Preseason Countdown #15: Best stories of 2018

15days

We’re just 15 days away from Maryland baseball. As we wind down our preseason coverage looking back on the 2018 campaign, we compiled the best stories written about the team in the past year.


From the Maryland Baseball Network…

After an offseason of moving pieces, Maryland baseball will rely on experience, familiarity this spring

Maryland’s weekend pitching exceeding expectations in early-season slate

Controlling their destiny: senior bats are leading Maryland’s postseason push

From The Diamondback…

A bedazzled red robe “brings an extra fire” to Maryland baseball

A new rally squirrel sparked Maryland baseball’s offense in its win vs. James Madison

Zach Jancarski’s highlight-reel catch encapsulated his progress for Maryland baseball

From the Washington Post…

A hug on the mound put cancer survivor Billy Phillips at ease before his Maryland debut

From The Left Bench…

Bionic Biondic: the Terps’ tough senior

From Testudo Times…

Maryland baseball alums have relished their time in MLB organizations

Preseason Countdown #16: Best comeback of 2018

Maryland baseball struggled overall in midweek games a season ago, winning just five of 13 contests. Its last, though, was one to remember. Maryland battled back from multiple deficits to beat in-state foe Towson, 8-7, in extra innings.

The Terps trailed 6-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, but homers from catcher Justin Vought and outfielder Zach Jancarski powered a three-run inning. An inning later, first baseman Kevin Biondic tied the game with a solo homer.

The Tigers retook the lead in the ninth, but Maryland rallied to force extras, where second baseman Nick Dunn delivered the walk-off double.

Here is Maryland Baseball Network’s game recap from the win:

16days


By Joe Catapano | May 9, 2018
Nick Dunn delivers walk-off hit in extras to beat Towson 

Maryland baseball is still fighting to extend its season, and while Wednesday’s midweek matchup with Towson would neither help nor hurt those chances, erasing two late deficits before second baseman Nick Dunn’s walk-off single in extras was representative of the team’s challenge to make a late push into the Big Ten Tournament.

First baseman Kevin Biondic hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth and right fielder Marty Costes hit a game-tying sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth to force extras, keeping Maryland alive. All this happened before Dunn delivered the walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th to cap off Maryland’s 8-7 comeback win in its final midweek game of the season.

The Terps were never truly out despite trailing the majority of the game, similar to the team’s position two games back of the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament with two weekends left to play. Mathematically, Maryland still has a chance.

“Belief is a huge thing. That’s the one thing in this dugout. There’s a lot of people that believe that we’re not done yet,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “I think that goes for every game we walk in to. Having guys come through in big spots like they did today can be a big thing to carry into the weekend.”

The Terps fell behind 6-2 in the top of the seventh, but used a late offensive power surge to even the score. Zach Jancarski and catcher Justin Vought each homered in the bottom of the seventh inning to cut the Terps’ deficit to 6-5.

Right-handed reliever Elliot Zoellner recorded a much-needed shutdown in the eighth, just in time for first Biondic to hit a game-tying home run to deep left field. It was Maryland’s fourth homer of the afternoon.

“We were just locked in at the plate today,” Dunn said. “We were seeing the ball well and running off good ABs.”

Trailing since the second inning, the Terps were even with the Tigers, who used similar home runs to claim their lead.

Starting pitcher Billy Phillips worked a scoreless first inning, but allowed three runs over the next two frames. Junior third basemen Richard Miller hit his seventh home run of the season over the batter’s eye to give Towson a 1-0 lead. The Tigers went up 2-0 later in the second inning, and senior left fielder Billy Lennox snuck a ball over the fence the following in the third to put the visitors up 3-0.

“I thought we came out, honestly, a little flat today and I thought Towson kind of did the opposite,” Vaughn said. “They came out with energy and took some really good swings early in the game and kind of punched us in the mouth a little bit.”

After three scoreless frames, Maryland cut its deficit to two in the bottom of the fourth. Biondic legged out a leadoff infield, preceding a two-run home run from Will Watson.

Towson added two important insurance runs in the top of the seventh off left-hander Grant Burleson, extending its lead to 6-2 with just nine outs left to record. But another late Maryland push ensued, tying the game after scoring four runs in the next two trips to the plate.

Closer John Murphy entered in the top of the ninth, but allowed a leadoff walk and a go-ahead double before departing after recording one out. Redshirt senior Alec Tuohy recorded a double play to get out of the inning, and later pitched a scoreless frame in the top of the 10th.

