Preseason Countdown No. 13: Biggest holes to fill in 2020

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Though the Terps only lost four seniors in 2019, those four were major players in Maryland’s offense and defense and their exits left four major holes to fill.

Starting on the mound, Terrapin ace Hunter Parsons finished his career with Maryland as head coach Rob Vaughn’s strongest arm. His 10-win senior campaign marks the third-most wins in a single season in team history, and his 17 career wins the fifth-most.

As a senior, Parsons’ series-opening starts provided much-needed momentum heading into big weekend series: even when the Terps lost the second and third matches, Parsons often secured the series-opener win to avoid a sweep. For instance, when Indiana came to town in late-March, Parsons pitched a shutout and tossed five strikeouts in eight innings, securing a 2-0 Maryland victory.

Parsons finished his time as a Terp with a dominant senior season, recording a 3.45 ERA  and 78 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings. His strength on the mound led to a 19th round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft by the New York Mets.

But Parsons wasn’t the only Terrapin pitcher to leave Maryland. Closer John Murphy’s time as a Terp also came to a close with the endow the 2019 season. As a senior Murphy recorded 11 saves, the third-most in a single season in team history, providing reliable late-inning relief.

Murphy closed out his Terrapin career with a 4.32 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings last season. After leaving Maryland, Murphy played independent ball with the USPBL Westside Wooly Mammoths, racking up 11 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched and one save.

In addition to the missing arms, the Terps also lost the left side of their infield. Both third baseman Taylor Wright and shortstop A.J. Lee finished their careers at Maryland last season after providing key defensive support and offensive production in 2019.

At the hot corner, Wright finished with a .940 fielding percentage after starting in all 58 of the Terps’ 2019 games. Wright’s bat came alive last season, slashing .290/.375/.429 with 32 RBI and a conference-high 20 doubles, more than twice as many as in 2018 (nine doubles) and the fourth-most in a single season in team history.

Shortstop A.J. Lee finished last season leading the Terps in batting average (.317), with 13 doubles, seven home runs, 36 RBI and a .443 on-base percentage. Lee was also the only Maryland batter to his a walk-off home run last season, launching the deciding two-run blast in the Terps’ series opener against the Iowa Hawkeyes for a 8-6 victory.

One of Maryland’s most-productive offensive leaders in 2019, Lee also had the second-most double plays on the team (33), behind only first baseman Maxwell Costes.

The second Terp drafted last year, the Houston Astros selected Lee in the 34th round of the MLB draft.

Both Wright and Lee earned All-Big Ten third team honors at the end of the season, as did Parsons.

Now, the Terps are tasked with filling four holes in their lineups.

Preseason Countdown No. 15: Five things we learned at Media Day

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The Terps hosted their annual Spring Sports Media Day on Wednesday, including appearances from head coach Rob Vaughn and outfielder Randy Bednar.

Here are five takeaways from those interviews:

1. Everything matters, nothing is special

Those five words epitomize Vaughn’s approach to this season; the team’s motto, basically.

“We’ve been preaching this concept,” Vaughn explained, “because what happens with young players is, the game becomes this thing you put up on a pedestal and you make it bigger than it is. [So] you see young guys so it right over and over and over in practice, and the the game rolls around and they make it special, they make it bigger than it is, and it makes it hard for them to operate.”

So far the team has responded well, but Vaughn won’t really know whether the approach has worked until the first game.

“[It’s] a super catchy phrase,” Vaughn said, “but the reality is if we live that, I think we have a chance to be okay. If you put that work in then you can go into gamely with confidence and just do your thing.”

2. A new-look team

With 14 freshmen and two transfers, the 2020 Maryland squad will look very different than it did a year ago. Though there are enough returners to fill the starting lineup, Vaughn plans on integrating newcomers in to create the best lineup possible.

“We have more depth,” Vaughn said,” so I think you’ll see 10-to-12, [maybe] 13 regular position players is involved…same thing on the mound, we’re going to try to put guys in the right spots.”

