Maxwell Costes wins 3rd Big Ten Freshman of the Week award

Maryland infielder Maxwell Costes picked up hits in all five games last week, including two home runs, helping earn his third Big Ten Freshman of the Week award of the season.

In the Terps’ 3-2 week, which included a midweek win over William & Mary a pair of victories against Northwestern, Costes drove in eight runs while scoring seven times. In addition to his two homers, he also hit three doubles last week.

The Baltimore native now leads the Terps with a .287 batting average, and among qualified hitters, he also leads the team with a .512 slugging percentage and a .419 on-base percentage. Costes is now on a seven-game hitting streak, the longest of his career.

Now up to six home runs this season, Costes is steadily chasing the nine homers his older brother Marty slugged as a freshman for the Terps back in 2016, a mark that led all freshman in the Big Ten.

Costes’ production at the plate over the weekend helped Maryland accomplish a feat that hadn’t happened in over a decade. After winning two of three against both Illinois and Northwestern on the road in back-to-back weekends, the Terps have now won a road series in consecutive weekends for the first time since 2006.

For a relatively young team, Maryland is now an impressive 11-7 on the road and only 6-9 at home in College Park. The pair of road series victories currently has the team in the in the top half of the Big Ten standings with five series remaining.

Maryland concedes 9 home runs in 20-5 beatdown vs. Indiana

Maryland starting pitcher Zach Thompson was already halfway between the mound and the third-base line, but home plate umpire Mike Cerra still hadn’t budged.

Thompson and the Terps didn’t get the punch-out they needed, one that would’ve ended the third inning with Maryland down four runs but still in striking distance. Instead, the inning continued to the dismay of the home crowd at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.

And, of course, baseball’s brutality reared its ugly head after Thompson retreated to deliver another pitch, as Indiana right fielder Grant Richardson smashed the team’s fourth homer in the first three innings.

The power surge never stopped. By the time the Indiana sealed an 20-5 beatdown — Maryland’s largest defeat in eight years  — they had hit nine long balls to set up a decisive rubber match on Sunday.

First baseman Matt Lloyd and designated hitter Scotty Bradley each mashed two home runs, while Richardson hit three.

Indiana’s offense stayed in Bloomington an extra night before finally making its way to College Park for the middle of the three-game set. On Friday, Maryland pitchers Hunter Parsons and John Murphy held the Hoosiers to only two hits in a 2-0 shutout victory.

The Hoosiers eclipsed their Friday hit total before Thompson recorded an out. Center fielder Matt Gorski doubled to leadoff the game, second baseman Drew Ashley followed with a single, and Lloyd homered for the first time of the game to give Indiana a 3-0 lead.

Center fielder Chris Alleyne led off the bottom half of the frame with his fourth homer of the season, putting the Terps on the board. Maryland didn’t score again off Indiana starter Tanner Gordon, who allowed three hits over seven innings.

Even with Thompson over 40 pitches after a four-run first inning for Indiana, the game didn’t seem unsalvageable yet. Only Murphy, Maryland’s closer, had pitched the night before thanks to Parsons’ eight scoreless innings. Head coach Rob Vaughn had his entire bullpen at his disposal if Thompson couldn’t recover and give his team distance.

It didn’t matter, though. Maryland trailed 6-1 after Thompson exited in the top of the fourth after allowing a leadoff single, but the bullpen was just as unsuccessful as its starter.

Freshman Daniel O’Connor and sophomore Billy Phillips each conceded five runs and only recorded two outs apiece. Sophomore Mark DiLuia tossed 3.2 innings, but he also allowed two solo homers. Freshman Kody Milton pitched the final frame, and he allowed a solo homer that pushed Indiana to 20 runs — the first time Maryland has conceded that many runs since 2010.

Indiana scored in each of the first five innings, pulling away in a seven-run fourth and a five-run fifth, and led by 17 midway through the contest. The Hoosiers’ 20 runs on 18 hits were both the most this season, as they improve to 4-1 in conference play.

The Terps scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth, but the game was decided five innings earlier. Maryland’s 20 conceded runs are the most since April 27, 2010 against George Mason and its 15-run loss is the largest since a 16-0 defeat on Feb. 20, 2011 at the hands of Texas.

Maryland silences Indiana, 2-0, to begin Big Ten play

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By the time right-hander Hunter Parsons exited his start against Indiana last season, he had significantly increased Maryland’s chances of reaching the Big Ten tournament. It still wasn’t enough.

