Pro Terps Update: Lowe signs six-year deal with Rays, per reports

Former Terrapin infielder Brandon Lowe has signed a six-year extension with the Tampa Bay Rays, per reports. The deal guarantees Lowe with $24 million and includes two club options.

After making his major-league debut last August, Lowe appeared in 43 games for the Rays, batting .233 and ending the season with a .324 on-base percentage in 148 plate appearances.

With his call-up in 2018, Lowe became second Terrapin on the Rays’ active roster, and the third Terp on an active MLB roster in 2018, joining southpaw Adam Kolarek in Tampa Bay and reliever Brett Cecil, who at the time was on the 10-Day Disabled List for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Prior to the draft in 2015, Lowe spent two seasons in Maryland’s infield and helped the Terps make their first two NCAA Super Regionals appearances in program history. He finished his collegiate career with a .338/.448/.509 line, contributing to Maryland’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971 in his first year as a Terp in 2014.

Drafted by Tampa in the third round (87th overall) of the 2015 MLB Draft, it took Lowe less than three years to reach the majors after his entrance into the Rays’ minor-league system in 2016 with the Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods

Lowe then spent time with the Class-A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Class-AA Montgomery Biscuits in 2017, during which he hit .298 with 11 home runs and 58 RBIs between both clubs. He started 2018 in Montgomery, but moved up to the Class-AAA Durham Bulls after 54 games. Lowe spent 46 games with the Bulls, batting . 304 with 14 home runs and 35 RBIs.

Now, Lowe is hitting .359 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 42 plate appearances with the Rays in the Grapefruit League. With his extension, Lowe is likely to make Tampa’s roster for opening day.

The Tampa Bay Rays have not yet confirmed Lowe’s deal.

Kuchmaner throws perfect game, No. 17 ECU sweeps Maryland with 3-0 series finale

After striking out Kody Milton for the final out of the game, East Carolina left-hander Jake Kuchmaner turned to his dugout, gently pumping his fists in the air and grinning. Then, the entire Pirates’ dugout emptied as the team piled on top of the sophomore starter. Kuchmaner had just thrown his first career perfect game.

Maryland (15-6) struggled to produce offensively in the series finals Sunday, falling to No. 17 East Carolina 3-0. With the win, the Pirates swept the Terps for the second consecutive year.

Maryland didn’t get a runner on all game, as  Kuchmaner kept the Terps hitless, giving up no free bases. He went the complete nine innings, striking out eight. It was the sophomore’s first complete game and first perfect game in his career with the Pirates. 

A solo home run from Seth Caddell put the Pirates up 3-0, providing East Carolina with an insurance run, though Kuchmaner didn’t appear to need the additional run as he sent down the Maryland lineup in order again in the ninth.

“We knew he could really pitch,” Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn said of Kuchmaner  after the game. “We just didn’t do a great job of making an adjustment. We let him keep getting us out the same way all day.”

Both teams were slow to start, and though East Carolina (10-8) put at least one runner on base in each of the first six innings, it wasn’t until the sixth that the Pirates pulled ahead and plated any of said runners, taking the 2-0 lead.

After a leadoff double from Spencer Brickhouse, one of East Carolina’s power-batters, a single to right field gave the Pirates runners on the corners with one out. Then, designated hitter Thomas Francisco roped a two-RBI double just out of the reach of a diving Chris Alleyne in right-center field.

With that, Maryland starter Trevor LaBonte’s day was done, and junior Elliot Zoellner took over for the freshman on the mound. LaBonte put up five scoreless innings for the Terps, pitching 5.1 total innings, striking out four on five hits, three walks and one hit-by-pitch.

“[LaBonte] gave us an unbelievable start,” Vaughn said. “[East Carolina] kind of fought some at-bats off and then got the one big swing, but Trevor did a great job.”