Right now, the only parts of the lineup that Vaughn knows for certain are the one and three spots. Expect to see Chris Alleyne leading off come February 14th, with Bednar hitting cleanup.

Potential freshmen who could make an appearance in the season-opener lineup include Troy Schreffler Jr., Tucker Flint, Bobby Zmarzlak and Aaron Perez.

3. There won’t be a set rotation for a while

Vaughn plans on having six or seven pitchers ready for opening weekend, a sort of “Starter A, Starter B” situation for each game. While the Terps’ skipper has an idea of which arms will take those spots, a lot could change in the next few weeks.

“There’s a lot of options,” Vaughn said. “That’s what you get with a young team, that’s why we want to prepare six, throw them out there and let it play out.”

Keep an eye out for redshirt freshman Sean Burke, who has “electric stuff” according to Vaughn and could be a strong contender for a rotation slot. Other first years with starter potential include Nick Dean, Ryan Ramsey and Sam Bello.

In addition, two of last year’s starters, Zach Thompson and Trevor LaBonte, will likely be in the mix for a weekend role. Sean Fisher may also start some this season, as Vaughn has been transitioning the southpaw from a relief position to a starter’s schedule, hoping to try the junior out up front.

4. New No. 3 in town

Last season it was senior A.J. Lee who brought a lot of leadership to the Terps. This season it’s Randy Bednar who has transitioned into that role.

As Vaughn explained, the Maryland coaching staff has three key pillars in their program: toughness, ownership, and the growth mindset. Historically, the No. 3 jersey has gone to the player who best exemplified those qualities (back in his time as a Terp, assistant coach Anthony Papio wore No. 3).

This year it’s Bednar who dons the jersey.

“He shows up to work everyday,” Vaughn said. “He takes care of his business, classes, he’s on the Dean’s list as a junior…[he’s] a great, great representative of what it means to be a Maryland Baseball player. And on top of that…he’s starting to learn how to demand that the people around him rise up to his occasion.”

5. The team has high expectations for the season

Every team across college baseball has high expectations for itself. But even though the Terps made the Big Ten Tournament last season, they know they can go much further this season with the level of talent on the team.

“Seeing we could get there makes us know that we could do a lot more,” Bednar said. “Especially this year. I believe we’ve got all the talent…we have the capability of winning a Big Ten Championship, we have the capability of going out there and playing for a regional.”

“I think the sky’s the limit to this group,” Vaughn said. “Our players expect to win because they know how hard they’ve worked, they know how much time they spent getting after it every day.”

Preseason Countdown No. 17: Best Stories of 2019

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With just 17 days left until Maryland baseball returns, here’s a look back on some of the best stories written about the Terps’ 2019 campaign.


From the Maryland Baseball Network…

Two first-year starters had breakout weekends vs. Maine

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

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

A brief injury put AJ Lee’s senior season into perspective

Maryland freshmen prove they belong, get first at-bats as Terps

From The Diamondback…

With a new mindset, Randy Bednar is raking for Maryland baseball

Hovering around .500, Maryland baseball believes it’s ‘really close’ to a breakthrough

Tyler Blohm’s return to the mound is a promising sign for Maryland baseball

After sluggish start, AJ Lee has led Maryland baseball’s run to the Big Ten tournament

From Testudo Times…

Maryland baseball’s Mike Shawaryn is making the most of his opportunity with the Boston Red Sox

From Independent sources…

Don’t Jinx It: Maryland baseball’s superstitions

Preseason Countdown No. 20: Biggest home run of 2019

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One of the most memorable moments of the Terps’ 2019 campaign came in their last series opener, a Thursday-night matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes, when senior shortstop A.J. Lee knocked a two-run walk-off homer out of the park and sent his bat flying before being engulfed by his teammates.

Maryland took the lead early, but struggled to maintain it in the top of the ninth as the Iowa offense mounted a four-run inning to tie the game at eight runs apiece.

