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.

 

Preseason Countdown No. 25: 2019 Offensive MVP

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After a dominant senior season at Maryland, shortstop A.J. Lee was drafted in the 34th round of the MLB Draft–a reward for his rebound from a slow start and early-season injury with the Terps.

Lee’s dominant senior season marked a comeback from his lackluster junior campaign, when he slashed .232/.375/.396. In 2019 Lee finished as the only player batting over .300, batting .317 with a .940 OPS and a team-high .443 on-base percentage, making him the Terps’ most valuable hitter.

The season didn’t start off well for Lee, however. Through the Terps’ first eight games, Lee hit .148 with a .314 on-base percentage and only two RBI.

But when an ankle injury on March 1 forced Lee to miss eight games, the senior refocused and came back stronger. In his first eight games back Lee batted .320 and reached base 50% of the time. He also tallied seven RBI in that stretch–more than three times as many as his first eight games.

While Lee’s power and approach at the plate may have re-emerged–his final stats a marked improvement from those of his junior campaign–his ability to get on base remained one of the shortstop’s assets.

As a senior, Lee led the team in walks for the second year in a row (29, tied with Taylor Wright and Randy Bednar) and worked 16 hit-by-pitches.

Lee also tallied more than three times as many RBI in 2019 as he had in 2018 (from 11 RBI to 36 RBI).

Included in that statistic is, arguably, the most memorable moment of Lee’s career: his two-run walk-off home run against Iowa in the Terps’ last series opener of 2019, their first walk off of the season and the best bat flip of the year.

“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.”

“Regardless of what happens in the next two days,” head coach Rob Vaughn said, “that’s a moment that that young man’s never going to forget. [Lee] deserves it.”

His performance in 2019 earned Lee 2019 All-Big Ten Third Team honors. Lee also earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors after his dominance in the final week of the regular season, when he batted .588 in four games (10-for-17) with three home runs, two doubles and six RBI. He also worked two walks and stole two bases, crossing the plate eight times in those four Maryland victories.

After the Houston Astros drafted Lee in the 34th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, he spent time in both high-A and low-A, where he hit a combined five homers.

 

Pro Terps: Lowe named finalist for AL Rookie of the Year

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Former Maryland infielder and current Tampa Bay second baseman Brandon Lowe was named one of three finalists in the American League Rookie of the Year race by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Monday.

Lowe was named to the AL All-Star team earlier in the season, after being first recalled toward the end of the 2018 campaign.

Though he missed the All Star Game due to injury, which kept him sidelined from early July until late September, the rookie put up some stellar numbers for the Rays.

Over his 82 games and almost 300 at-bats, Lowe batted .270 and slugged .514 with 17 long balls and 17 doubled. He also notched 51 RBIs.

Lowe was drafted out of the University of Maryland by Tampa Bay in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He received numerous honors in his years as a Terp, including being named Baseball America and Perfect Game Freshman All-American and earning Second Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten honors.

The winners of all BBWAA awards will be announced on November 11.

Team Papio comes out on top in Fall World Series Game 1

Team Papio pulled out all the stops in Game 1 of the Fall World Series, utilizing all aspects of their game for the 5-1 win over Team Swope on Friday in College Park.

A combination of small ball and big hits put Team Papio on the board first, with a four-run fourth inning. A walk and stolen base from Austin Chavis, followed by a single from Tucker Flint put runners on the corners as James Heffley stepped to the plate.

Heffley hadn’t started the game, but after junior catcher Justin Vought was hit in the left wrist by a pitch while at bat in the second inning the freshman got the nod.

In his first plate appearance, he proved he could compete and laid down a squeeze bunt that drove home Chavis and left Flint at second. Then, after Team Swope reliever Ryan Ramsey walked one batter and hit another, freshman Matt Orlando roped a bases-clearing double to the wall in left field for the 4-0 lead.

“I just jumped on the first fastball I got and put a pretty good swing on it,” Orlando said. “We’ve been preparing since last night…we had a game plan. We had a lot of quality at-bats.”

The following inning it was Chris Alleyne who went deep, his long shot carrying over the left field wall to put Team Papio up 5-0 heading into the sixth inning.

“You have to have multiple ways to score,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “Ideally, for our offense to run right, you’ve got to lengthen and shorten the field… Heffley comes in, executes a safety and, worse case, you leave that inning you’re up 1-0 and with your pitchers throwing the ball pretty good. But instead, [Orlando] comes up and gets that big hit.”

Freshman starter Sam Bello and redshirt-freshman Sean Burke combined for 5 2/3 scoreless innings and seven strikeouts, before junior Sean Fisher entered in the top of the sixth after Burke gave up a run to Team Swope.

Fisher threw three consecutive strikes for the final punch-out of the inning, minimizing the damage and coming back out to secure the Team Papio victory in the seventh.

“Sam Bello got the nod today not because he has the best stuff,” Vaughn said, “though [Bello] is 90-92 [mph] with a breaking ball, but [because] his mentality is through the roof. That guy’s a competitor, he’s a winner.”

The same could be said for the other young pitchers on the mound Friday. Vaughn was happy with what he saw from the freshman pitchers; though they lack consistency, there’s big potential amongst the new faces in Maryland’s pitching staff. And, amongst the returning arms, some have newfound strength on the mound.

“Fisher does what Fisher does,” Vaughn said. “[He] had a tremendous summer up in the Cape…. [and] he’s been flat-dominant since he’s been back.”

