After a 359-day long hiatus, Maryland Terrapins baseball returned Friday night as they open up a four-game weekend series against the Michigan State Spartans down in Greenville, South Carolina.
With the stage set at Fluor Field — home of Red Sox minor-league affiliate Greenville Drive — the Terps started the season off on a mild note, as the Spartans defeated them, 6-0. However, there was at least one positive takeaway from the season opener.
The headline of the night for Maryland was far and away redshirt sophomore Sean Burke’s pitching gem. Nearly a year separated from when Burke recorded his collegiate career-high in strikeouts with 11 against Bryant (March 8, 2020), he set a new career-high with 13 Friday night.
The stellar Opening Day start presents plenty of promise ahead of Burke as he looks to settle into his role as Maryland’s Friday starter in the future.
Burke was just half of the overall pitchers duel that took place at Fluor Field, as Michigan State’s Sam Benschoter reached a career-high of his own with ten strikeouts through seven innings, stunting a Terps’ lineup that boasts plenty of hitting prowess.
The senior managed to out-duel his counterpart just enough to secure his team the shutout win over Maryland, as the Terps fell short on many RBI opportunities while the Spartans took advantage of whatever opportunity they could get.
Michigan State put themselves up early, scoring its first run after Maryland catcher James Heffley allowed a ball to get away from him. Sophomore Zaid Walker followed up on the passed ball with a sacrifice-fly to put the Spartans ahead 2-0.
They added another run in the sixth inning in nearly the same fashion, as Michigan State’s Bryce Kelly hit a sacrifice-fly to center field, giving freshman Mitch Jebb his second run of Friday night.
Maryland’s opportunities to score were very few and far between due to the dominance of Benschoter, but with Maxwell Costes coming to the plate as the tying run in the eighth inning, the rally fizzled out as he grounded into an inning-ending double play. The failed opportunity highlights an 0-13 night at the plate for Maryland when runners are on base.
The Spartans added three more runs in their half of the eighth inning and proceeded to firmly slam the door shut on any Maryland comeback hopes.
With the Terps failing to back up Burke with offense during his magnificent start, Saturday presents a new opportunity to not just tie the series but to take the lead as these teams will play two tomorrow evening at Fluor Field.
Maryland opens up the 2021 season Friday evening when it travels south to Greenville, South Carolina, to take on the Michigan State Spartans. The beginning of an unprecedented season sends the Terps immediately into battle against the Big Ten, as the schedule features 44 games in 13 series of conference-only play.
The Terps enter this season after having a very optimistic 2020 despite the early cancellation. They finished with a 10-5 record, including a 6-1 start and winning all but one series. There was plenty to look forward to with last year’s Terps squad, as the program had brought in a recruitment class full of star-level talent, including now-sophomores Bobby Zmarzlak, Tucker Flint, Troy Schreffler Jr., Sam Bello, and Nick Dean.
This season, Maryland brought in yet another talent-filled recruitment class, featuring 2020 MLB Draft prospect RHP Jason Savacool, who comes in as the Sunday starter for this opening series.
Overall, Maryland boasts a very strong rotation heading into 2021 with redshirt sophomore Sean Burke leading the way after a fantastic collegiate debut in 2020. Next up comes senior Sean Fisher, who had a transformative junior year where he moved from the bullpen to the Friday starter spot. With sophomore Connor Staine likely going to the bullpen after his start in game two Saturday, Savacool rounds out the potential weekly three-man rotation.
At the plate, Maryland brings a very formidable lineup with them into the new season with junior Maxwell Costes headlining the pack. After leading the Big Ten with a 1.370 on-base plus slugging percentage and slugging four home runs, Costes earned a spot on the watch list for the 2021 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award. Costes is surrounded by strong bats in the forms of senior Randy Bednar and the aforementioned sophomores Zmarzlak, Schreffler, and Flint.
Michigan State enters the season opener ranked near the bottom of many publications’ preseason Big Ten polls, but their lineup is certainly capable of making noise, as three of their everyday starters had OPS’s over .900.
However, the Spartans’ biggest strength comes from their pitching. While their Friday starter, senior Sam Benschoter, recorded a 6.87 earned-run average, their Saturday starter, redshirt junior Mason Erla, earned preseason pomp after a 1.04-ERA campaign in 2020. Not only did the righty record a stellar ERA, but he was a strikeout machine for the Spartans, striking out 42 batters while walking six.
The last time these two teams met was in 2018 when the Terps took two of three games from the Spartans. One of those wins was an 8-2 beatdown that featured a pitching gem from Hunter Parsons, who is currently in the New York Mets’ minor-league system.
