Maryland baseball releases 2018 schedule

Maryland baseball released its 2018 schedule Tuesday afternoon, and the Terps will begin their season with a three-game series on the road against Tennessee starting on Feb. 16.

Maryland will continue its recent trend of playing an early-season SEC road series, doing so against Alabama in 2016 to start the year and then last season against LSU. The Terps defeated the Volunteers, 10-9, in their last meeting in 2016 during the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, North Carolina. Tennessee finished 27-25 overall in 2017.

Maryland went 38-23 in last season, earning the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Terps rattled off three wins in the conference tournament after losing their first game, but were eliminated by Northwestern in the semifinals. After a one-year hiatus, Maryland returned to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons, where it earned a No. 3 seed in the Winston Salem Regional.

The Terps will participate in a tournament hosted by Coastal Carolina (Match 2-4), which will include Ball State—an opponent from last season—and Radford. Instead of participating in a second tournament like last season, the Terps will visit East Carolina from March 16 to March 18. The Terps and Pirates last played during a tournament in 2016.

Maryland will take on four nonconference opponents that earned a spot in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, including North Carolina, West Virginia, Delaware and Radford. Overall, though, only seven of Maryland’s 26 opponents this season qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year. 

Maryland’s four home-and-home series include William & Mary, VCU, Delaware and James Madison. Maryland will play a pair of midweek matchups against North Carolina (March 20) and West Virginia (May 1) during the regular season, like it did last year.

Every game this season—home and away—can be listened to
LIVE on the Maryland Baseball Network.

The Terps, who went 20-3 at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium in 2017, will begin their home schedule with a three-game series starting on February 23 against Army, who the Terps last played and swept back in 2011. The Terps will also host out-of-conference opponents Bryant (March 9-11) and Stetson (March 23-25). Maryland welcomed Bryant to College Park last season, but haven’t played Stetson since 2003.

The Terps will begin conference play by hosting Northwestern from March 30 to April 1. The Wildcats came to College Park last season, defeating the Terps in two of three games. The Terps beat Northwestern to keep their Big Ten Tournament hopes alive, but couldn’t replicate the result the following day and were eliminated in the semifinals. Maryland will also host Illinois, Purdue and Rutgers in conference play.

Like last season, Maryland will travel to Lincoln and Bloomington to take on Nebraska and Indiana.  The Terps will also visit Michigan and Michigan State as the other two conference road series. It’ll be a tough conference road slate, as three of Maryland’s four opponents all made the NCAA Tournament last season.

The Big Ten Tournament will be played from May 23 to May 27 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.

Aggies beat the Old Liners, 16-1, in Game 3 to complete Fall World Series comeback

With the Old Liners leading by eight runs in the Fall World Series after winning the first two games, Aggies captain Kevin Biondic asked head coach Rob Vaughn to put the number “8”  in their opponent’s run column on the scoreboard prior to Game 3. The senior knew his team would have to win by nine runs to claim the series victory.

Because this year’s fall finale incorporated a point-system comprised of wins, run differential and various objectives, the Aggies had a chance to win the series, despite losing the first two games.

Biondic swung and missed on a two-strike count in the first inning, ending his streak of eight straight times reaching base to start the series. Despite being retired for the first time in three days, Biondic quickly responded to spark a seven-run Aggies rally in the third inning, eventually helping blowout the Old Liners, 16-1.

Biondic’s request to visually see his team down eight runs on the scoreboard mentally sparked the Aggies, as they went on to win the entire series, 16-9.

“What that tells you, you start talking about leadership,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “You start talking about grit and the things that great championship teams do. That’s what Kevin Biondic exhibited today.”

Following freshman Tommy Gardiner’s leadoff walk to start the third, Biondic launched an 0-1 pitch to the right-center field gap for a double off right-handed reliever Ryan Hill. Four runs came across before Biondic stepped back up to the plate with two outs as the Aggies batted around.

Battling tough, Biondic drew an 11-pitch walk to reload the bases against right-hander Mike Vasturia, who relieved Hill after he didn’t record an out. Senior Will Watson took advantage of Biondic’s at-bat by delivering a bases-clearing triple to cap off the Aggies’ seven-run inning.

“I don’t want to say that sealed the deal right there, but that boosted our confidence even more than what it was already at,” Biondic said.

Sitting on the bench while watching his team provide a surplus of run support, sophomore transfer Zach Thompson returned to the mound in the bottom of the third after setting down the first six batters he faced.