Zoellner’s experience as one of Maryland’s older relievers came into play against the first batter he faced, when Brady Lloyd sent a grounder up the middle with one out and a runner on third. Zoellner knocked the ball down, then ran toward the pinch-runner Jayne. the subsequent rundown provided the second out of the inning, allowing Zoellner to strike out the second batter he faced to end the half.

Five Maryland pitchers contributed in the Sunday matchup, giving up three runs on eight hits, striking out 11. Vaughn explained that all the Terps’ relievers did their job out of the bullpen, expressing his pride in how his pitching staff performed the majority of the weekend.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Maryland senior captain A.J. Lee explained, discussing the Terps offense’s inability to provide the pitching staff with run support. “But they’re going to have their bad days and we’re going to have to pick them up. I mean, we’re a team here and that’s kind of what we’re just focusing on.”

Maryland will look to regain momentum this week with a two-game midweek matchup at Elon, before facing Creighton next weekend.

“We’ve got to flush this,” Lee said. “The biggest thing is just to get back to the day-to-day…get back to our routine and our plan, and I think we’ll be fine.”

 

Maryland holds No. 17 ECU two runs but struggles to score in 2-1 loss

When Caleb Walls stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, the Terps trailed the Pirates 2-1 with two outs. Walls was Maryland’s last chance for a comeback. But the left-handed batter grounded out to second base, for the Terps’ second loss of the weekend.

After dropping the series opener 9-0 to the No. 17 East Carolina Pirates on Friday, Maryland came out strong on Saturday and held East Carolina to a one- run lead through eight innings. The Terps were unable to rally in the ninth, however, and lost 2-1 to the Pirates in College Park.

The Terps plated their first run of the series in the fourth inning Saturday, thanks to a combination of free bases from the Pirates and a one-out double from Taylor Wright. The third baseman Wright stole third, then stole home on a passed ball from Smith, cutting East Carolina’s lead to 2-1.

“I was just looking for something kind of out over the plate,” Wright said. “Luckily I found my way to second base, and when I got there it was one out so I was looking to just get to third, with one out  I can score on a ground ball or sac fly…I got a pretty good jump there [and stole], and luckily the ball got past the catcher and we were able to score.”

Maryland seemed to carry its momentum into the fifth, when Terrapin starter Zach Thompson took down the East Carolina lineup in order to start the inning. Then Benjamin Cowles singled through the right side with one out, then took second on a ground out from Caleb Walls. But the Terps could not drive Cowles home, and a fly out ended the inning, stranding the freshman on second.

“You sense some frustration today,” Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn said after the loss. “[East Carolina starter Jake Smith] was really sinking the baseball today, so we got a lot of ground balls and it was really hard to elevate him today…I think we made it a little more complicated than it needed to be…when you have these opportunities that’s the difference.”

After stranding runners on first and second in the sixth inning, the Terps continued gaining momentum in the seventh, loading the bases with one out after the Pirates’ two-way player Alec Burleson walked two and hit one. But again, Maryland struggled to drive in its runners and stranded the bases loaded, still trailing by one run.

East Carolina jumped on Maryland early, taking the two-run lead in the second, after a single from Burleson, who started the game at first base, and a Turner Brown walk gave the Pirates two on and no outs. The Terps turned a 6-4-3 double play, giving the Pirates a runner on third with two outs.

But Maryland struggled to secure the elusive third out, and back-to-back singles from Brady Lloyd and Dusty Baker plated two runs before the Terps got out of the inning.

After East Carolina’s two-run second inning, the junior Thompson went eight innings for Maryland, including seven scoreless innings and six innings facing the minimum three batters. The righty struck out two while walking one and hitting two.

“I just wanted to get ahead and throw strikes,” Thompson said after the game. “They’ve got some special hitters on their team, so I just wanted to have 100 percent belief in what I was doing and let them hit the ball.”

Left-hander Andrew Vail relieved Thompson to start the ninth. The freshmen went one inning, striking out two and giving up one hit, and providing Maryland with the chance for a walk-off that never came.