Historically, Maryland has played very well against Michigan State ever since they joined the Big Ten, owning an 8-3 record against the Spartans.
Michigan State (0-0)
The Spartans finished the shortened 2020 season with a 9-6 record and ended up right in the middle of the Big Ten standings. They played 12 of those games at Fluor Field (8-4 in those), so they come into this opening series with some winning experience in this stadium. As mentioned above, their pitching was their biggest strength in 2020, recording a 3.35 ERA and 1.35 walks plus hits per inning. On the other hand, the Spartans’ hitters mostly struggled outside of their top three bats, slashing .240/.337/.344 with three total home runs.
As mentioned earlier, the expectations for this Spartans squad aren’t too high according to many preseason polls. According to NCAA.com’s projected Big Ten standings, Michigan State is expected to finish 11th, only ahead of Northwestern and Penn State. However, projections are just that — projections. With a much-improved rotation over the past couple of seasons, the Spartans greatest strength is the team’s pitching, and a pitcher like Mason Erla could easily stunt Maryland’s powerful bats.
Hitters to Watch
There were three Michigan State bats that finished the 15 games of 2020 with OPS’s greater than .900, but none were better senior Bailey Peterson, who was named a Big Ten preseason player to watch. In 2020, Peterson slashed .441/.528/.542. There was a zero in the home run column on Peterson’s stat line, but while only five of his 26 hits were of the extra-base variety, he still presents a sizable threat at the plate.
Pitchers to Watch
The easy choice for a pitcher to watch on the Spartans is Mason Erla, who had a tremendous 42-6 K/BB ratio in his four starts last year. However, while senior Jarrett Olson isn’t confirmed as a starter this weekend, he comes in as Michigan State’s second-best starter stats-wise. He’s not a strikeout machine like Erla, but in four starts, the senior recorded a 2.03 ERA while limiting opposing batters to a .149 average.
Probable Starting Pitching Matchup
Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET
R-So. RHP Sean Burke (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Sam Benschoter(0-0, 0.00 ERA)
After spending his shortened redshirt freshman season as the Saturday starter, Sean Burke will be taking the next step up in his career, earning not just the Friday rotation spot but the honor of being Maryland’s Opening Day starter. Leading the Terps in strikeouts just a year ago with 35, Burke will be making his debut with lots of improvement in his pitching arsenal.
During a preseason media session last Monday, Coach Rob Vaughn had high praise for the righty.
“His secondary stuff has gotten much better,” said Vaughn. “He had a wrinkle he could throw for a strike last year when he needed to get guys off his fastball. But, he’s throwing two legit breaking balls right now. He’s got four pitches that he can throw in any count.”
As for Sam Benschoter, the senior will be taking the ball during Friday’s opener after being transformed into a starter during the 2020 season. Although he recorded a 6.87 ERA in four starts, he boasted a strong K/BB with 30 strikeouts and 12 walks, showing tons of improvement from the 31-28 ratio he owned between 2018 and 2019.
Probable Starting Pitching Matchup
Saturday, Game 1, 4:30 p.m. ET
Sr. RHP Sean Fisher (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. R-Jr. RHP Mason Erla(0-0, 0.00 ERA)
With Burke starting Friday, Sean Fisher will likely be bumped down to the Saturday starter spot for now after being the Friday starter for his four starts of 2020. The southpaw didn’t have the greatest stats, recording a 5.66 ERA in 2020, but he did show that he was able to seamlessly turn into a starter after coming out of the bullpen in his freshman and sophomore years. Now, with less pressure as the series opener every weekend, Fisher has a great opportunity to keep trending upwards.
Mason Erla has far and away been the pitching star for Michigan State, and it may be ad nauseam at this point, but he is likely going to strike out a lot of Terps during his Saturday start. There is very little — if any — criticism about the redshirt junior’s stuff, and a matchup with Fisher should set the stage for a great pitchers duel.
Probable Starting Pitching Matchup
Saturday, Game 2, 7:30 p.m. ET
So. RHP Connor Staine (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs.TBD
Sophomore Connor Staine will be making his debut as a starter during game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, potentially setting him up for future starts in the four additional four-game weekends Maryland has on the calendar. Through 10 1/3 innings of relief in 2020, Staine was one of Maryland’s better bullpen arms, recording a 2.61 ERA. However, the strikeout numbers weren’t eye-popping while the 20 combined hits and walks he allowed imply that he may have benefited from the defense behind him.
While he has been given the starting spot for game two, it’s more likely than not that he’ll only pitch a couple innings in order to allow other new arms to get reps.
