Midweek Preview: Delaware Blue Hens

Maryland Baseball’s stock is on the rise. If you haven’t bought in yet, it might be too late. 

The Terps moved to 7-0 on the season after a second straight road series sweep, this time defeating Campbell Friday night and in a Saturday doubleheader. That mark is the best start to a season in program history, and the seventh win was head coach Rob Vaughn’s 100th career victory. 

After moving into the top-25 last week at No. 22, Maryland moved one spot higher this week to No. 21. 

Both sweeps have been of teams that finished last season ranked in the top-50 of RPI, a key metric factored into postseason selection. Maryland has outscored its opponents – Baylor, UMBC and Campbell – by a 40-14 margin. The weekend starting rotation of Nick Dean, Ryan Ramsey and Jason Savacool has a combined ERA of 1.71. 

Maryland’s offense is keeping up, too. Matt Shaw and Maxwell Costes have led the way, both with batting averages above .300, an OPS above .900 and two home runs each. Transfer Nick Lorusso has continued to come through in big spots. He’s tied with Shaw, who he bats behind, and Costes for the team lead in RBI. 

Unlike last season, when Maryland was near the top nationally in home runs as a team, the Terps have found success with a small-ball approach. A majority of their runs have come from run-scoring singles, sacrifice flies or groundouts, and they’re 13 of 16 in stolen base attempts. 

In the Big Ten standings, Maryland sits in a tie for first with Purdue, who is also undefeated with seven wins. Preseason conference favorite Nebraska is 1-5 and sits 12th in the conference standings. 

Delaware Blue Hens (2-4)

Last season

Delaware finished last in the Colonial Athletic Conference in 2021 with a 8-16 record in conference play and 12-22 overall. The Blue Hens won just two series last season and were swept three times and ended last season on a 4-12 stretch. 

As a team, Delaware slashed .273/.354/.409 and was top five in the league in home runs. An average offensive team was even worse on the mound in 2021. Delaware pitchers combined for the highest ERA (6.43) in the conference. They also issued the third most walks and had the second fewest strikeouts. 

This season

The Blue Hens’ 2022 got off to a promising start with a win over No. 4 Notre Dame (now No. 12) on February 20. Unfortunately for Delaware, it has not been able to capitalize on the upset, losing two out of three this past weekend to Florida Atlantic. 

Delaware is top five in the CAA in average, home runs and on-base through six games this season. Its struggles on the mound from last season have carried over into the early portion of 2022; Delaware pitchers are in the bottom third of the league in ERA and strikeouts. 

Hitters to watch

The heart of the Delaware batting order, which features four hitters with an OPS over .900, is the strength of its offense. 

Aidan Kane, J.J. Freeman, Joseph Carpenter and Joey Loynd headline the group. Kane, Delaware’s left fielder, leads the Blue Hens with a .412 average, .444 on base and .647 slugging percentage. Freeman, the shortstop, leads in hits with eight, first baseman Carpenter leads in RBI with five and third baseman Loynd is the team’s home run leader with two. 

“Delaware does not care about our record, I can tell you that, and they’re playing pretty good baseball right now,” Vaughn said after Saturday’s doubleheader. “We’ll have to come out on Tuesday and take another step forward.”

Pitchers to watch

Delaware has a multitude of solid options out of the bullpen, although none have recorded a save yet this season. Four relievers have an ERA below two, with a fifth just north of that at 2.08. Of those five, four of them have more than one appearance on the mound that head coach Jim Sherman likes most in late innings of close games. 

Zach Klapak and Dom Velazquez both have five innings of work on the season with identical 1.80 earned run averages. Velazquez is second on the pitching staff in strikeouts with six, one behind starter Chris Ludman. 

Gavin Hinchliffe and Wyatt Nelson are also names to watch. Hinchliffe hasn’t allowed an earned run and has issued only one walk to four strikeouts in two innings. Nelson is third of the relievers in innings pitched behind Klapak and Velazquez, and hitters are averaging .214 against him. 

Probable starting pitching matchup 


Last week’s midweek game saw sophomore Logan Ott get the start on the mound, allowing two runs over four innings. Vaughn has said in the past he wants to see Ott, Sean Heine, Ryan Van Buren and Andrew Johnson eventually start midweek games, making it likely one of the other three gets the start against Delaware. 