“I thought Thompson was unbelievable,” Vaughn said. “You saw what [East Carolina] can do offensively last night off one of the bast arms in the country, and Thompson was flat out dominant today…I’m really proud of the way Zach threw the ball today.”

Vaughn also acknowledge that because Thompson lasted almost the full game, Vail only threw one inning, meaning the entire Terrapin bullpen would be available on Sunday, if needed.

Maryland struggles, dropping series opener 9-0 to No. 17 ECU

After struggling to keep No. 17 East Carolina (13-5) off the board early, Maryland (10-6) failed to overcome the run deficit and dropped the series opener 9-0 on Friday in College Park. The Terps’ pitching staff fought for outs against the East Carolina lineup all night, while Maryland’s bats stayed cold in key moments.

Maryland pitchers held the Pirates to a six-run lead through seven, after East Carolina took a one-run lead in the first, off a sacrifice fly from first baseman Alec Burleson, and then put up a five-run third inning, including a three-run blast from Jake Washer, extending their lead to 6-0. 

In the top of the sixth, East Carolina’s designated hitter Spencer Brickhouse stepped to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second. Then, a balk from Maryland’s starter Hunter Parsons moved both runners into scoring position, and Brickhouse had the chance to extend the Pirates’ 6-0 lead.

But, a heads-up play from the Terps’ designates hitter-turned first baseman Maxwell Costes shut down the two-out rally from the Pirates. Brickhouse sent a hard grounder down the first base line, which bounced straight up off the base.

Costes maintained his composure, however, fielding the ball and tossing it to Parsons, who beat the runner to the base for the final out of the inning.Parsons went six innings on Friday, during which he struck out two, walked two and hit two, giving up six runs on nine hits.

When freshman Sean Heine relieved Parsons to start the seventh, he faced the Pirates’ leadoff Burleson, who entered the game batting .469. Heine announced his presence on the mound and struck out Burleson swinging.

But, when Heine stayed in the game for the eighth, the top of East Carolina’s order took advantage of the young pitched, putting up a three-run inning. With two outs, a pair of hits brought one run across the plate after a double from Bryant Packard down the left-field line fell in front of a sliding Caleb Walls––the Terps’ junior left fielder. 

Then, with one on and two outs, Spencer Brickhouse stepped to the plate. Four innings earlier, the East Carolina dug in the box in a similar situation; With a runner on first and one out, the designated hitter faced Parsons, looking to extend the Pirates’ lead.

When left-handed batter swung and missed a low pitch, Vought smoothly transferred the ball to his throwing hand, catapulting it to second where shortstop A.J. Lee snagged the ball, getting the second out of the fourth inning as a cheer arose from Maryland fans in the stands.

It was a different situation in the eighth, however, and Brickhouse sent a line drive over the right-field wall to give East Carolina a 9-0 lead.

Heine went 1.2 innings, giving up three runs on three hits and striking out one. Billy Phillips closed out the game for Maryland, pitching 1.1 innings, giving up one hit while striking out three.

Though the Terps struggled to put a run on the board, it wasn’t for lack of trying. It was shortstop A.J. Lee’s first game back from a calf injury that benched him for seven games, and the senior nabbed Maryland’s first hit of the night with a line-drive single to center field in the bottom of the third.

Maryland’s offense continued to warm up in the bottom of the fourth, after back-to-back singles from Taylor Wright and Maxwell Costes led off the inning. But East Carolina starter Jake Agnos recorded three straight outs, including two strikeouts, to keep the Terps off the board.

Six different Terrapin batters contributed to Maryland’s hits column in the series opener, each with a hit apiece. The Terps struck out 11 times, however, and struggled to connect against the Pirates’ pitching staff.