Probable Starting Pitching Matchup
Sunday, 1:30 p.m. ET
Fr. RHP Jason Savacool (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. TBD
The highly-anticipated collegiate debut of Jason Savacool will take place Sunday afternoon, and it could very well be the beginning of a very strong Maryland career for the New York native, who was ranked the second-best overall recruit out of the state, per Perfect Game. Had the 2020 MLB Draft been more than five rounds, Savacool likely would be in a major-league team’s system as he was No. 156 on MLB Pipeline’s list of top draft prospects.
Pitching against a rather weak Michigan State lineup, Savacool has a really good chance to start his career off with a gem.
Maryland is going to have plenty of arms to choose from during later innings this season, as all but about three-to-four of the 22 pitchers on the roster will be providing their stuff from the bullpen. With a schedule that’s limited to weekend series, many of the probable bullpen pitchers will be missing out on reps they would normally get during midweek contests, but for the team’s case, it should allow the best of the group to be fresh for every weekend.
As the season countdown ticks to two days, take a look at the crowded bullpen that Maryland boasts heading into the 2021 season:
LHP Tyler Blohm(Graduate Student)
After not appearing in a game during his senior season last year, Tyler Blohm is returning as a graduate student. The former starter will likely pitch out of the bullpen with younger talent taking his place in the weekend rotation, but his veteran leadership will certainly play an important role with the seven incoming freshmen. Before his absence from the mound in 2020, Blohm recorded a career 3.98 in 150 innings.
LHP Ryan Murphy(Freshman)
Coming in as the first of two freshmen left-handed pitchers, Ryan Murphy was ranked the second-best left-handed pitcher recruit out of Massachusetts. In his final high school season, Murphy earned his conference’s player of the year award.
LHP Drew Wilden(Redshirt Junior)
Drew Wilden was one of Maryland’s midweek starters in 2019 as a redshirt freshman, recording a 5.82 ERA in his 11 overall appearances. The 2020 season didn’t give Wilden much of a fair chance to show improvement on the mound, as his lone appearance saw him give up two runs over one innings against Rhode Island.
LHP Ryan Ramsey(Sophomore)
Ryan Ramsey had a tough go of it in the short 2020 season, appearing four times but recording a 12.60 ERA. While the sample size was extremely small for the then-freshman, keep in mind that Ramsey came into 2020 as the fourth-best left-handed pitcher recruit out of New Jersey, per Perfect Game, and was even drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 36th round of the 2019 MLB Draft. Although the bullpen will be especially crowded this season, Ramsey will likely get a chance to prove himself as a reliable arm.
LHP Logan Ott(Freshman)
Logan Ott enters Maryland as a LHP/OF dual-threat, but the majority of his talent comes as a pitcher. Ranked the sixth-best LHP recruit in Pennsylvania, per Perfect Game, his last season in high school ended with him being named his league’s pitcher of the year as he cruised to an 8-0 record and 1.17 ERA.
RHP Will Glock(Redshirt Sophomore)
After pitching to the tune of a 2.38 ERA over 13 appearances in 2019, Will Glock served a redshirt season during 2020 as he recovered from an injury. Having had nearly two years to get back in shape, Glock should provide some very strong innings out of the pen in 2021.
RHP Sam Bello(Sophomore)
Sam Bello couldn’t have had much of a better debut season — if that’s what you would call the 6 2/3 inning he pitched in 2020 — allowing one run in his four appearances while striking out 11 batters. Bello also led the team with an incredible .091 opposing batting average. He made his collegiate debut during Opening Day last season, and proceeded to one-hit Charleston Southern over 3 2/3 innings of relief with seven strikeouts.
RHP Chris Chaney(Sophomore)
Chris Chaney was one of the only Terps pitchers to not allow a single run during 2020, though the then-freshman had pitched just two innings. Part of a 2020 freshmen class that featured so many talented arms, Chaney will likely see plenty of innings out of the pen in 2021.
RHP Trevor LaBonte(Junior)
Trevor LaBonte was shifted to the bullpen last season after a disappointing freshman campaign as the Sunday starter, but he didn’t get many opportunities in 2020 to prove himself. The then-sophomore pitched four innings and allowed six runs while walking more than double the batters he struck out. Now one of the older members of the prospective bullpen, LaBonte will likely get his chances in 2021 to improve on a couple of underwhelming seasons.
RHP Chris Bookhultz(Freshman)
Coming in as the sixth-best RHP recruit out of Maryland, per Perfect Game, Chris Bookhultz is one of four freshmen right-handed pitchers to commit to Maryland from 2020. In his last high school season in 2019, Bookhultz recorded a 0.51 ERA and struck out 12 batters.