Heine and Van Buren have been fixtures out of the bullpen in late innings recently, both making appearances this weekend, which could pave the way for Johnson to be the guy. 

This will be Delaware’s first midweek game of its season. No pitcher other than its three-man weekend rotation has made a start.

Lorusso walks off UMBC, Maryland wins 3-2

After having been shut out since the third inning, the Maryland offense finally came to life in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied at two.

Chris Alleyne led off with a double, a line drive over the head of the UMBC left fielder that bounced off the base of the wall. Matt Shaw, the Big Ten’s player of the week, moved Alleyne to third courtesy of a sacrifice fly. Nick Lorusso, playing his fourth game in a Maryland uniform after transferring from Villanova, stepped to the plate. 

After a seven pitch at-bat, he sent a rocket back up the middle to score Alleyne and give Maryland a 3-2 victory over UMBC. He was promptly swarmed and showered with water in shallow right field. 

“It’s really cool to be the winning run and then celebrate with him out in right field,” said Alleyne.

Leadoff man Luke Shliger broke the ice with a solo home run in the third inning, sparking the Maryland offense. After an Alleyne walk, Nick Lorusso brought the center fielder in with an RBI groundout. 

“He’s got a great approach,” said Alleyne. “He’s on base all the time. He can hit the ball to all parts of the field and he really does a good job of setting the table for the rest of us.” 

Starting pitcher Logan Ott sped through the first four innings. He did so with just 47 pitches, mixing his fastball and off-speed pitches well. 

From there, Ott began to struggle and the Maryland offense went stagnant. After allowing a run-scoring single in the fifth, Rob Vaughn replaced Ott and went to freshman Ryan Van Buren to escape the jam. 

“I probably should have got him one inning before,” said Vaughn. “He hadn’t been up this high in a while. I probably left him out there a couple hitters too long. 

Van Buren allowed an inherited runner to score to tie the contest at two runs a piece, but ultimately ended the top of the fifth inning. After a scoreless bottom of the frame, Van Buren returned for the sixth. 

In his first career appearance, Van Buren lasted just over an inning. Sean Heine replaced him after he allowed a single and hit a batter. Heine, making his second appearance of the season, escaped the two on, one out jam. 

The Maryland offense struggled to get anything going against the Retrievers’ bullpen as the sun set on College Park and the lights began to shine on the field. Senior Owen Hamilton entered in relief of UMBC starter Reid Celata in the fifth inning and allowed just one hit in 2 1/3 innings of work. 

“They really were pounding the strike zone with different pitches,” said Alleyne. “We got off our plan a little bit, chasing pitches and a little off time. Coach Vaughn talked to us about that in the dugout and we cleaned some things up.” 

At last, the Terps’ offense seemingly awoke. Maxwell Costes led off the eighth inning reaching on a hit by pitch, chasing Hamilton out of the game. Costes advanced to second on a Troy Schreffler Jr. sacrifice bunt. After a Sean Lane walk and Kevin Keister fiedler’s choice, Costes moved to third. 

As the batting order circled back to the top, Shliger came to bat with an opportunity to give Maryland a lead. But, after a seven pitch at-bat, a sharp line out to the shortstop squandered the Terps’ scoring chances. 

Meanwhile, junior reliever Will Glock shut down the momentum the UMBC offense seemed to begin to build. After coming on to start the seventh inning, Glock threw two perfect innings to keep the game tied heading into the ninth. 

After two strikeouts from freshman Noah Mrotek in the top half of the inning, Maryland went to the bottom of the ninth looking for a walk-off to extend its winning streak over the in-state rival UMBC to 12 games. 

Alleyne provided a jolt to the home crowd, which had been mostly silent as Maryland’s lead vanished and the temperature dropped. Finally, Lorusso gave them a reason to jump to their feet, bringing in Alleyne for the winning run.

“He gets buried with two strikes there and fouled off some tough pitches and finally got something up,” said Vaughn. “Didn’t try to get big with it, stayed through the middle, and there we go.” 

Midweek Preview: UMBC Retrievers

Maryland, who began the season unranked, now finds itself at No. 22 in D1baseball’s latest top-25 ranking after a series sweep of Baylor in Waco, Texas. The Terps controlled the series from beginning to end, outscoring the Bears 21-9 over the three games. 