He slightly outperformed eventual fifth-round MLB draft selection Jonathan Stiever, leaving the Terps with a crucial one-run lead in the final series of the season. But he handed the ball off to a bullpen that faltered in a four-run eighth, triggering a three-game sweep that eliminated Maryland from postseason contention for the first time in five years.

This season, Maryland’s postseason hopes depend on a positive display throughout conference play, which started on Friday against the same Hoosiers. With the sour taste of last year still lingering, Parsons only allowed two hits over eight scoreless innings before leaving with a two-run lead.

Closer Johny Murphy avenged the three-run, go-ahead homer he allowed in that devastating series opener against Indiana one year ago, and preserved the 2-0 Maryland victory to open Big Ten play.

“Guys understood that our postseason hopes were taken away by them last year,” Parsons said. “So to be able to start our Big Ten play going against them was just a lot of energy coming out of the dugout … just wanting to get after it.”

Parsons retired the first 12 batters he faced, setting the tone for a pitchers’ duel against Indiana senior Pauly Milto, who defeated Maryland in the second game of that crushing final series a season ago.

The Terps defense helped Parsons stay locked in, energizing the crowd at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, where Maryland had lost six straight games. It fell victim to sweeps against East Carolina and Creighton in consecutive weekends, and only scored two runs per game in that stretch.

But Maryland didn’t need many runs to take the series opener, especially after solid defense stopped Indiana’s best scoring opportunities. Right fielder Randy Bednar robbed a home run to begin the third and, one batter later, shortstop AJ Lee used his entire frame to leap and snag a line drive destined for the left-center gap.

“Early in the game I was scuffling and then Randy goes up and makes that play,” Parsons said. “It’s a reality check.”

The home team’s dugout erupted into cheers after both plays, as a dedicated fan waved a yellow flag with a bright red “M” into the sun-setting College Park sky. Parsons still hadn’t allowed a base runner before nightfall.

Parsons finally allowed a hit with one out in the fifth, and a leadoff double in the seventh was his only other blemish.

Early on, Milto was just as dominant as his counterpart, retiring all nine Terps one time through the order. But center fielder Chris Alleyne’s leadoff triple in the fourth disrupted the starter’s rhythm. Two batters later, third baseman Taylor Wright scored Alleyne on a well-executed safety squeeze to give Maryland a 1-0 edge.

“When we score first, we’re a really hard team to beat,” Alleyne said. “So that was the mindset … to safety [squeeze] to get the run in and that helped us out.”

Alleyne led off the sixth inning with a drag bunt that split Milto and second baseman Drew Ashley. Again, he came around to score, when Caleb Walls lifted a fly ball to left field with one out in the sixth.

Parsons issued a two-out walk in the top of the eighth with Maryland still leading 2-0, drawing head coach Vaughn out of the dugout to talk to his starter. At 112 pitches, Vaughn needed an honest answer from his veteran, and asked him if he had enough left in the tank for one more batter.

Parsons did, and used two more pitches to complete his eighth and final scoreless frame. Then, Murphy faced the heart of Indiana’s lineup in the ninth, working around a leadoff walk to earn his fifth save of the season.

And although Maryland is far away from knowing how this one result plays into its postseason fate this season, Parsons’ dominance reversed the struggles against the same Indiana team that abruptly ended its 2018 campaign.

“That was a heavyweight matchup. That’s what Friday nights are supposed to look like,” Vaughn said. “You’re going to get bruised and bloodied up a little bit, but Hunter didn’t blink.”

Series Preview: Indiana Hoosiers

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A brand-new season starts Friday for Maryland baseball, as the Terps begin conference play at home against Indiana, the team that helped officially eliminated them from a Big Ten tournament berth last season.

When Maryland traveled to Bloomington for the final series of the 2018 campaign, it controlled its own destiny and knew its path to the postseason. Win all three games, and the Terps would’ve been headed back to the conference tournament.

The exact opposite happened. Indiana won the first two games of the series, and before the series finale even started, the Terps had already been mathematically eliminated. Then, Maryland suffered a season-ending 13-3 defeat to end the year with a sour taste.

That difficult weekend can be vindicated, to an extent, this weekend in College Park. For the first time since 2014, Maryland didn’t play a midweek contest in the days before the conference opener, giving the Terps a full work week to prepare for the typical conference powerhouse.

Maryland has lost its last six games at home — a three-game sweep two weekends ago against East Carolina and the same result last weekend against Creighton. The Terps are only averaging two runs per game during the tough spell at home.

After last weekend, no player is hitting above .300 for the Terps. Third baseman Taylor Wright’s .297 average is the closest to that mark. Wright leads the conference with 10 doubles and ranks third with 27 hits.