RHP Sean Heine(Junior)
Sean Heine looked like he was definitely trending in the right direction in 2020 after concluding his freshman season with a 10.38 ERA in 17 appearances. His ERA through four appearances in 2020 sat at 5.40, but the righty did have two appearances that displayed upside, one being two scoreless innings against Iona and the other being 1 2/3 scoreless innings against Delaware.
RHP Connor Staine(Sophomore)
Connor Staine pitched the most innings out of any freshmen last season, and certainly showed why he deserved it. In 10 1/3 innings, Staine wasn’t overwhelming in terms of whiffing batters — striking out just nine batters — but he ended the short season with a 2.61 ERA.
RHP David Falco(Redshirt Freshman)
The sixth-ranked overall recruit out of New York, per Perfect Game, did not appear during the 2020 season, but he brings plenty of potential with him into 2021. His fastball velocity came in at 93 MPH when he first committed to Maryland, good for the 98th percentile of his class. He will most likely get plenty of opportunities in 2021 to display that fastball and shine.
RHP Elliot Zoellner(Graduate Student)
The leader of Maryland’s bullpen in recent years, Elliot Zoellner is returning in 2021 as a graduate student, potentially playing a monumental role — similar to Tyler Blohm — in guiding the incoming freshmen and all underclassmen with his experience. He appeared seven times in 2020 — the most out of any relief pitcher — and didn’t allow a single run as he picked up 16 strikeouts.
RHP Mark DiLuia(Senior)
After more-or-less treading water out of the bullpen in his freshman and sophomore years, Mark DiLuia looked like a very improved pitcher in his short 2020 stint. He pitched five innings in five appearances, and didn’t allow a run. DiLuia also pitched Maryland’s final inning of the 2020 season, throwing a perfect frame against James Madison.
RHP Gavin Stellpflug(Freshman)
Part of a high school team that won a state championship in New Jersey in 2018, Gavin Stellpflug has some winning experience under his belt as he joins a Maryland team with great aspirations. The Somerville, New Jersey, native was ranked the No. 18 RHP recruit in the state.
RHP Nigel Belgrave(Freshman)
Nigel Belgrave comes to Maryland as the No. 11 RHP recruit out of Massachusetts, per Perfect Game, and the 18th-best recruit in the state overall.
RHP Jason Savacool(Freshman)
If the 2020 MLB Draft was more than five rounds, Jason Savacool would most likely not be mentioned in this list. The righty, who was ranked the 19th-best recruit in the nation, per Perfect Game, was also ranked No. 152 on MLB Pipeline’s top draft prospects. Savacool has already been given preseason praise, earning 2021 Baseball America Big Ten Preseason Newcomer of the Year ahead of the season, and while it’s unknown if he’ll be a starter or reliever for 2021, his talent is certainly going to make a difference for the Terps.
While no official rotation has been set for Maryland as we close in on three days until Opening Day, the unique 2021 schedule helps us narrow down the 22 pitchers on the roster to the few that will likely be starting games every weekend.
Since the schedule is limited to weekend series (with a few doubleheaders mixed in), the opportunity for non-starters to get starting reps on the mound is barely a possibility, so it could take more than a weekend for Coach Rob Vaughn to figure out his rotation. Before that decision is officially made, here’s a look at the prospective starters for the 2021 season:
LHP Sean Fisher (Senior)
Coming in as the likely Friday starter to kickoff the season, Fisher started four games in 2020, earning a win in three of them. Up until 2020, Fisher had only come out of the bullpen, so it was a major milestone for the senior to have thrown 5 1/3 innings while allowing two unearned runs in his starting debut last season against Charleston Southern. In his final start of the season, he cruised the Terps to a win, striking out a career-high eight batters over six innings. Nothing is official yet, but in his final season as a Terp, it seems likely that he’ll be reprising his role as the Opening Day starter this Friday.
RHP Sean Burke(Redshirt Sophomore)
After serving a redshirt season in 2019 due to an injury, Sean Burke came into 2020 roaring as the Saturday starter, a role that will likely continue to be his in 2021. Bestowed the honor of 2021 Perfect Game Preseason Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, Burke looks to build off a 2020 where he pitched to the tune of a 1.99 earned-run average over four starts. The redshirt sophomore has also built somewhat of an early reputation of a strikeout machine, racking up 35 strikeouts in those starts compared to 11 walks. Assuming he slides back in as the Saturday starter, he and Fisher will form quite the formidable one-two punch to opposing Big Ten batters.
