking for me,” he said of his success late in the spring and this summer. “Just seeing consistent pitching every day I felt like I got in the zone at the plate and I carried that over here into the summer.”

The rising senior backstop spent four summers in the Ripken League with Bethesda, winning championships in the last two, and caps off his final summer ball season with his LCS award.

“It was special, man, I’ve looked forward to every year coming back here,” Morris said. “[The coaches here] kept things loose for me and trusted in me and let me be myself out there and it felt good to win the last two.”


Elsewhere in summer ball, second baseman Nick Dunn and outfielder Marty Costes have both heated up recently after slow starts with the Cape Cod League’s Brewster Whitecaps. Dunn is riding a 16-game hitting streak, during which he has raised his average from .237 to .339. The rising junior hit his first homer of the summer in his final at-bat Monday to keep the streak alive, and was named the CCBL Player of the Week as a result.

His Terps and Whitecaps teammate Marty Costes has also come on strong of late, hitting in seven of his last eight contests to raise his average over 100 points, from .197 to .302. His five homers rank and .535 slugging percentage rank second on Brewster, while his 21 RBIs are third.

Left-hander Tyler Blohm had an up-and-down summer on the Cape for the Falmouth Commodores, but finished strong, allowing three earned runs and striking out nine over his final 10.1 innings of work. Across the Cape on the reigning champion Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, right-hander Hunter Parsons has pitched to a 6.39 ERA in 12.2 innings of work.

After winning a championship alongside Morris with the Bethesda Big Train, right-hander John Murphy has signed a contract with the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League. He has not appeared for the Gatemen yet, but enjoyed a fine summer with Bethesda, pitching to a 3.37 ERA in 24 regular season innings, and earning the win in game one of the LCS. Zach Jancarski also played well for Bethesda, hitting a team high .347 in the regular season with 15 stolen bases, 23 runs scored and 20 walks in 26 games. In the postseason, he went 4-for-16 with three doubles and four runs scored.

The Baltimore Redbirds lost the Ripken League Championship to the Big Train, but outfielder Randy Bednar enjoyed a fine postseason nonetheless. An incoming freshman at Maryland, he hit .412 with three homers in five postseason contests. In the regular season, he hit .327 with a team-high six long balls and 27 RBIs. After a slow start to the summer, infielder AJ Lee came around as well, hitting .264 with six doubles, 18 steals and 30 runs scored between the regular season and playoffs.

The Terps pitchers on the Redbirds did not fare as well as their hitting counterparts, however. Right-hander Mike Vasturia ended the season with a 5.40 ERA in 18.1 innings, but did toss two scoreless frames in the playoffs. Left-hander Jon Dignazio allowed nine earned runs in 11.1 innings in the regular season (7.14 ERA), and struggled in his only playoff outing, giving up four runs (all earned) on four hits and three walks in an inning of work.

Incoming freshmen Richie Schiekofer and Tommy Gardiner both hit over .300 with the Ripken League’s Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts this summer. Schiekofer hit .306 with five doubles in 20 games for the T-Bolts, while Gardiner hit .308 with 10 runs scored in 24 contests.

In the Northwoods League, Kevin Biondic continues to impress at the plate and on the mound. The Thunder Bay Border Cats first baseman is hitting .243 with a team-high four homers, and owns a 2.13 in 12.2 innings on the mound.

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.