Enter: A.J. Lee.

Heading into the ninth Lee was already 2-for-3 on the day with a pair of singles, an RBI, a stolen base and a sacrifice hit.

When Lee stepped to the plate, freshman Josh Maguire stood on second base thanks to his leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt from Benjamin Cowles.

Lee took the first pitch, a ball, then sent the second pitch he saw flying deep over the left-field wall.

Almost as soon as the ball had left Lee’s bat he watched it soar through the air before tossing his bat to the side and rounded the bases, yelling and skipping in excitement.

“I had a pretty good idea [it was going out],” Lee said. “But [the bat flip] was just out of pure excitement. I knew pretty much it was going to be gone.”

As Lee rounded first the Maryland dugout emptied, the energy and excitement palpable as is only the case with walk offs.

But Lee’s homer and the Terps’ subsequent win meant all the more after the struggles the team, and Lee, had been through over the course of the season.

“It’s really special for this team,” Lee said. “We’re been through a lot of adversity as a team, had ups and downs, good days and bad days. But at the end of the day, we’re all brothers and we’re out here trying to fight for a spot in the post season.”

Lee started the 2019 season 0-for-13, before an ankle injury at the beginning of March forced him to take an eight-game break to heal and regain focus. In his first at-bat back on March 15, Lee singled.

By the end of the season, Lee led the Terps with a .317 average and a .443 on-base percentage, plus 60 hits and 10 stolen bases.

“[It] made me appreciate things a lot more,” Lee said. “I just feel a lot more relaxed, a lot more comfortable out there, and [I’m] just having fun and playing the game.”

After his dominant season, Lee was selected by the Houston Astros in the 34th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, the second of two Maryland players drafted, after the Mets chose Hunter Parsons in the 19th round.

Preseason Countdown No. 22: Best Series

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The Terps swept only two series in their 2019 season: their home-opening Maine series, and their regular season-ending Iowa series.

Maryland’s victory over Iowa stands alone as the most significant series, and the best series, not only because of the level of confidence with which the Terps entered the three-game set, but also because with the series victory Maryland qualified for the Big Ten Tournament for the first time under head coach Rob Vaughn (the first time since 2017).

Thursday’s series opener set the tone of the late-season matchup, with senior A.J. Lee knocking the second pitch of his last at-bat of the night out of the park for a two-run home run, the Terps’ first walk-off of the season.

While Maryland came out on top in the end, the game had been as back-and-forth as the series to that point. The Terps took an early lead with two runs apiece in the first and third innings. By the end of the eighth, the Terps were leading 6-2.

But after Iowa tacked on four runs in the top of the ninth, Maryland needed to do something it had not accomplished all season. A.J. Lee rose to the occasion.

With the 8-6 win on Thursday, Maryland entered Friday’s game looking to clinch the series, a feat the Terps accomplished behind an outpouring of offensive power. The 8-4 win marked only the second time the Terps had clinched a Big Ten series that season.

Maryland’s offense stayed hot on Friday, powered by big hits from throughout the Terps’ lineup that backed an at-times faltering defense, giving early run support to starter Zach Thompson.

The Terps sent three home runs over the fence: a two-run home from Maxwell Costes in the first and a solo home run apiece from Randy Bednar and A.J. Lee in the fourth and eight innings, respectively. Add in Josh Maguire’s bases-clearing triple and it’s clear Maryland carried the momentum from Thursday’s walk-off into Friday’s match.

Entering Saturday’s series finale, the Terps had the chance to clinch their first Big Ten Tournament berth under Vaughn.

On Saturday, both Maryland’s offense and defense–including some at-times lackluster pitching–merged together for a 10-8 win over Iowa to secure the sweep and ensure the Terps’ ticket to Omaha.

Maryland players sprinted out of the dugout, engulfing closer John Murphy in the infield Saturday evening. The Terps had just clinched their first appearance in the Big Ten Tournament under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn.