Series Preview: East Carolina Pirates

maryland-home-ecu

With its 11-6 win over the Delaware Blue Hens on Wednesday, Maryland (10-5) has won four of its last five games, putting up at least seven runs per game. The Terps will look to ride the momentum of their two-game win streak entering their’ weekend series against the No. 17 East Carolina Pirates (12-6) in College Park.

Maryland is 6-12 against East Carolina in the series history, including the Pirates’ sweep of the Terps in 2018. Last season, Maryland started its spring break road trip with a weekend series at East Carolina, during which the Pirates outscored the Terps, 26-4. This year, Maryland will look to avoid the sweep and put up more than last year’s four runs.

After earning his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor, Maryland’s freshman phenom Maxwell Costes continues to shine in the box,  hitting his first grand slam with the Terps on Wednesday in Delaware. The homer was his third of the season. Costes, the only regular starter batting above .300, leads Maryland in RBIs (19) and on-base percentage (.457) as well.

With third baseman Taylor Wright and outfielder Randy Bednar batting on the cusp of .300, each hitting .295, Maryland’s new leadoff hitter Chris Alleyne has provided a boost for the Terps. Wednesday marked Alleyne’s second consecutive game with at least one homer.

The Terps used five relievers on Wednesday, but with their bullpen depth, Maryland will have some flexibility on the mound this weekend. Maryland has six relievers who hold below a 3.00 ERA, including freshmen Will Glock (1.50 ERA) and Andrew Vail (2.25 ERA).

East Carolina Pirates (12-6, 0-0 American)

Last Season

East Carolina dominated in 2018, winning the American Athletic Conference championship. The Pirates ended their postseason push with a 44-18 overall record, after a loss to North Carolina-Wilmington eliminated East Carolina during the NCAA regionals.

This season

Now, the Pirates continue to dominate, outscoring opponents 104-81. East Carolina enters the weekend coming off a 7-2 loss to No. 24 Duke (12-5), lacking the momentum Maryland has after its success in Delaware.

Hitters to watch

East Carolina has five batters hitting over .300, two of which are batting over .400. Sophomore Alec Burleson leads the Pirates with a .469 average, 30 hits and 13 RBIs. The other Pirate hitting over .400 is freshman Lane Hoover, who has the second-highest on-base percentage for East Carolina (.488), just behind Spencer Brickhouse’s .545 OBP.

Relievers to watch

Four of the Pirates relievers have sub-3.00 ERAs, including Evan Voliva (2.25) and Burleson (2.70), with 21 and 22 total strikeouts, respectively.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Sr. RHP Hunter Parsons ( 3-0, 1.00 ERA) v. Jr. LHP Jake Agnos (2-1, 2.78 ERA)

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As Maryland’s senior ace, Parsons continues to dominate from the rubber. With a 1.00 ERA in 27.0 innings pitched, the righty has allowed only three runs––all earned––while recording 23 strikeouts.

For East Carolina, Agnos has been consistent on the mound, with a 2.78 ERA in 22.2 innings pitched. The left-hander has allowed seven earned runs while striving out 34 this season.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Saturday, 2:00 p.m. ET

Jr. RHP Zach Thompson (1-1, 3.74 ERA) v. Jr. RHP Tyler Smith (1-0, 5.75 ERA)

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In his first season playing for the Terps, enters the weekend series with a 3.74 ERA across his four starts, tied with Parsons for the most strikeouts (23) this season.

After putting up a 1.78 ERA with 7 wins in 60.2 innings pitched for the Pirates in 2018, Smith has struggled to match his success last season, with a 5.75 ERA in 20.1 innings this season. He has allowed the same number of runs (14) so far this season as he did in the entirety of 2018.