Nick Dean (Sophomore)
Nick Dean came into last season ranked the third-best right-handed pitcher recruit out of Pennsylvania, and he did not fail to disappoint through his first four collegiate starts as Maryland’s Sunday starter. While he struggled in one start against Rhode Island (five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings) his overall stats featured a 3.98 ERA and a .222 opposing batting average. The sophomore did throw a fantastic start against a strong Coastal Carolina team, and while the Terps suffered a loss, Dean helped keep it to a 3-2 ballgame, throwing five innings of two-run ball. Dean has certainly earned an opportunity to continue starting Sundays, and should he pick up where he left off in 2020, Maryland could have a very scary weekend rotation.
Zach Thompson (Redshirt Senior)
Zach Thompson was Maryland’s primary midweek starter option in 2020, but with 2021 featuring no midweek games, the redshirt senior may see his starts dwindle. A couple opportunities he might have include two early-season doubleheaders, as well as the three series that revolve around three teams playing each other in one location, like the home series from April 2 to April 5 where Maryland hosts Northwestern and Iowa and splits four games between them. Thompson’s spot as the potential double-header starter could also be in jeopardy because of his 2020 performance, pitching to a 6.75 ERA in three starts. While he did pitch five innings of one-run ball in his season debut against George Mason, his next two starts ran a total of nine earned runs over 8 1/3 innings.
The 2020 Terrapins outfield was stacked by all accounts, but the COVID-19 pandemic promptly put an end to the start of three young, talented freshmen seasons along with the junior years of a couple of established Terps outfielders. With the 44-game 2021 season ahead, that same crew will be returning in hopes of cashing in on all of the potential they had last season.
As we enter the week of Maryland Opening Day, have a glance at the returning outfield corp:
Randy Bednar has done nothing but improve, year after year, during his career as a Terp, and he’s entering 2021 coming off his best (partial) season to date. In the 15 games he started last season, slashed .387/.459/.581 while leading Maryland in RBI (16) and doubles (9). Bednar’s career on-base plus slugging percentage stands at .835, and at the rate he’s going at, he’s due for a monster senior season.
Also entering his final season as a Terp is Chris “Bubba” Allayne, who in the (short) span of 2020 showed a great improvement at the plate while continuing to be a killer on the base paths with his speed. Allayne tied for second in the Big Ten in stolen bases (6) while following closely behind his fellow senior outfielder as second in the Big Ten in doubles (8). After establishing himself as a primary outfielder with his bat in 2019, he turned in last season with a .333/.413/.500 slash line. There might be a huge logjam in the Maryland outfield, but with his improving bat and quick defense in the field, Allayne is sure to start a majority of games.
Troy Schreffler Jr.(Sophomore)
One of the three highly-touted freshmen outfielders to make their collegiate debut last season, Troy Schreffler Jr. showed exactly why he was ranked the fourth-best outfielder recruit out of Pennsylvania in 2019. He slashed .214/.371/.464 in the ten games he played in and picked up one triple along the way.
Tucker Flint came into the 2020 season with a lot of hype around him, being ranked the number-one recruit in Rhode Island in 2019, per Perfect Game. He had become somewhat of the starting left-fielder for the Terps, starting 13 of his 14 games in left field. While he couldn’t quite get going in terms of slugging the ball, he was a pitcher’s worst nightmare, getting on base at a .462 clip. His 22 combined walks and hit-by-pitches nearly doubled his 13 strikeouts, making him a potentially formidable on-base monster for the three seasons to come.
Flint wasn’t the only Maryland recruit in 2019 to be ranked first in his state, as Perfect Game ranked Bobby Zmarzlak as the best overall recruit out of Connecticut. Zmarzlak didn’t hit too often in 2020 — collecting five hits in 27 at-bats — but when he hit, he hit hard. His .185/.444/.405 slash line speaks for itself, but three of his five hits were of the extra-base variety, including a grand slam as part of a seven-RBI performance versus Bryant on March 6. He may be tagged as a future outfielder for Maryland, but his seven starts in 2020 all came as the designated hitter, giving the impression that the DH will be under his control until the seniors depart.
We have entered the latter half of the preseason countdown, and this time we’re previewing the Terps infielders. While the veteran experience in the group is there with the likes of Maxwell Costes, Justin Vought, and Tommy Gardiner, a majority of the infielders are either freshmen or sophomores who were given very little playing time last season due to the short season. Overall, the mix of old and young has plenty of potential, so without any further delay, here is the Terps infield corp for the 2021 season:
Catcher – Riley Langerman (Junior)
Coming in as Maryland’s only transfer for the 2021 season, Langerman brings much-needed veteran experience behind the plate to pair with the senior Justin Vought as three of Maryland’s catchers have yet to play in a game. Langerman transferred from a junior college program at Ventura College in California, where he hit .280/.348/.366 in 20 games during a 2020 season that got cut short.