Dunn delivered the walk-off hit down the right field line with one out, scoring Taylor Wright from second. A mob followed, as Dunn was lifted and carried into the outfield in celebration. It was the most emotion on the baseball field Dunn has expressed, according to Biondic.

“It feels pretty good,” Dunn said. “I was just looking to put a good swing on the ball. He kind of left one up and that was it.”

The Terps, who have six conference games remaining, will return to Big Ten play this weekend when they host Rutgers. Maryland trails Nebraska, Rutgers and Michigan State for the No. 8 seed in the tournament.

“We’re just fighting for a spot right now in the Big Ten,” Biondic said. “We start with Friday. Win Friday and go on from there.”

Preseason Countdown #18: Best moment of 2018

18days

Maryland baseball trailed 12-6 midway through the season-opening series finale against Tennessee. The Terps had already clinched the series victory, but the opportunity for a sweep quickly evaporated once the Volunteers scored 10 runs in the first two innings.

But the best moment of Maryland’s 2018 season occurred during this game, one that ended with its first loss of the year. For three outs, the Terps hung over the dugout railing with little concern for the six-run deficit they faced.

Because for the 12 pitches Tennessee’s hitters saw in the bottom of the sixth, all that mattered was the pitcher standing on the mound — a leukemia survivor named Billy Phillips who’d overcome a struggle much more deadly than the middle of Tennessee’s lineup.

Phillips was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015, sidelining him from the game several weeks before his senior season of high school. He sat out two seasons at Maryland and eventually won that battle, regaining enough strength to throw his first bullpen session in the fall of 2017.

Several months later, he found himself thrown into an actual game against an SEC opponent. When Phillips finally made the jog from the bullpen to the mound for the first time donning the Maryland uniform, shortstop AJ Lee met the reliever for a hug. The two embraced, and then Volunteers catcher Benito Santiago stepped into the batter’s box.

Santiago fouled off Phillips’ first pitch, then swung through a breaking ball to fall behind in the count. Phillips pounded his glove after his next pitch, when home plate umpire Travis Rose rung Santiago up on strikes.

In three pitches, Phillips had struck out his first-career batter. He allowed a one-out single but induced an inning-ending double play to complete his first inning of the season without much trouble.

The Terps greeted Phillips on his way back to the dugout, each congratulating him on an inspiring effort that would’ve been special regardless of the result. After all, Phillips was several years removed from pitching and hadn’t even had an entire offseason to regain his full strength or prepare for what college competition would hold.

Despite that, Phillips faced the minimum in his only inning of work.

Phillips went on to pitch 20 innings in 13 appearances during his redshirt freshman season in 2018, finishing with an 8.55 ERA. But even during outings that didn’t go as smoothly as the one against Tennessee, he made sure to remind media members that he was simply grateful to be able to play baseball again.

Maryland’s season had many special accomplishments in 2018 — a walk-off against Towson, a 17-run outburst against Rutgers, a two-hit complete game shutout against Stetson. But no moment was more special than the one with Billy Phillips standing on the mound with a baseball in his hand and a smile on his face.

Preseason Countdown #20: Best pitching performance of 2018

It wasn’t hard to find the best pitching performance of 2018.

Hunter Parsons’ two-hit complete game shutout would’ve been impressive against any opponent, but this one came against a Stetson team that won its conference tournament, hosted an NCAA regional and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time in program history.

The right-hander retired the first 11 batters he faced, none of which hit the ball past the infield. He allowed a single in the fourth, a single in the fifth, hit one batter in the seventh, but those were the only three Hatters to reach base.

Here’s a repost of Maryland Baseball Network’s game recap from the masterful performance:


20daysBy Joe Catapano | March 25, 2018
Parsons pitches complete game shutout, clinches series victory over Stetson

Maryland right-hander Hunter Parsons was greeted with a big hug from his catcher Justin Morris after dealing his 101st pitch Sunday against Stetson. The junior had just dealt a two-hit complete game shutout—Maryland’s first since 2016—to clinch a series victory over the Hatters.

“That hug meant a lot,” Parsons said. “He called me last year when I was struggling and he’d say, ‘You just have to trust it man. You just have to trust that God’s got a plan with you right now.’  I had to fight through that and to be able to come out there and throw to him today was pretty awesome.”

Parsons continued his dominant resurgence in his sixth start of the season, also striking out a career-high nine hitters in the Terps 2-0 victory. The junior’s complete game shutout is the first since former pitcher Brian Shaffer’s in the 2016 Big Ten Tournament.