Thompson, who pitched at Archbishop Spalding High School prior to spending his freshman season at St. Mary’s College (Md.), allowed just one earned run, while striking out three in four innings of work. His counterpart and former high school teammate, Old Liners left-hander Tyler Blohm, allowed just one hit and struck out three in two scoreless innings.

Although the Older Liners scored a run in the bottom of the third to make it 7-1, the Aggies offense went back to work in the fourth. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Biondic snuck a ball down the left-field line for a two-run double. The senior finished the series 7-for-9, reaching base in 11 of his 13 plate appearances.

“I think I’ve come a long way from where I started,” Biondic said. “I think of lot of it comes from the pitching. I understand what pitchers are doing and what they think and what pitches are going to be thrown and in what counts.”

The Aggies scored an additional six runs in the fourth inning, including RBI singles from Barrett Smith and Zach Jancarski, to make it a 15-1 Aggies lead. After the half inning, The Aggies took control of the series run differential for the first time of the week, 15-9. Smith provided the last run of the game in the top of the fifth on a sacrifice fly. He finished the afternoon 1-for-1 with three walks, a sac fly and three RBIs.

“All the guys came ready today,” Biondic said. “I was very surprised in how positive everyone was today. It was almost like we knew we were going to come back.”

Right-hander John Murphy closed out the game for the Aggies in the last inning, clinching both the game and Fall World Series victory over the Old Liners. The fall season is now over for the Terps, and they will return to game action in the middle of February for the start of the 2018 season.

“If we want to do what these guys want to do and do something special in the spring,” Vaughn said, “then now is really when the work starts.”

Old Liners explode for 11 runs to beat Aggies in Game 2

The Old Liners held a three-run lead with the bases loaded and no outs before right-hander Mike Vasturia recorded three straight outs to clinch a victory over the Aggies in Game 1 of the Fall World Series.

One day later, it was the Old Liners offense with three runners on with nobody out in the third inning.

Catcher Justin Morris, who had 13 RBI last season, cleared the bases with a double down the right-field line to put the Old Liners up 3-0. Three more runs came across in the inning, helping the Old Liners to an eventual 11-6 win.

“Capitalizing on big situations with runners in scoring position was big for us today,” Old Liners second baseman Nick Dunn said. “We just kept having good at-bats.”

Aggies starting pitcher, right-hander Mark DiLuia, allowed just one baserunner in his first two innings, but conceded five earned runs in the top of the third. Dunn doubled and singled off the center field wall in the inning, as the Old Liners batted around.

Aggies’ freshman left-hander Grant Burleson, who pitched two scoreless innings in Game 1, recorded the final two outs of the third to put a halt to the six-run inning.

Old Liners starting right-hander Hunter Parsons didn’t allow a hit to the first nine batters he faced, but gave up a single and a home run to back-to-back hitters in the bottom of the third. Following freshman Tommy Gardiner’s single, Kevin Biondic hit a two-run blast over the center field wall to cut the deficit to 6-2. Biondic has now reached base in all eight of his plate appearances in the Fall World Series.

“It’s been a crazy fall for him so far,” Dunn said. “He’s by far our best hitter this fall and it’s just really special to see that.”

Parsons pitched four innings, allowing just the two runs on two hits with a pair of strikeouts.

“It was good to get back out there,” Parsons said. “The Fall World Series is always a fun to to compete so I was glad to be able to go out there and just have some fun with it.”

After the Old Liners pushed across two runs in the top of the fourth, Biondic took the mound for the first time of the series. The senior picked up pitching over the summer, similarly to former Terps Mike Rescigno and Jamal Wade. He allowed two inherited runners to score on a  sacrifice fly and a Marty Costes RBI-single, extending the Old Liners lead to 10-2 in the fourth.

Dunn hit an RBI-double off Biondic in the fifth for his third hit of the afternoon. After his home run in Game 1, Dunn has three extra-base hits in the Fall World Series.

“The pitching I saw this summer [in the Cape],” Dunn said, “that’s helped into the fall and into the spring.”

Old Liners freshman right-hander Sean Fisher pitched 1.2 scoreless innings in relief, allowing just one hit. Left-hander Jon Dignazio came on to record the last out, but allowed four runs before clinching the Old Liners second win of the series.

The Fall World Series will conclude Friday at 4 p.m. at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.