Catcher – Blake Badman(Freshman)
Badman is the first of two freshmen to be featured among the Terps’ catchers, and he has some very high praise backing him up. A Maryland native, Perfect Game ranked him as the state’s second-best catcher recruit, and the fourth-best recruit out of Maryland overall. During his high school career at DeMatha Catholic, Badman hit .412 with a .667 slugging percentage.
Catcher – Justin Vought(Senior)
The veteran backstop is back for his final season at Maryland after the short 2020 season was cut even shorter, as Vought suffered a hip injury at the end of February. In the seven games he did play, he slashed .190/.452/.190 and collected three RBI. The performance is far from the above-average offensive output he displayed in 2019, where his on-base plus slugging percentage was .786 while hitting ten home runs.
Catcher – Luke Shliger(Freshman)
The second freshman catcher hails from Connecticut, where Perfect Game ranks him as the best catcher recruit in the state. Shliger spent his last high school season hitting at a .489 clip with five home runs and 20 RBI, earning him the honor of First Team All-Founders League.
Catcher – James Heffley(Sophomore)
Heffley is entering his second season at Maryland, but the sophomore has yet to make an appearance on the diamond as a Terp. With somewhat of a logjam at the catcher position this season, he still may have trouble finding some playing time.
First Baseman – Maxwell Costes(Junior)
Coming off an incredible sophomore campaign, albeit only 15 games, Maxwell Costes comes into his junior year with tons of preseason hype. Costes finished the brief 2020 season slashing .432/.620/.750 and with four home runs, his 1.370 OPS being tops in the Big Ten. With seven preseason honors, Costes was among the 55 names mentioned on the 2021 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award watch list. He’ll surely be the driving force of this Maryland team as he continues to establish his name among the best in college baseball.
Second Baseman – Aaron Perez(Sophomore)
Aaron Perez saw just 18 plate appearances during 2020, and while he didn’t record a hit, he walked six times and got hit by a pitch once, giving him a .389 on-base percentage. All of his plate appearances came during five starts at second base.
Second Baseman – Austin Chavis(Senior)
The senior Austin Chavis is entering his second year at Maryland after transferring from Potomac State College a year ago. He spent last season starting ten games at second base, where he slashed .194/.268/.306. His best performance was a three-hit day against Bryant on March 8, where he picked up a double and a RBI.
Shortstop – Benjamin Cowles(Junior)
Looking to be Maryland’s stalwart at shortstop, Cowles comes into his junior season as one of Maryland’s most versatile weapons at the plate and on the bases. He started all 15 games at shortstop last season, slashing .241/.364/.463 and slugging three home runs. On the base paths, he stole six bases in six attempts, making him quite the pest for opposing pitchers.
Shortstop – Matthew Shaw(Freshman)
Matthew Shaw represents half of the shortstop recruits that Maryland brought in for 2021, and he comes in as the third-best shortstop recruit out of Massachusetts, per Perfect Game. He brings a very solid bat with him, as he slashed .370/.414/.907 in 58 plate appearances as well as nine home runs.
Shortstop – Kevin Keister(Freshman)
Kevin Keister is the second shortstop recruit to join the Terps, coming in as the second-best shortstop recruit from Delaware, per Perfect Game. After his senior campaign last season, Keister was a finalist for the Gatorade Delaware Player of the Year Award.
Third Baseman – Tommy Gardiner(Senior)
Tommy Gardiner’s junior campaign was limited to six starts at the hot corner after he suffered an injury. In those six starts, he was one of Maryland’s most proficient hitters, slashing .350/.500/.350 and picking up multiple hits in half of his games.
Third Baseman – Matt Orlando(Sophomore)
With the injury that Gardiner suffered, Matt Orlando made the majority of starts at third base in 2020. In nine starts, he slashed .182/.270/.212 while bringing home a pair of runs.
Infielder – Michael Bouma(Sophomore)
The sophomore Michael Bouma didn’t see the field very much during 2020. His only four appearances came as a pinch-hitter, but he did not record a hit. Bouma’s most notable appearance was when he picked up a sacrifice-fly RBI against George Mason.
With how unique the 2021 season will be, it only makes sense that the incoming class of transfers will be just as unique. In 2019, Maryland brought in seven transfers. Last season, it brought in two. Ahead of this season, the program brought in a single transfer.
Despite the thinner-than-average group of transfers, we will still introduce the new transfer as we normally would. Without further ado, meet Riley Langerman.