As Mike Spooner’s fourth-inning line drive dropped in left-center field for Stetson’s first hit of the game off Parsons, snow began to fall from the sky and onto the turf at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.

The junior’s perfect game and no-hit bid were spoiled after retiring 11 straight batters on 36 pitches to start the game, but the Terps dugout still erupted in cheers at the sight of snowfall. Parsons, not phased by his first mistake or his teammates’ coincidental excitement, retired the next very next batter on three pitches to complete his fourth scoreless frame.

“At first I saw something white fly by my face and I was like, ‘What is that?’ and then it started coming down harder I was like, ‘Oh shoot, it’s snowing,” Parsons recalled. “But I think that played in our favor because [Stetson] played 21 games in Florida, it’s 85 [degrees] there and it’s starts snowing here and our dugout is cheering.”

Throughout his performance Parsons received the ball from Morris, and quickly prepared for his next pitch, holding his glove in front of his face before the opposing batter was even settled back into the box.

“When you’re stepping into the box and a guy’s attacking you and you’re feeling like you’re being attacked because it’s strike, strike, strike, the second both feet hit in and you look up the ball’s coming at you, it’s tough,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “He’s really latched onto that.”

Halfway through the game, though, Parsons had no run support to aid his strong performance. Stetson left-hander Mitchell Senger, who earlier this season threw a no-hitter, was matching his counterpart in his first four frames.

Similar to yesterday’s win, the Terps used free passes to create separation from Stetson. After left fielder Richie Schiekofer legged out an infield single, two walks loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth for second baseman Nick Dunn. Taking advantage of more mistakes, Schiekofer scored the game’s first run on a passed ball.

The following inning, the Terps used an outfield error to eventually move first baseman Kevin Biondic into scoring position. Schiekofer’s RBI groundout scored Biondic from third after a nifty slide dodged the tag at the plate. Schiekofer, a freshman, went 2-for-4 with Maryland’s RBI and run scored.

“When push comes to shove, I want a guy that’s going to grind and that’s what our team needs right now and [Schiekofer] personifies that to a tee,” Vaughn said. “So I’ve been really happy with the way he’s competed.”

Those two runs, neither which were driven in with a hit, were all Parsons needed to finish his complete game. For the sixth time of the afternoon, the right-hander worked a 1-2-3 frame in the ninth to cap off his incredible feat. Just five weeks after allowing eight runs in his first outing this season against Tennessee, Parsons recorded to a fly out to left field to record a two-hit complete game shutout.

“I’m so happy for him. He’s worked so dang hard for this,” Vaughn said. “He’s got a long way to go but what he did out there today was awesome.”

Preseason Countdown #23: Best win of 2018

Maryland baseball head coach Rob Vaughn accumulated 24 wins in his first season at the helm of the program, including an impressive 4-0 victory over Tennessee in the season-opener and a series victory at home over Stetson.

But the best individual win of 2018 came at Coastal Carolina, which hosted an NCAA Regional in a 43-19 season. The Terps fended off a ninth-inning Chanticleers rally, taking advantage of a game-ending interference call to claim a 7-6 victory.

Here’s a repost of Maryland Baseball Network’s game recap from the thriller:


23days

By Joe Catapano | March 3, 2018
New-look lineup leads Maryland past Coastal Carolina 

With his team owning a .212 batting average heading into Saturday, Maryland baseball head coach Rob Vaughn decided to significantly alter his batting order against Coastal Carolina, despite breaking out for 11 runs on nine hits the prior morning against Radford in the opening game of the Johnny Gardner Law Group Tournament.

The Terps lineup started the same way in every game this season—Marty Costes, Zach Jancarski, Nick Dunn, Taylor Wright and AJ Lee—but all five hitters vacated their respective spots for a new location in the order. Implementing a new-look lineup, Maryland had their most complete offensive performance of the season and benefited from a game-ending interference call to hang on against the Chanticleers, 7-6, to extend its winning streak to four games.

Third baseman Taylor Wright quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole following consecutive outs to start the game, but the junior transfer worked a walk to keep the first inning alive. Marty Costes, who relinquished his spot atop the order, was then hit by a pitch. Capping off the rally, Kevin Biondic delivered a two-out RBI single in his first at-bat in the five-hole this season, giving Maryland an early advantage.

Right fielder Randy Bednar and catcher Ty Friedrich both drew walks the next frame, but later in the inning with Wright in another 0-2 hole, it looked like the Terps were going to leave the bases loaded. But in his first appearance batting third, Wright singled up the middle to add two more runs. Through two innings, all three runs for the Terps came with two outs.