Outfielder Randy Bednar and first baseman Maxwell Costes sit near the top of the Big Ten in runs batted in. Bednar’s 20 RBI are the fourth-most in the conference, and Costes’ 19 are tied for fifth. That production will need to continue as Big Ten play kicks off.

Indiana Hoosiers (15-9, 3-0 Big Ten)

Last Season

Indiana had another very successful season, finishing the year 40-19 with a 21-5 record at home. After ending the regular season on a six-game winning streak, including the sweep over Maryland, it participated in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. A win over Michigan State was sandwiched between a pair of losses to Iowa, and then the Hoosiers suffered season-ending losses to a pair of ranked teams in No. 25 Texas A&M and No. 14 Texas.

This Season

Indiana enters this series with eight wins in its last nine contests, including a sweep at home against Iowa to begin its Big Ten slate. The Hoosiers are 9-1 at home, but 6-8 away from Bloomington. Indiana has tested itself against three ranked opponents, and won one of those games. The Hoosiers lost to No. 1 Oregon State, 8-3, and No. 11 Coastal Carolina, 6-5, but beat No. 21 UConn, 9-6.

Hitters to Watch

Junior outfielder Matt Gorski is the consistent bat in the Hoosiers lineup, hitting a team-high .299 with 26 hits. His six home runs are the fifth-most in the conference. Sophomore infielder Cole Barr is only hitting .259, but his nine homers lead the Big Ten and are 12th-most in the entire country. In total, Indiana has four hitters sitting at or above a .284 batting average. Maryland only has one of those.

Pitchers to Watch

Sophomore righty Connor Manous is the go-to arm out of the bullpen. His 21.1 innings in 13 relief appearances are third-most on the team, including the starting pitchers. He owns a 2.95 ERA and holds hitters to a .149 average. Junior lefty Andrew Saalfrank has split six appearances between relief and starting. In 17.1 innings, he has a 2.60 ERA with 19 strikeouts and only six walks.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Thursday, 6:30 p.m. EST

Sr. RHP Hunter Parsons (3-2, 2.63 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Pauly Milto (4-1, 2.28 ERA) 

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Parsons only allowed three earned runs in his first four starts of the season. He’s now allowed nine in his last two starts. Still, the righty went eight innings last weekend against Creighton, striking out 10 batters. It was his first performance of the year without a walk. Parsons allowed two earned runs over six innings last year against the Hoosiers.

Milto was in the middle of Indiana’s rotation a season ago, and he’s transitioned into the ace without much trouble. He only allowed one earned run with 10 strikeouts last weekend against Iowa, pitching into the ninth inning. He’s conceded one or fewer runs in three of his six starts this year. The right-hander only allowed one run against Maryland last season.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 2:00 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Zach Thompson (1-2, 3.63) vs. Jr. RHP Tanner Gordon (2-3, 3.98 ERA)

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Two weekends ago, Thompson had his best outing when he allowed two runs over eight innings against a very good East Carolina team. He followed it up with a solid, but less impressive two-run, five-inning outing against Creighton. After transferring and sitting out a season, this will be Thompson’s first taste of Big Ten competition.

Gordon’s junior campaign didn’t start very well, allowing 12 earned runs in his first 16 innings of the season in four starts. Since then, though, he’s been untouchable in his previous two outings. He’s allowed seven hits in 15 innings, only conceded two earned runs, and struck out 22 hitters. In those two starts, he recorded double-digit strikeouts in each and only had one combined walk.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST

Fr. RHP Trevor LaBonte (1-2, 2.63 ERA) vs. Jr. LHP Andrew Saalfrank (1-1, 2.60 ERA)

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For the first time in LaBonte’s starting career, he didn’t last a full five innings last weekend against Creighton. The freshman only conceded one run in 4.2 innings, but a pair of career-highs with eight strikeouts and five walks, his pitch count couldn’t carry him through the fifth frame. LaBonte hasn’t conceded more than three runs in the first five starts of his college career.

Saalfrank has made six appearances this season, notching a start in three of them. He only pitched two innings last weekend, but didn’t allow a run before his departure. Two weekends ago, the southpaw had in incredible outing. He allowed one earned run in seven innings, recording 14 of his 21 outs via the strikeout. He hasn’t walked more than two batters in an appearance this season.

Maxwell Costes earns 2nd Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors

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Photo credit: Maryland Athletics

Maryland’s Maxwell Costes was named the Big Ten freshman of the week after helping lead the Terps to a 3-1 record, the conference announced Monday afternoon. This marks the second time Costes has earned this award, after he won it in conjunction with the conference’s player of the week earlier this season.