JR. CRiley Langerman – Ventura College(Junior College in California)
Langerman will begin his Terps career as a junior and should bring plenty of experience behind the plate for a program with two freshmen catchers and one sophomore catcher.
The Parker, Colorado, native had his 2020 season at Ventura College cut short, but in the 20 games he played last year he hit .280/.348/.366. Langerman also picked up 12 RBI in his 82 at-bats.
Langerman also played travel ball with the California Gold Sox in the summer of 2019, where he slashed .333/.371/.424 in 35 plate appearances. He was later named a Golden Coast Collegiate League All-Star.
On the defensive side, he brings a very strong throwing arm to Maryland’s catching corp despite having a smaller build than the average catcher.
Out of the 11 recruits that committed to Maryland before the 2021 season, ten are now freshmen for the Terps ahead of what will be a very weird first collegiate season. The lone exception to the group was right-handed pitcher Alex Santos, who the Houston Astros drafted 72nd overall in the 2020 MLB Draft.
With no Fall World Series or any exhibition games prior to the 2021 season, many of these freshmen’s first taste of college ball will be after the season starts. To get familiarized with all of the new, young faces on the diamond, take a quick glance at who they are.
C Blake Badman – Huntingtown, Maryland (DeMatha Catholic)
A product of DeMatha Catholic, Blake Badman was ranked No. 2 among catchers and the fourth-best overall recruit out of Maryland, per Perfect Game. He batted .412 to go along with a .667 slugging percentage in his high school career while hitting 18 home runs.
RHP Nigel Belgrave – Auburn, Massachusetts (AuburnSenior High School)
Nigel Belgrave hails from Auburn, Massachusetts, and the RHP is ranked as the No. 18 overall recruit out of the state, per Perfect Game.
RHP Chris Bookhultz – Brookville, Maryland (St. John’s College)
Just like Badman, Chris Bookhultz is a Maryland native, except comes from St. John’s College. During 2019, he went 2-0 while recording a 0.51 earned-run average. He came in as the sixth-best RHP recruit out of Maryland, and the 30th-best recruit out of the state overall, per Perfect Game.
IF Kevin Keister – Smyrna, Delaware (Caravel Academy)
Kevin Keister was among the best recruits out of Delaware in 2020, coming in as the fourth-best overall recruit in the Blue Hen State, per Perfect Game. While also being the second-ranked shortstop in the state, he was a finalist for the 2020 Gatorade Delaware Player of the Year Award.
LHP Ryan Murphy –Billerica, Massachusetts (Billerica Memorial)
Ryan Murphy is the second freshman to come out of Massachusetts, and despite being ranked as the 11th-best overall recruit out of the state, he was the second-best left-handed pitcher, per Perfect Game. He led his high school with a career 1.80 ERA, and was named Merrimack Valley Conference Player of the Year in 2020.
LHP/OF Logan Ott – Montoursville, Pennsylvania (Montoursville Area)
The pitcher/outfielder has plenty of baseball talent in his blood, as his grandfather, Ed Ott, helped the Pittsburgh Pirates win the 1979 World Series. As for Logan himself, the 18-year-old was ranked as the sixth-best LHP recruit in Pennsylvania, per Perfect Game. While he has played outfield and could likely see reps as a Terp, his strength is his pitching, as he recorded a 1.17 ERA over 60 innings in 2019, earning a pitcher of the year award.
RHP Jason Savacool – Baldwinsville, New York (Baker)
If the 2020 MLB Draft was more than five rounds, Savacool likely wouldn’t be at Maryland. The pitcher was ranked as the No. 156 draft prospect, per MLB.com’s rankings. Instead, he’ll be continuing his academic career while pitching for the Terps in hopes of improving his draft stock.
First look this summer at 2020 RHP Jason Savacool (NY), a #Maryland commit. Fast arm, worked to either side of the plate with intent and sink while sitting 91-94 mph. Slider was got-to secondary, short bite w/ tight spin in low-80s, solid average pitch. pic.twitter.com/xCnZfBfrKj
Savacool was ranked as the second-best overall recruit out of New York while being ranked as the second-best RHP in the state, only behind Santos. In high school, he threw 11 complete games — including a no-hitter — as he recorded a 1.34 ERA in the 156 innings he pitched.
IF Matthew Shaw – Brimfield, Massachusetts (Worcester Academy)
Ranked as the No. 3 shortstop recruit out of Massachusetts for 2020, per Perfect Game, Matthew Shaw will be bringing a very strong bat with him into his freshman season. The Massachusetts native spent Summer 2020 playing with the Worcester Bravehearts of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League of New England, where he hit .370/.414/.907 in 58 plate appearances. The strong bat of his was also responsible for nine home runs in the 14 games he played.