 

MLB Draft Preview: RHP Brian Shaffer

Brian Shaffer – RHP

Ht: 6’5″        Wt: 200        Year: Jr.        Bats/Throws: R/R

Hometown (HS): Pylesville, Md. (North Harford HS)

2017 Stats

G: 15 (15 GS)  IP: 103.1    ERA: 2.18     K/9: 8.9       BB/9: 1.6     H/9: 7.1

Arsenal: Fastball (low 90s), Changeup, Slider

Background: While Brian Shaffer’s first career appearance for Maryland as freshman resulted in a one-hit three-inning save against Western Kentucky in mid-February, it was in postseason play where the right-hander showed he had a bright future on the Maryland pitching staff. Shaffer set season-highs with seven strikeouts in seven innings pitched against fifth-seeded Illinois in the 2015 Big Ten Tournament. The Maryland win behind his strong start snapped a 27-game winning streak for Illinois, who later made it into the NCAA Super Regionals. 

Junior Brian Shaffer pitches during another stellar outing. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 4/21/2017

Shaffer backed up his promising freshman season in a weekend starting role with the Terps as a sophomore. Serving most of the year as the Sunday starter, the Pylesville, Maryland, native went 8-3 with a 2.60 ERA in a team-high 103.2 innings pitched. He struck out 75 batters while only walking 13. The right-hander continued to shine in postseason play, throwing a complete game, two-hit shutout to keep Maryland’s season alive in an elimination game against Indiana in last year’s Big Ten Tournament.

Coming into the 2017 season, Maryland knew it would have to replace its highly-decorated Friday night starter Mike Shawaryn, who decided to forgo his senior season when he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox. Replacing an arm that holds Maryland’s career win and strikeout total is no small task, but Shaffer did so by pitching his way to a Big Ten Pitcher of the Year selection.

He led the conference in innings pitched this season while also ranking in the top-five in ERA (2.18), batting average against (.218) and strikeouts (102). No other Terp has cracked 70 strikeouts this season, and Shaffer’s strong performances on the mound allowed the Terps to win every single series opener at home.

Outlook: While Shaffer may not boast the flashy pitch arsenal that other big-name right-handers in the country do, he makes up for with incredible command. The junior struck out nearly nine batters per nine innings this season while averaging under two walks per nine innings. His fastball sits consistently in the low 90s, but has been clocked at 94 mph in late stages of different ballgames this season. Like his fastball, he throws his changeup for strikes, allowing him to change speeds throughout an at-bat. His solid slider has been able to confuse hitters, leading to his first 100 strikeout season in his career. Opponents are only hitting .218 against him this season, a mark that ranks fourth in the conference.

His dominant junior season hasn’t gone unnoticed. Baseball America ranked him as the 154th best draft prospect in the country, and D1Baseball.com’s Frankie Piliere believes he could be selected in between the third and fifth rounds. His ability to command all of his pitches while missing bats will make him a desirable early round pick. Shaffer and shortstop Kevin Smith easily have the two highest draft stocks on the Maryland roster, and if Shaffer is drafted early in the window he’s projected to be taken in, the Terps could have two players drafted in the top five rounds for the first time since 2015. 

Maryland falls to Illinois after wild ninth inning

With the Terps trailing 6-2 in the ninth inning, Illinois right-hander Joey Gerber struck out right fielder Marty Costes with runners on the corners, giving Maryland one last out to work with.

Before the next batter stepped into the box — second baseman Nick Dunn — the Terps were 2-for-20 with runners on base, including 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position. But as head coach John Szefc often says, baseball is a 27-out game and the last one is often the toughest to record.

Dunn doubled to score both runners on base to cut the Maryland deficit to 6-4, extending the game for designated hitter Will Watson, who hit a solo home run in the sixth inning. On a 1-0 count, Watson homered again, scoring both Dunn and himself to tie the game at six in miraculous fashion.

“It was great job by Dunn to get me to the plate. That’s all you can really ask for in that situation is to get the tying run to the plate,” Watson said. “I just put the barrel on it and the ball took care of the rest.”

While Watson’s two big blasts helped the Terps stay in the game, a homer of larger magnitude — Illinois catcher Mark Skonieczny’s walk-off shot off left-hander Andrew Miller — proved to be the difference in an 8-6 finish, capping off a wild ninth inning in Champaign.

Prior to the Terps ninth-inning rally, the offensive struggles were plentiful.

Trailing 4-1 in the top of the seventh inning, left fielder Madison Nickens popped up a safety squeeze just beyond the mound, forcing Illinois left-hander Zak Devermann to making a leaping catch to record the first out of the frame.