While the Terps came into the game struggling at the plate, Coastal Carolina boasted an offense with six hitters batting over .300. Averaging 8.3 runs per game, the Chanticleers had four games with at least 10 runs and three double-digit wins in their first 11 contests. For the most part, though, the Chanticleers were held in check by the Maryland arms.

Facing one of the best offenses he’ll face this season, starting left-handed pitcher Tyler Blohm danced with danger but consistently made big pitches with runners on base in his third start of the season. The sophomore southpaw held the Chanticleers to 1-for-8 with runners on, conceding just a pair of solo home runs over six innings while striking out seven batters.

Chanticleers first baseman Kevin Woodall Jr. got his team on the board, hitting just the fifth-ever home run over the 20-foot center field wall at Springs Brooks Stadium. Center fielder Parker Chavers homered to right in the following frame for his first long ball of the season.

In between Coastal Carolina’s pair of homers, the Terps offense responded to give Blohm more run support. Biondic doubled with one out in the top of the fifth and, after Coastal Carolina made a pitching change, an AJ Lee single preceded an RBI double off the wall from Bednar.  Friedrich added the second run of the inning with a sacrifice fly, extending Maryland’s lead at the time to 5-1.

A catchers’ interference on Friedrich extended Coastal’s bottom of the fifth after Chavers’ home run, but Blohm struck out Woodall Jr. for the second time to strand two runners on base with a 5-2 lead. Coastal’s second run came with another response, however, as Nick Dunn hit his fifth home run of the season to re-extend Maryland’s lead to four in the top of the sixth. Dunn, a preseason All-American, had five homers all of last season.

Freshman left-hander Sean Fisher relieved Blohm in the seventh, recording the first two outs of the inning. After a controversial double that center fielder Zach Jancarski believed he caught, right-hander Elliot Zoellner allowed the runner to score on a passed ball and a wild pitch before allowing walks to both batters he faced after entering the game. Taking no chances, Vaughn put in closer John Murphy to get the final out of the seventh, a task the junior right-hander completed thanks to a diving grab by Biondic in foul territory.

But just like the previous two times Coastal Carolina scored, the Terps responded immediately. Pinch hitter Will Watson crushed Maryland’s second home run of the afternoon to maintain a four-run lead, a hit that proved to be essential in the win.

Biondic relieved Murphy, who let two hitters reach base to start the inning, and gave up a three-run homer on his third pitch. After hitting the game-tying run with one out, Turner Buis stole as his teammate Kyle Skeels struck out at the plate. An interference was called on the hitter, who stepped in front of catcher Justin Morris, and that ended the game.

Preseason Countdown #24: 2018 Pitching MVP

Right-hander Hunter Parsons allowed eight runs in his first inning of the 2018 season, but that ugly outing quickly became a distant memory.

The first start of Parsons’ junior campaign was shortened to three outs when Tennessee tagged him for six hits on the first Sunday of the season. But after that game, he worked a 2.66 ERA the remainder of the year to become Maryland baseball’s most consistent and dominant pitcher.

Each subsequent appearance from Parsons seemed to improve after that disastrous inning against the Volunteers. The rapid growth under first-year Terps pitching coach Corey Muscara culminated into a season polar opposite from Parsons’ sophomore year, one that yielded a 12.05 ERA in only 21.2 innings.

DSC_0124All it took was self-confidence and a new grip on his two-seam fastball. For the rest of the year, no opponent touched Parsons the way Tennessee did. He finished with a 3.44 ERA, inflated by the lone ugly outing.

Parsons didn’t miss a start while Maryland struggled to keep its entire weekend rotation healthy in 2018. He led the team with five wins, 89 innings pitched, 62 strikeouts and a .225 batting average against.

His newfound ability to pitch deep into games reduced extra work from a short-staffed pitching arsenal. He tossed two complete games, the first coming against Bryant in a game that demonstrated Parsons’ trust in his ability.

When coach Rob Vaughn asked Parsons if he wanted to stay in the game with the go-ahead run at the plate in the ninth inning, the righty was eager to record the 27th out instead of handing the ball over to closer John Murphy. He got the next batter to weakly ground out to earn the 5-3 win over Bryant and clinch the series victory. 

Two weeks later, Parsons outdid himself. This time it was a complete game shutout in a 2-0 win over Stetson, a team that found itself playing into June in an NCAA Super Regional. Parsons allowed only two hits while striking out a career-high nine batters, again clinching a series win for the Terps. The performance garnered Big Ten co-pitcher of the week honors.