Probable Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Fr. RHP Trevor LaBonte (1-0, 2.60 ERA) v. TBD

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Entering the season uncertain of who would round out their weekend rotation, the freshman LaBonte has provided the Terps with solid numbers as Sunday starter. Entering the weekend with a 2.60 ERA in 17.1 innings, LaBonte has struck out 13 so far this season, allowing only five earned runs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maryland bullpen struggles, comes out on top in 8-4 win over Stetson

Freshman reliever Andrew Vail entered the Terps’ series finale against the Hatters in an unusual spot. One of Maryland’s left-handed relievers, head coach Rob Vaughn usually brought in Vail to utilize the lefty-lefty matchup.

In Maryland’s 8-4 win over Stetson (6-9) in DeLand, Florida, on Sunday, however, the freshman took the mound in the seventh against a right-handed batter with a 2-0 count, two outs and bases loaded. In four pitches, Vail induced a groundout to shortstop Benjamin Cowles that stranded the bases loaded and minimized Stetson’s damage to Maryland’s 6-4 lead.

“Something this team does so well is turn negatives into positives,” Maryland closer John Murphy said after the game, discussing the bullpen’s rocky outings Saturday and Sunday.

Maryland’s bullpen struggled to keep Stetson off the bases on Sunday, a problem  which compounded the Terps’ issues in their 12-7 loss on Saturday.

Part of the issue, Vaughn explained, is the youth of the bullpen. Maryland has a handful of freshman relievers who will come out strong, then something changes between innings and they aren’t the same their second time on the mound.

“They’re getting a little bit tired,” Vaughn said. “It’s something we’ve got to make an adjustment on, because those guys are way too good to get two outs and be done for the day.”

After relieving Maryland starter Trevor LaBonte in the sixth inning, freshman righty Will Glock faced the bottom half of Stetson’s lineup with runners on the corners and no outs. He struck out lefty Noah Dickerson before inducing two fly outs to end the half.

But just as quickly as he had found his groove, Glock lost it, walking the bases loaded with one out in the seventh. Only one of those walks resulted in a run, however, as Jacob Koos crossed the plate on a passed ball after Glock had exited the game. Terrapin reliever Nick Turnbull had the same issue, striking out the first Hatter he faced, but walking the next to keep the bases loaded. Then, it was Vail’s turn.

After Vail got Maryland safely out of the seventh, he remained on the mound for the eighth. But, after Vail gave up a leadoff double, closer John Murphy took over. The right-hander recorded six outs against eight batters-faced, including three strikeouts, ensuring Maryland’s series win.

“They’re all dudes,” Murphy said, referring to his fellow relievers. “They’ve succeeded already, especially the young guys, so I’m not too worried about them. They’ll get right back on track this week.”

On Saturday, defensive miscues added to the bullpen’s struggles to led to Maryland’s 12-7 loss. For Sunday’s rubber game, head coach Rob Vaughn returned to an earlier version of the Terps’ lineup––one with Michael Pineiro at first base, Caleb Walls in left field, and Maxwell Costes as designated hitter.

Those shifts provided LaBonte with a solid defense early, in front of which the righty recorded three strikeouts and four scoreless innings, with 12 of 15 Stetson outs coming from fly-outs. LaBonte started losing steam in the fifth and sixth, however, and Stetson cut into Maryland’s 6-run lead with one run in the fifth and two in the sixth.

Though the Terps struggled on the mound in later innings, the tighter defense gave Maryland’s offense breathing room early in the game.  The Terps put up six runs in five innings, scoring at least a run apiece in each inning to take a 6-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth. Then, a two-run eighth inning provided cushion for the struggling Terrapin bullpen, extending Maryland’s lead to 8-4.

All but two of the Terps’ RBIs came from the top of the order––the others came from sophomore catcher Justin Vought, who sent a solo shot to left-center field in the fifth inning, marking his second career home run.

As a freshman, Vought recorded two hits and seven RBIs in 69 at-bats. Now, taking over as the Terps’ main catcher, Vought has put up as many RBIs in just 44 at-bats.

“We wanted to shift some stuff up a bit,” Vaughn said, referring to various move sin the Terps’ lineup over the weekend. “We thought [Chris Alleyne] was giving us good at-bats…I didn’t think [two] homer were going to come out of it but man, he was huge.”