The cleanup hitter picked up six hits and seven RBIs this week, as the Terps beat Delaware at home before winning 2-of-3 on the road against Stetson.

After several weeks of clutch hitting with runners on base, Costes finally delivered home-run power. The freshman hit his first-career long ball last Tuesday against the Blue Hens, the finishing touch on a convincing win.

Then in Friday’s series-opener against Stetson, he crushed a go-ahead, no-doubter to left field in the sixth inning to break open what was a scoreless game. The Terps went on to win 7-0 — their largest shutout win since 2015.

The Baltimore native had his best performance in Maryland’s only loss of the weekend. Costes hit a two-run single in the first inning and later hit a bases-loaded double that scored all three runs to finish his night with a career-high five RBIs.

Costes now leads Maryland with a .327 batting average, 15 RBIs and a .446 on-base percentage. His 17 hits — seven of which are for extra bases — are tied for the most with third baseman Taylor Wright. His RBI total leads the entire conference.

His older brother Marty, who played at Maryland and is now in the Houston Astros’ minor-league system, also won two Big Ten freshman of the week awards before going on to Big Ten All-freshman team honors.

Maryland (9-5) travels to Delaware for the second half of a home-and-home series on Wednesday, and then will host No. 18 East Carolina in College Park this weekend.

 

 

Chris Alleyne began the season on the bench. Now, he’s atop Maryland’s lineup.

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Photo credit: Maryland Athletics

Chris Alleyne often refers to himself as Maryland baseball’s “jack of all trades.” He has the ability to play multiple positions, reach base in various ways, and when he’s standing on first, use his speed to swipe second or score easily on a ball hit into the gap.

But the sophomore’s skillset started this season where it spent almost all of last year — on the bench. Despite transitioning from infield to center field in the offseason to help address a team need, he didn’t earn a start until the Terps’ third game. He hasn’t sat out since.

His role was clear. On defense: cover ground in center. As the nine-hole hitter: get on base for the top of the order. On the bases: wreak havoc in opposing pitchers’ minds. He wasn’t expected to lead Maryland to wins.

However, his 6-for-13 weekend against Stetson did just that. His first two career homers on Sunday guided Maryland to a series victory — a powerful performance beyond what head coach Rob Vaughn anticipated from the 5-foot-9 spark plug.

“[He] didn’t even start the first two games of the year,” Vaughn said, jokingly adding, “That shows you how dumb I am sometimes.”

In his freshman season, Alleyne mustered only two hits in 25 at-bats. On the bases, he even tripped in between third and home and was consequently tagged out as the game-winning run against James Madison (Maryland still won in 12 innings).

That’s all water under the bridge now, a distant blip already rectified only 14 games into a new season.

Alleyne is hitting .275 after his six-hit weekend against Stetson. He ranks first on the team in runs scored (12), second in home runs (2), and third in RBIs (7) and on-base percentage (.408). He’s also one of two Terps who doesn’t have more strikeouts than walks.

“Everyone’s going to struggle,” Alleyne said. “But there’s always a point where you’re going to see success if you can just stick with it.”

With regular leadoff hitter Caleb Walls entering Saturday on a 2-for-24 skid, Vaughn elected to switch things up midway through the series. He handed the role to Alleyne, who led off regularly at Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia.

While his hot bat was the highlight during Maryland’s two-win weekend, Alleyne had already become a mainstay of the lineup more for his speed and defensive abilities than his offense.

His incredible gap-to-gap range as a first-year outfielder became evident a week earlier against Louisiana Lafayette — especially in Maryland’s 14-inning marathon loss Saturday. In the 13th frame, he sprinted into deep right-center field and contorted his body to make an acrobatic, game-saving web gem, momentarily evading defeat.

The solid defense carried into this past weekend, when Stetson decided to test Alleyne’s arm. While the Terps lost on Saturday, Alleyne’s inning-ending, run-saving play maintained a two-run game. His throw moved catcher Justin Vought slightly up the third-base line, but not far enough to prevent a lunging tag at the plate.

“I love it out there,” Alleyne said. “It’s what [the team] needed. So as long as they need me out there, that’s what I’ll be doing.”

And then came Sunday, when Alleyne provided his team with much more offense than anyone thought he would provide. He drove in four runs and scored three times, playing a part in all but one of the team’s eight runs.

He reached base in all five trips to the plate: a leadoff double to start the game, a hit by pitch, his first-career homer, a walk and another two-run blast to seal the game. The first homer came from the right side of the plate against preseason All-American Mitchell Senger, and the other from the left side of the plate with the Terps clinging to a two-run lead.

