Head coach John Szefc, shortstop Kevin Smith discuss season expectations at media day

Despite missing the 2016 NCAA Tournament after two straight trips to the Super Regionals, Maryland head coach John Szefc built a foundation for success that has already culminated into something tangible.

Last season, Szefc led a Maryland squad that included 14 freshmen, and regularly saw six or more underclassmen in the starting lineup. The youth made expectations for a third straight Super Regional appearance lofty, but not out of the realm of possibility.

However, the Terps finished the season at 30-27, clinching a spot in the Big Ten Tournament on the final day of the season and eventually reaching the Big Ten Tournament semifinal. But, the 27 losses, including key falters against lower-tier midweek opponents, proved to be too big to overcome to get off the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.

“I think that was a fair reason for all the ups and downs we had,” Szefc said at Maryland’s spring media availability Monday.

Head coach John Szefc and junior shortstop Kevin Smith at Maryland spring availability.

A year later, and those 14 freshmen are now sophomores, including 2016 Freshman All-Americans second baseman Nick Dunn, and outfielder Marty Costes.

Additionally, 2016 contributors and sophomores shortstop Kevin Smith, first baseman Kevin Biondic, catcher Justin Morris, outfielder Zach Jancarski, and starting pitchers Brian Shaffer and Taylor Bloom are now upperclassmen leaders.

“We have a lot more experienced guys,” Smith said. “We have a lot of guys that can be leaders when they want to and police ourselves that way.”

College baseball analysts are bullish on the Terps coming into this season, putting the Terps in the top-25 in three different preseason polls, thanks to that new mix of youth and experience.

Smith has received the most offseason recognition of anyone on the Maryland roster. The shortstop was named a First-Team Preseason All-American by Baseball America and Perfect Game, and a Third-Team Preseason All-American by D1Baseball.com, all on the heels of being ranked the No. 11 draft prospect by D1Baseball, earning Cape Cod Baseball League LCS MVP honors with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, and being named the Summer Breakout Prospect by D1Baseball.com.

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Add what Szefc calls “one of the deeper pitching staffs” the program has seen, and it’s a roster that could lead the Terps back to the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s one of the deeper pitching staffs we’ve had,” Szefc said. “That’s kind of a weird thing to day having lost [Mike] Shawaryn, who is the most successful pitcher in program history but being able to bring back two pitchers that had more starts that walks last year [Taylor Bloom, Brian Shaffer] is a rare thing in college baseball. Hunter Parsons was the pitcher of the year in the Cal Ripken League this summer and the freshman left-hander we have— Tyler Blohm—he’s progressed at a faster rate than almost any other guy I’ve been around.”

As a senior at nearby Archbishop Spalding, Blohm boasted a 0.74 ERA, and flourished in the Cal Ripken League this summer to the tune of 26 strikeouts in 26 innings his first time facing collegiate competition.

The bullpen also returns key pieces as RHP Mike Rescigno, a San Fransisco Giants-draftee in the 2016 MLB Draft, returns to Maryland as Perfect Game’s No. 1 senior prospect after a head-turning summer campaign with the Baltimore Redbirds in the Cal Ripken League. He joins RHP Ryan Selmer, who, like Smith and Dunn, is coming off a strong summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

“If you want to have a successful year, you have to like what you have on paper before you actually go out there and play the games,” Szefc said. “I can tell you…it is one of the better teams since I’ve been here on paper.”

The start of Maryland’s season is just days away, with the Terps traveling to Clearwater, Fl. for the Clearwater Tournament. Every game this season can be heard live on the Maryland Baseball Network.

Listen to the full media day interview:

[Contributions by Jake Eisenberg]

Randy Bednar brings versatility to Terps Class of 2017

Two-hundred screaming Bullis High School fans all wanted to see Maryland-signee Randy Bednar fail.

It was the 2016 Independent Athletic Conference Championship game, and the Landon Bears were one out away from having their miraculous postseason run cut short. With his team down one with a runner on first, Bednar stepped up to the plate.

“If he doesn’t produce something, the season is over,” Landon head coach Bill Reed said.

He’s been at Landon all his life, and now he’s bringing his talents to College Park, MD. (Courtesy of Randy Bednar)

Bednar worked a full count—the season a strike away from being over. He fouled off the next pitch to keep the at-bat alive, then fouled off the next pitch, too, and the one after that, and the one after that, in an at-bat that lasted 17 pitches.

“I was not going down on a called third strike,” Bednar told Reed after the game.

On the 18th pitch, Bednar ripped a double off the wall, scoring the runner from first to send the game into extra innings.

“That was the most special, most memorable moment of my high school career,” Bednar said.

The Bears took the lead off of an error in the infield and held on in the bottom of the frame to win the 2016 IAC Championship.

Bednar, an outfielder and left-handed pitcher, and a native of nearby Bethesda, Md., was the first player to commit to Maryland’s 2017 recruiting class.

“The moment I knew I wanted to go to Maryland was when I first made that visit,” Bednar said. “Every time I visited, more and more I started to grow in love with Maryland. Since I made my verbal commitment, I haven’t made any regrets on making that decision ever in my life.”

He committed to the Terps and head coach John Szefc the summer after his freshman year of high school, calling Szefc someone that he’s “looked up to not only as a coach, but someone I could look for advice on and off the field.”

Szefc has told Bednar he’d like to see him as a two-way player—both as a centerfielder, and as a left-handed pitcher. The versatility to both pitch and hit is rare in college baseball, but Reed has known about Bednar’s advanced athleticism for a long time.

“Even when he was a little, little, guy…you could kind of tell,” Reed said. “We’ve seen it coming. When he was a middle school kid, he would often take reps on field with varsity as a sixth and seventh grader. He was driving the ball, he was technically sound, his swing was consistent. He just looked like a young high school kid and he was in seventh grade.”

Since becoming the Bears’ coach in 1999, Reed has brought the program five IAC Championships after a 30-year drought. Bednar hopes his last season with Landon brings the program a sixth title.

“I’m trying to make this last year with him special and memorable,” Bednar said. “I’m just trying to live in the moment, make the most of it, and just have fun with my senior year. Because I know [I’m] never getting it back.”