C Luke Shliger – Danbury, Connecticut (Trinity-Pawling School)
The lone Connecticut native in this group of freshmen, Luke Shliger was ranked the best catcher recruit out of his home state, per Perfect Game. In his last high school season, he hit .489 with five home runs and 20 RBI, earning him a spot on the 2019 All-Founders League First Team.
RHP Gavin Stellpflug – Whitehouse Station, New Jersey (Somerville)
Gavin Stellpflug comes in as the No. 18 right-handed pitcher out of New Jersey, per Perfect Game. In his sophomore year at Somerville, he helped his team win a state championship.
2020 RHP Gavin Stellpflug (Somerville); 6-5 frame with a low 3/4 slot. Sat 84-85 with big time swing and miss SL at 73-74 MPH. pic.twitter.com/gQB740mJjr
The 2020 season may have only been 15 games long, but it had more than a few strong Terps performances — both hitting and pitching –along the way. With eight days left until Maryland Opening Day, relive five standout moments (in no particular order) that give Maryland fans plenty to look forward to for 2021.
No. 1: Sean Burke’s stellar debut
After serving a redshirt season his freshman year, Burke came into the 2020 season roaring with a dominant start against the College of Charleston. He threw five innings of one-run ball while striking out eight batters and allowing one run. Burke did strike out 11 batters in a start 20 days later, but his debut stands out particularly because it’s the beginning of what should be a very bright career for Burke at Maryland and will certainly be warmly remembered.
No. 2: Bobby Zmarzlak brings home seven
Maryland’s group of freshmen hitters in 2020 was full of talent, and one freshman — Bobby Zmarzlak — displayed some of that talent at full force in Maryland’s 14-3 win over Bryant on March 6. Zmarzlak went 2-5, but added a walk to that as well as an early career-high of seven RBI as Maryland’s designated hitter that day.
No. 3: Benjamin Cowles goes perfect at the plate
In a midweek win over Delaware on March 4, Cowles led the way for Maryland as he went a perfect 4-4 in plate appearances. The crafty shortstop picked up two hits, two walks, and brought in five runs to boot. Cowles also stole one base and scored three runs as Maryland blasted the Blue Hens for 13 runs.
No. 4: Terps pitching blanks Rhode Island
It’s not surprising that Maryland’s only shutout of the short season came during a Burke start. The redshirt freshman tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings, racking up eight strikeouts. Then the bullpen took over, featuring appearances from Elliot Zoellner, Connor Staine, and Mark DiLuia. Zoellner stranded a runner at third base to end the sixth inning, and then Staine came in for 2 2/3 scoreless innings. DiLuia shut the door in the ninth, striking out the Rams’ final batter.
No. 5: Maxwell Costes and Randy Bednar blast George Mason
Both Costes and Bednar combined for six hits to go with a home run each as Maryland put on a 13-3 rout of the George Mason Patriots. The duo also took advantage of a very poor Patriots pitching performance and drew three total walks and a hit-by-pitch. For Costes and Bednar, this game was the pinnacle of what looked to be career-best seasons from the veterans.
There are nine days left before Maxwell Costes and his fellow Terps begin the 2021 season against Michigan State, and the junior is entering this unique season with a trophy case full of preseason honors. After collecting one preseason honor before the 2020 season — being named a Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-American — Costes brought in seven honors ahead of the 2021 season.
The pomp is warranted, as Costes finished his sophomore campaign hitting .432/.620/.750 and four home runs in 15 games. His 1.370 on-base plus slugging percentage was tops in the Big Ten, while his four home runs were tied for second.
Costes’ preseason praise is highlighted with a spot on the watch list for collegiate baseball’s most prestigious award — the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award. The award is bestowed to the best collegiate player in the country each year, and many of its honorees have evolved into superstars at the major-league level.
Past Golden Spikes Award winners include former MVPs Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper, former Cy Young Award winners Trevor Bauer and David Price, along with many of the league’s young stars.
Although Costes is among 55 total names on the watchlist, the honor speaks to the incredible career he’s had so far at Maryland and what writers expect from him in 2021.
Below are the six other preseason honors that Costes was awarded as the Terps close in on Opening Day:
2021 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association First Team Preseason All-American
2021 D1Baseball.com Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year
2021 D1Baseball.com First Team Preseason All-American
2021 Perfect Game Preseason All-Big Ten
2021 Perfect Game Third Team Preseason All-American
2021 Collegiate Baseball Third Team Preseason All-American