“That home run he hit in the eighth there at the end to give us some breathing room … finally allowed us to squash [Stetson’s] momentum,” Vaughn said. “Even in our dugout, you could feel them coming a little bit and we were on our heels.”

Alleyne’s four-RBI afternoon was the difference in The Terps’ 8-4 win, which clinched a Maryland series victory over Stetson for the second consecutive year. It marked the Terps’ first road series victory since last April.

So, while “power” might not have been an established attribute in Alleyne’s self-proclaimed nickname, that’s exactly what Maryland needed from its jack of all trades for a big bounce-back weekend.

“I’m feeling good,” Alleyne said. “I’m not trying to do too much up there, just trying to allow my ability and my approach to take me where it wants to go.”

Maryland experimented on defense so it could use its hottest hitter vs. Delaware

As head coach Rob Vaughn watched backup catcher Sebastian Holte-Mancera’s success at the plate last weekend against Louisiana, he pondered how to regularly feature the hot-hitting junior college transfer in the lineup.

There was no simple answer, despite the junior’s 5-for-11 start to his Maryland career.

The Terps had an everyday catcher in sophomore Justin Vought. Three superior defensive outfielders filled Holte-Mancera’s secondary positions. Freshman Maxwell Costes had been the designated hitter in every game, and his .300 batting average and team-leading eight RBIs were too productive to withdraw from the lineup.

But a midweek matchup against a winless Delaware team let Maryland experiment to include its hottest hitter in the lineup. Costes played first base for the first time since middle school, allowing Holte-Mancera to assume the DH role and produce his third-multi hit performance in five appearances.

“I feel pretty comfortable because I’ve been prepping myself before the game very well,” Holte-Mancera said. “Doing mobility and a lot of stuff, allowing myself to be ready to succeed whenever I come in.”

Before Tuesday, Holte-Mancera had only played in unexpected situations. But now with the lefty batting .538 in 13 at-bats this season, the Terps could increase his workload by keeping Costes in the infield.

The Minnesota native started twice at catcher during the opening weekend, but only because Vought entered concussion protocol after the season-opener and missed the rest of the series. Holte-Mancera filled the offensive void, however, going 3-for-7 in Vought’s brief absence.

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Photo credit: Maryland Athletics

He didn’t play again for more than two weeks, as Vought quickly recovered in time for the next series. But Holte-Mancera didn’t think much of his lack of action, and continued to work hard at practice while patiently waiting for another chance.

“He works hard, man,” Vought said. “He’s out here every day grinding.” 

When the Terps played 14 innings in the first half of a doubleheader against Louisiana, Vaughn turned to Holte-Mancera so Vought didn’t have to catch 23 innings in one day.

And again, Holte-Mancera made the most of a golden opportunity, recording his second consecutive multi-hit game and forcing the coaching staff to consider an option to get him in the lineup consistently.

“We tell guys all the time if you want to get in the lineup, do something to change,” Vaughn said. “If you’re not in the lineup right now, do something to change it. Give us a reason to do it.”

Five hits in three games was all the justification Vaughn needed when he took a defensive chance to keep Holte-Mancera in the lineup. And it paid off.

After only scoring eight runs in three games against Louisiana, Maryland produced a season-high 11 runs and 13 hits against Delaware with Holte-Mancera and Costes both in the lineup.

In the sixth inning, Holte-Mancera mashed his first-career Terrapin homer. Two innings later, Costes muscled a line drive over the left-field wall for his first collegiate blast — the final touch on an 11-6 victory.

Defensively, Costes successfully fielded the only two balls hit his way and didn’t commit an error in the nine other putouts he was a part of. For Holte-Mancera’s sake, Costes didn’t do anything that would warrant quickly ditching the thought of a second trial run at first base.

“It’s just nice to know we have an option if we need another left-handed bat in the order,” Vaughn said. “We can throw Maxwell over there and he can hold his own.”

With first basemen Michael Pineiro and Kody Milton still adjusting early in the season — both hitting below .200 — the Costes option at first gives Vaughn and the coaching staff an enjoyable sense of flexibility.

Even though it’s uncertain whether the same lineup will be used when Maryland battles 2018 NCAA Super Regional participant Stetson this weekend, the Terps don’t seem to care which combination of players take the field. 

“Everybody’s going to do their role. Everybody’s going to contribute,” Vought said. “No matter who’s in the lineup for us, we’re confident with the guys we roll out there.”