In his second game batting leadoff for the Terps, center-fielder Alleyne crossed the plate three times for Maryland, including two two-run blasts, the first over the left-field wall in the fourth, the second to right field in the eighth.

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

Over the past year, Alleyne made a lot of smaller adjustments at the plate, the center-fielder said after the game, explaining that one minute change can make the biggest difference.

Those adjustments worked, evidently, and his two home runs Sunday marked Alleyne’s first as a Terp. Last year, in his first season with Maryland, Alleyne batted .080 in 14 games, seven of which he started. After Sunday’s game, Alleyne is hitting .275 in 13 games this season. In addition, the sophomore has as many home runs (2) in 2019 as he did hits in 2018.

“Everybody’s going to struggle,” Alleyne said. “But you’re going to see success if you just stick with it. I think I’m finally starting to see some success after struggling for a while.”

With their win Sunday, the Terps improve to 9-5 on the season, claiming Maryland’s first series win on the road since it took 2-of-3 at Michigan State in late April last year.

“We talk all the time that the next step for this team is taking care of business on the road,” Vaughn said. “We hadn’t really been great at that in the early season, [but] it feels good to get out of here with a good win.”

Maryland falls short in 12-7 loss to Stetson

The Terps struggled to maintain an early lead Saturday, faltering defensively in their 12-7 loss to the Stetson Hatters in DeLand, Florida. With the win, Stetson (6-8) tied the series at one game apiece.

When Maryland (8-5) plated two to start the first inning, it seemed the Terps’ momentum from their Friday-night 7-0 shutout carried into the Saturday-night matchup.

But, unlike the series opener, Maryland struggled to keep Stetson off the board, giving up three runs on two errors in the bottom of the inning and erasing their lead.

Though Maryland fought back in later innings, including a four-run seventh-inning comeback, Stetson’s offense capitalized on the Terps’ defensive miscues, putting up multi-run innings in the sixth, seventh and eighth.

Maryland starter Zach Thompson held Stetson’s offense to three runs through four innings. But a single and two wild pitches in the fifth set Stetson’s Noah Dickerson up for an RBI groundout, putting the Hatters up 4-3. Thompson went 4.2 innings, striking out six in his fourth start for the Terps.

After Thompson exited the game, Maryland’s bullpen struggled to keep the Hatters off the bases. In the sixth, Stetson tacked on two runs, cushioning its lead 6-3, before Maryland took back the lead in the seventh. Highlighted by a three-RBI double from freshman Maxwell Costes, the Terps’ four-run seventh gave them a temporary 7-6 lead.

But, a three-run bottom of the inning from Stetson nullified the short-lived rally, followed by a three-run bottom of the eighth to out the Hatters up 12-7 and ensure the series-tying win.

As Maryland’s main catcher, sophomore Justin Vought struggled behind the plate on Saturday. With one out in the first, Vought sent a throw over first baseman Maxwell Costes’ head, putting Dickerson on second. Three batters later, Dickerson crossed the plate on another Terrapin error, scoring the first run of the game for the Hatters.

Costes made the second of Maryland’s two errors. It was his third game playing first base this season––a position he hadn’t played since middle school––after head coach Rob Vaughn switched him to first in order to work additional power-hitters into the lineup. Costes’ fielding error put Stetson’s Andrew MacNeil at second and allowed Dickerson to score. The error was Costes’ second in as many games.

After pulling Thompson, Maryland called on six relievers to work out of various jams, but the Terps’ bullpen gave up 12 free bases on only four strikeouts in 3.1 innings. The dozen freebies were comprised of five walks, three wild pitches and four hit-by-pitches, with only three relievers––Daniel O’Connor, Elliot Zoellner and Mike Vasturia––recording a full three outs.

Maryland faces Stetson for the rubber match at 1 p.m. Sunday.