Murphy, who entered in the ninth, recorded three straight outs to ensure Maryland’s 10-8 win over Iowa (30-22, 12-12), earning his 11th save of the year in the Terps’ final game of the regular season in College Park.

Iowa had tied the game for the third time in the top of the eighth with a grand slam from Tanner Wetrich. But, as they had the whole game, the Terps responded and a two-RBI double from Chris Alleyne put Maryland on top 10-8 and left Murphy with the task of holding off the Iowa bats.

Not only did Maryland show its strength on the mound and at the plate, but the series and its many comeback wins served as a metaphor for the Terps’ season as a whole.

The Terps flirted with the .500 mark the entirety of their 2019 campaign, finishing with a 29-29 record and a 12-12 in-conference record. With the Iowa sweep, Maryland proved to the conference, and to itself, that it was worthy of that coveted tournament spot.

Preseason Countdown No. 23: Best win

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In his second season as head coach, Rob Vaughn and the Maryland Baseball team earned 29 wins, including wins against Minnesota, Indiana and future-Big Ten Tournament champions Ohio State.

But the best single-game win of 2019 came during the postseason, in the Terps’ first game of the Big Ten Tournament. Its first tournament appearance under Vaughn’s leadership, Maryland’s solid pitching staff and powerful offense came together to defeat Illinois in a 6-2 victory to advance to the winner’s bracket.

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


 

By Paige Leckie | May 22, 2019
Maryland defeats Illinois in first game of Big Ten Tournament

In the Maryland’s first Big Ten tournament appearance under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn, the Terps continued their hot streak, defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 6-2 on Wednesday in Omaha, Nebraska, to move on to the winner’s bracket.

Maryland got on the board first, after loading the bases on a pair of walks and an infield single. A fielder’s choice from Randy Bednar drove in Chris Alleyne from third, giving the Terps a 1-0 lead in the second.

Terrapin runners reached base in all but the first inning, when Illinois starter Andy Fisher retired the Terps in order. Even so, the Terps struggled to plate runners and provide Parsons with a bigger lead with which to work, stranding a total of 12 on the day. The lack of extra run support from Maryland came back to haunt the Terps in the ninth inning, when Illinois started to mount a comeback.

Maryland ace Hunter Parsons set the tone early, tossing three consecutive 1-2-3 innings to start before the first Illinois runner reached base in the fourth. After the Fighting Illini’s first hit Parsons walked two with two outs to load the bases. But the right-hander induced a huge ground out to end the half and strand the bases loaded, maintaining the Terps’ 1-0 lead.

The Fighting Illini continued to pressure the Terps in the fifth and plated their first run of the day, when Grant Van Scoy beat the throw home after second baseman Ben Cowles bobbled the ball.

Though Illinois tied the game at one run apiece in the fifth, Parsons maintained his composure and took down the fighting Illini in order in both the sixth and seventh inning, giving the Terps a chance to pull ahead as the right-hander threw his 115th pitch on the day.

Following Parsons’ lead, the Maryland lineup came alive in the eighth. After Taylor Wright led off the inning with a single through the left side against the shift, freshman Maxwell Costes sent a two-run homer to left field. Then, two batters later, sophomore Justin Vought went deep with a two-run shot of his own, putting the Terps ahead 5-1 and providing Parsons much-needed run support.

Parsons threw 7 1/3 innings, allowing only one run on four hits and three walks and recording four strikeouts in his 123 pitches thrown. After the righty secured the first out of the eighth with a runner on first, Mark DiLuia entered to secure the final two outs of the half. The sophomore recorded a three-pitch called strikeout and induced a fly-out to end the inning and hold on to Maryland’s lead.

Behind DiLuia, the Terps tacked on another run on a drag bunt single from Alleyne in the ninth. Illinois tacked on a run in the ninth, but senior closer John Murphy recorded back-to-back strikeouts to secure Maryland’s first win of the conference tournament.