After Maryland put runners on the corners with nobody out, Devermann’s outing lasted just one pitch — which sat down Nickens — to set up a potential inning-ending double play. Center fielder Zach Jancarski beat out a ground ball once Illinois made a pitching change, scoring Danny Maynard from third to cut the Illinois lead to two.

While the promising opportunities were abundant for the Terps in the rubber match against Illinois, big hits were not before the ninth inning. First baseman Brandon Gum lined out to right to limit the damage, a missed opportunity after a threatening start to the inning.

“We were having good at-bats overall, Dunn said. “We just couldn’t string enough together in a row to drive guys in.”

The leadoff man reached base for the Terps in each of the first four innings, but all four times, Maryland couldn’t deliver an RBI hit.

“That’s definitely something we have to address moving forward because a lot of times this weekend we left a lot of guys on base in big time situations,” Watson said. “I think if you look back at it we really could’ve pushed the envelope early.”

Before his two home runs, Watson bunted runners into scoring position with only one out in the fourth inning, but a groundout and fly out stranded Dunn and right fielder Marty Costes in scoring position.

The missed chances eventually caught up to the Terps.

Illinois scored three runs after Maryland left its fifth runners on base in as many innings, increasing the Illini lead to 4-0.

“Where we got hurt was our pitchers getting behind in counts,” Szefc said. “If you put good hitters in a hitter’s count you’re not going to be successful. That’s what happened in the last two days.”

Watson’s solo homer in the sixth inning preceded an RBI fielder’s choiceby Jancarski to cut the lead in half, showing potential signs of life.

But once Maryland only mustered a single run after putting runners on first and third with nobody out, Illinois took advantage by scoring twice in the bottom half of the seventh inning. Despite the numerous opportunities to pull away, Illinois gave the Terps another chance to tie the game with one swing.

Maryland loaded the bases with only one out in the top of the eighth, but Gerber entered the game in relief to strike out Maynard looking and Kevin Smith swinging to strand three runners on base.

Gerber, despite evading a jam in the eighth, would create one in the ninth inning, ultimately allowing Maryland to extend the game before the Illini walked off in the bottom half of the frame.

After winning Friday night’s series opener, Maryland dropped the last two games to lose the series, ending its seven-game road trip. The Terps, who finished the trip away from College Park 3-4, have only beaten Rutgers in a conference road series this season.

“We struggle away from home,” Szefc said. “I don’t know exactly what it is but at some point we’ll have the figure the road out or else the road will kill us.”

The Terps will return home on Tuesday at 4 p.m. against UMBC.

Watson, Illinois outduels Blohm, Maryland in freshman pitching matchup

Left-hander Tyler Blohm — after allowing two runs on three straight hits — was just one pitch away from getting out the third inning when Illinois catcher Mark Skonieczny’s bat clipped Danny Maynard’s glove, prompting a catcher’s interference call to load the bases.

Two batters later, Bren Spillane cleared the bases with a double, extending the Illini lead to 6-0, a deficit the Terrapins wouldn’t come back from, eventually losing 6-2.

After allowing three consecutive hits to fall behind 2-0,  Blohm, a freshman, struck out Michael Massey to record the second out of the inning. Now, with runners on second and third, the southpaw got ahead 0-2 on Skonieczny before the catcher’s bat knocked the glove off Maynard on a foul ball.

A bases loaded walk preceded Spillane’s three-RBI hit, giving Illinois four runs following the catcher’s interference. Blohm, who entered the game tied for the most wins among freshman in the country, finished his outing allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits through 2.2 innings. All six of Illinois’ runs came in the third inning off Blohm. 

Illinois also started a freshman arm Saturday afternoon. While Blohm ranks fifth in both ERA and batting average against in the Big Ten, it was Cyrillo Watson who shined on the mound. The right-hander pitched a career-high seven innings, allowing just one earned run on five hits to a Maryland team that scored eight in the first three innings last night.

The Terps, who have completed numerous comebacks in midweek games this season, couldn’t replicate a celebratory come-from-behind win in Champaign.

John Murphy came on in relief for the Terps to record the last out of Illinois’ big second inning. He then pitched three innings of scoreless baseball to keep Maryland in striking distance. Back-to-back doubles by first baseman Brandon Gum and right fielder Marty Costes to start the sixth inning put the Terps on the scoreboard.

Madison Nickens knocked a RBI-double off his own the following inning, scoring shortstop Kevin Smith to cut the Illinois lead to 6-2 in the middle of the seventh. Maryland’s strong relief pitching continued when left-hander Tayler Stiles replaced Murphy on the Hill, pitching a scoreless seventh frame.