Across the diamond, Team Swope’s battery of Nicholas Dean, Ramsey and David Falco threw four scoreless innings and four strikeouts, including two three-up, three-down innings from Dean.

“That’s prime-time, Friday night, legit stuff,” Vaughn said of Dean’s pitching arsenal.

“I saw a lot of focus,” Dean said of his fellow pitchers. “Guys need to be more confident working through the zone…just go right at hitters.”

Game 2 of the Fall World Series is set for 3:50 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

Summer Ball: Final 2019 update

As the Terps gear up for the start of Fall Ball, here’s a look at how Maryland players fared this summer, including a few championships and one league MVP.


CAPE COD BASEBALL LEAGUE

A favorite of Maryland, the Brewster Whitecaps hosted two Terps over the summer. Both southpaw Sean Fisher and catcher Justin Vought took advantage of their time on the Cape, even though Brewster didn’t make the playoffs.

Fisher fared better than his counterpart and earned the Whitecaps’ Reliever of the Year award with a 2.84 ERA in 12 appearances, and only 22 hits allowed in 25 1/3 innings, including 15 strikeouts.

Vought struggled some, but still finished the summer with two homers in only 18 games.

Right-hander Mark DiLuia also spent some time in the Cape this summer, where he tallied three strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings pitched for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox.


NEW ENGLAND COLLEGIATE BASEBALL LEAGUE

Six Terps spent their summer in the NECBL, spread over three teams. With the NECBL 2019 Champions, the Keene Swamp Bats, outfielder Randy Bednar racked up an impressive .337 average with nine home runs and 15 doubles, enough for the junior to be selected to the first team all-league.

Also with Keene, Sean Heine tossed 21 1/3 innings and tallied 16 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, Trevor LaBonte and Mike Vasturia bolstered the Sanford Mainers’ pitching staff. LaBonte started five games for the Mainers and worked a 5.31 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings. Vasturia struggled in his two relief appearances.

For the Mystic Schooners, Billy Phillips and Josh Maguire both continued to develop. Phillips made one start and 15 relief appearances, striking out 16 in 17 innings. Maguire struggled offensively, but worked 15 walks and two doubles.


PERFECT GAME COLLEGIATE BASEBALL LEAGUE

Without a doubt the best performance by a Terp this summer, Maxwell Costes stole the show in the PGCBL with the Amsterdam Mohawks.

Costes was named PGCBL Player of the Year, as well as being awarded PGCBL First-Team honors with his .374 average, 36 RBIs and record-breaking 12 home runs. He was also named the MVP of the PGCBL championship series.

Oh, and did we mention that he got to throw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game?

Also with Amsterdam, Drew Wilden notched 23 strikeouts in 16.1 innings, but struggled to minimize opposing offenses, working a 6.06 ERA.


FUTURES COLLEGIATE BASEBALL LEAGUE

Over in the Futures league, Benjamin Cowles and Ben Irvine put up solid numbers at the plate, while Daniel O’Connor continued to develop on the mound. The trio played for the Nashua Silver Knights.

Irvine batted .287 over his 129 plate appearances, including 16 RBIs and 20 walks, while Cowles racked up 10 stolen bases in 29 games and O’Connor punched out 28 batters in 23 innings of work.


PROSPECT COLLEGIATE BASEBALL LEAGUE

Down in West Virginia, Caleb Walls and Michael Pineiro continued their spring success with the Miners.

Pineiro went yard three times while batting .333, while Walls tore up the bases with 18 stolen bases and a solid  .264 average in 50 games.


CAL RIPKEN COLLEGIATE BASEBALL LEAGUE

Back in Maryland, senior Elliot Zoellner threw a solid summer session, working a 1.20 ERA in 11 relief appearances and helping carry the Bethesda Big Train to their fourth consecutive championship (their second with Zoellner in the bullpen), and was named to the All-CRCBL First Team.

 

Pro Terps Update: Twins reportedly recall LaMonte Wade Jr.

The Minnesota Twins have reportedly recalled former Terp LaMonte Wade Jr. from Triple-A Rochester on Thursday, after injuries depleted the Twins’ outfield depth. The move was first reported by MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Minnesota drafted Wade in the ninth round of the 2015 MLB Draft after his three years with Maryland. In those three seasons Wade consistently notched just over 50 hits a season, while he finished his junior year slashing .335/.453/.468.

Wade began his climb through the Twins’ minor league system, starting 2015 with the Rookie Elizabethton Twins before moving up to Single-A Cedar Rapids.

In 2016 Wade made the jump to the High-A Fort Myers Miracle, after batting .280 in 56 games in Cedar Rapids.

Wade spent all of 2017 and part of 2018 in Double-A with the Chattanooga Lookouts, before he was promoted to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

In Rochester, Wade cemented himself as a key component of the Red Wings defense and offense, as he made diving grabs in the outfield while also slashing .238/.366/.351 with nine homers and 11 stolen bases in 590 plate appearances since his 2018 Triple-A debut.

Wade’s recall comes after the Twins’ left fielder Eddie Rosario sprained his ankle Wednesday, the fourth Minnesota outfielder to be sidelined due to injury (outfielders Byron Buxton, Martin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza all landed on the injured list in the past month).

It is uncertain when Wade will make his MLB debut, but it is possible he plays any time over the next few days.