Parsons turned into the team’s ace, taking the hill in the last two series-openers. Maryland’s late postseason push, however, fell short on the final day of conference play. The right-hander wasn’t selected in the MLB draft, so he’ll look to build off his breakout season in his final year in College Park this spring.

5 takeaways from Maryland’s exhibition against Southern New Hampshire

Maryland baseball played in one of its two fall exhibitions Sunday afternoon, hosting Southern New Hampshire for a 19-inning marathon.

The Terps scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to secure a 3-2 lead through nine innings. A scheduled 18-inning exhibition went one more, as Maryland scored three runs in the bottom of the last inning to eventually earn a tie after one extra inning.

Here are five takeaways from the exhibition:

1. Justin Vought made a difference in multiple areas.

Sophomore Justin Vought — the team’s only returning catcher — hit a home run, threw out a would-be base stealer and scored the go-ahead to help the Terps secure a lead through nine innings.

In the second inning, Vought launched a solo shot to left-center field to tie the game at 1-1. He hit three home runs last season in his freshman campaign, now poised for a breakout second year in College Park.

With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Vought worked a walk and later came around to score as the go-ahead run in the first nine frames. Vought continued his success in the latter half of the day, doubling before receiving rest in the last six innings of the afternoon.

2. The relievers shut down the Penmen in the first nine innings. 

Senior right-hander Hunter Parsons and junior lefty Tyler Blohm — two of last year’s weekend starters — tossed the first three innings of the afternoon, each conceding a run. From that point on, though, Maryland’s relievers contained the Penmen through nine innings.

Junior right-hander Nick Turnbull relieved Blohm after the third, tossing two scoreless frames. The transfer from Harford Community College faced the minimum in his first inning before working into a jam in the fifth. He stranded two runners in scoring position to escape.

Sophomore left-hander Sean Fisher hit two batters in the sixth but struck out three hitters to go unscathed before working around a two-out double in his second inning of work. Senior John Murphy also tossed a pair of scoreless innings, which would’ve earned himself a win in a normal nine-inning contest.

3. The Terps battled back throughout the afternoon.

Maryland fell behind early against Southern New Hampshire, which stole home to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Vought’s homer in the next inning tied the game momentarily, but the Penmen scored again in the third to reclaim an advantage.

After a slow start offensively to the day, Maryland scratched across two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Junior Taylor Wright stretched a single into a double to spark a late rally that gave Maryland a 3-2 advantage through the first nine innings.

In the start of the second half of the 19-inning affair, Maryland fell behind four runs to Southern New Hampshire, but responded with four runs of its own in the next half-inning. The Terps had two walks, two singles a double and a three-run homer to climb back into the game. Maryland scored the following inning for its fifth unanswered run.

Down three in the bottom of the day’s final inning, Maryland used singles from sophomore Bubba Alleyne and freshman Bryce Cunningham to get back within a run. Junior Barrett Smith delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly to force a 19th inning and an eventual tie.

4. Michael Pineiro had a standout day at the plate.

The sophomore didn’t step on the field a season ago for the Terps, but he had more hits than any one of his teammates Sunday afternoon. Pineiro went 4-for-5 at the plate with a walk and a run scored, playing in 15 innings

In the first half of the day, Pineiro picked up two hits and stole a base. He reached scoring position twice but never came around to score. In the second half, though, Pineiro singled and doubled in consecutive plate appearances. He touched home for his only run of the day to cap off Maryland’s five unanswered runs in the second half.

Both an infielder and outfielder, Pineiro was used differently in each half of the afternoon. He played in two positions that were left vacated after last season: first base and left field. He began the first half in the infield but switched to left field for the second half of the day, playing solid defense in both spots.

5. Several new players made an impact. 

Maryland brought in a large freshmen recruiting class and a slew of transfers, many of which played well in their first action against an opponent this fall.

Head coach Rob Vaughn began the second half of the game with three first-year Terps in the lineup: Sebastian Holte-Mancera, Benjamin Cowles and Kody Milton. The trio combined for three hits, three RBIs and a walk.

Holte-Mancera, a junior from Ellsworth Community College, blasted a three-run homer to right-center field in his first at-bat to tie the game at one point. Cowles and Milton, both freshmen, singled in limited action.

Junior right-hander Zach Thompson was on the team last season, but had to sit out a year after transferring from St. Mary’s College. He flourished in 2.2 innings, allowing no runs out of the bullpen. He allowed a double and a single in his last inning of work but stranded both runners on base.