Right-hander Jamal Wade gave Maryland one last chance to produce four runs to tie the game in the ninth. The junior came on for Stiles with one out in the eighth and struck out back-to-back hitters looking to strand a pair of Illini runners in scoring position.

But right-handed reliever Ryan Schmitt returned to the mound in the ninth to retire the side in order to clinch the 6-2 victory for the Fighting Illini. Maryland and Illinois will square off in a rubber match tomorrow at 1 p.m.

Early offense leads Maryland past Illinois in series opener

Just moments after third baseman AJ Lee laid down an RBI bunt single in the first inning Friday night against Illinois, shortstop Kevin Smith dug into the box with the bases still loaded.

The junior swung at the first pitch he saw from Illini right-hander Ty Weber, ripping the ball down the left field line, scoring a pair of Terrapins to cap off a three-run first inning during Maryland’s 9-4 win.

“I was just trying to get a fastball I could drive,” Smith said. “I wasn’t really on time with it, but luckily I barreled it up and got it down the left field line.”

The pitch prior to Smith’s eighth double of the season, Lee placed a bunt in a position that caused third baseman Trent Hammond to attempt a bare-handed play. Unable to come up with it, all runners moved to the next base successfully, including center fielder Zach Jancarski at home.

“I saw that the third baseman was back so I had to try it,” Lee said. “If they’re going to play back and give it to me, I got to roll it out there and see what happens.”

After his go-ahead home run in the eighth inning led the Terps to a Ripken Cup victory against Towson on Wednesday, Lee saw his spot in the order rise to sixth, the first time he’s hit from that spot in the lineup in his Maryland career.

“I still [tried] to keep my same approach and same mentality when I [went] to the plate,” Lee said about the change. “But I wasn’t really surprised. I’ve been hitting okay.”

Lee recorded his second RBI single the following inning in the midst of another three-run frame. By the end of the third inning, Maryland already had an 8-0 advantage. Although Maryland starter Brian Shaffer was effective through two frames, the prolonged innings from the Maryland offense forced him to sit on the bench for long periods of time.

A rain delay postponed Shaffer’s start after 38 pitches in two innings against Indiana last weekend, and the coaching staff decided not to send the junior back to the mound when the game resumed the following day. But even after his short outing, the right-hander got off to a quick start against Illinois. He needed just five pitches to record the first three outs, then pitched efficiently again in the next inning to match his workload from last Friday night.

After the Terps jumped out to an eight-run lead, Shaffer struggled in the third inning. He allowed four hits in the frame and three runs, though only one was earned. An error by second baseman Nick Dunn forced in two unearned runs, allowing the Illini to cut the Maryland lead to 8-3.

Right it when it looked like Shaffer had gotten back on track in the fifth — striking out pair of hitters — Illinois continued to crawl back on Jack Yalowitz’s team-leading 11th home run of the year.

Although Shaffer ended his start allowing eight hits, he was also able to strikeout the same amount. He struck out the side in the sixth and then added another pair the following inning. During the game, the junior set his career-high in strikeouts in a single season with 76.

After his extra-base hit in the first inning, Smith helped add an insurance run in the sixth. The infielder sent a ball off the center field wall, scoring Will Watson from first. The triple tied right fielder Marty Costes’ total this season with three. Smith finished the night 2-for-5.

“I think I’m just a little more comfortable,” Smith said about his recent success over the last 10 games. “It’s good to see [the work] come together at the plate and swing at a little better pitches.”

While Smith and Lee combined for five of the team’s nine RBIs, the entire lineup — except Will Watson — recorded a hit. But even Watson, the designated hitter, reached base on three walks.

“We just attacked early. We got two three-spots in the first two innings and then a two-spot in the third inning,” Lee said.  “I think that was big especially with Shaffer on the mound knowing he’s going to be a bulldog up there and good deep into the game to give us good innings.”

Shaffer retired nine straight batters to end his start, finishing his night throwing 111 pitches through eight innings and allowing just two earned runs.

“We wanted to go out there and give [Shaffer] some runs early in the game,” Smith said. “He was kind of pumping so go out there and give him a few runs. He settled in really quickly.”

Right-hander Ryan Hiller entered for the last three outs of the game in a non-save situation. He allowed a pair of base runners, but a ground ball off his foot was chased down by second baseman Nick Dunn, who threw on to first to record the game’s last out.

Maryland will look to clinch the series victory against Illinois tomorrow at 4 p.m.