The starting rotation, which Saturday starter Ryan Ramsey dubbed “one of the best in college baseball,” dominated throughout the weekend. Nick Dean, Ramsey and Jason Savacool combined for 21 innings, 17 strikeouts and a 1.71 ERA. 

Offensively, the middle of Maryland’s order found success early and often. Shortstop Matt Shaw was the star, homering twice on Sunday and going 4-5 on Saturday. First baseman Maxwell Costes also homered twice in the series finale, and outfielders Chris Alleyne, Bobby Zmarzlak and Troy Schreffler Jr. combined for five RBI and eight runs scored. 

The most surprising result of the weekend may have been catcher Luke Shliger, who hit leadoff in all three games. His .438 on-base percentage, courtesy of four walks and two hit-by-pitches, trails only Shaw, Costes and Schreffler Jr. on the weekend. 

UMBC Retrievers (0-2)

Last season

2021 was a season to forget for UMBC, who finished with a 17-26 record and a 12-26 record in the America East, winning just one series in conference play. 

After a 6-0 start to the season, UMBC followed by losing seven of their next eight. Its only conference series win came at home versus Hartford in April. The Retrievers ended last season losing 14 of their final 17 games. 

This season

UMBC, who sits at No. 7 in the America East preseason coaches poll, was swept by Navy in a two-game series over the weekend, losing two closely contested games by scores of 10-9 on Friday and 11-10 on Saturday. 

In game one of the series, UMBC led as late as the sixth inning. There, Navy pounced on the UMBC bullpen, scoring all 10 of their runs in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings. 

In game two, Navy flipped the script and jumped out to an early lead, going up 4-0 after the second inning. UMBC responded, putting up five runs in the top of the fourth, but Navy answered with five of their own in the fifth to retake a lead it didn’t relinquish until the ninth when the Retrievers brought the game to a tie. In extra innings, a base-loaded walk scored the winning run for the Midshipmen. 

Hitters to watch

The UMBC offense is led by Myles Nicholson, Tony Krueger and Justin Taylor. Nicholson dominated the Retrievers’ opening series in Annapolis, going 5-9 with five runs driven in. He added four walks and four runs scored. Krueger, a catcher, went 3-7 with a double and two RBI. Taylor is the team’s leader in extra-base hits. 

Probable starting pitcher matchup


Earlier this offseason, Rob Vaughn listed a couple of young pitchers who he could see settling into the midweek starter role. He highlighted two freshmen: LHP Andrew Johnson and RHP Ryan Van Buren. 

“We’re going to be able to develop some of those young arms,” Vaughn said about the opportunity the young pitchers will have in midweek games.

Three takeaways from Maryland’s opening series sweep

A new leadoff man

Rob Vaughn joked at spring media day about a proposition from one of his veteran players. Fifth-year outfielder Chris Alleyne – last season’s leadoff hitter – suggested they give sophomore catcher Luke Shliger a look in the first spot in the batting order. Alleyne told Vaughn he liked the idea of seeing a few pitches before stepping into the box for the first time. 

Vaughn said he gave Shliger a look at the new position over the fall and winter, and he seemingly liked what he saw enough to pencil his catcher in the leadoff spot on his Opening Day lineup card. 

Shliger responded as well as Vaughn could have hoped. Across Maryland’s three games, he got on base in seven of his 15 plate appearances, four of those coming from walks. 

“I look like a genius,” said Vaughn, speaking to the batting order he created. “Luke did not hesitate.” 

It helped Alleyne, too. Just as designed. He racked up two hits, four walks, a RBI and three runs scored. It’s rare for a catcher to be that effective of a leadoff hitter, let alone a baserunner. Shliger added two steals and also scored on a wild pitch on Friday.

“The ump… he was kind of confused about the catcher hitting leadoff,” said Shliger. “I was too.” 

To add to the story, Shliger says he hasn’t hit leadoff since Little League. 

Shliger’s success in the leadoff role set the tone for the Maryland offense, which scored 21 runs in 27 innings, all weekend. Vaughn looks to have found his primary leadoff hitter. 

Starting pitchers are as advertised

Starters Nick Dean, Ryan Ramsey and Jason Savacool lived up to their preseason hype on opening weekend. The three combined for 20 innings of five run ball with 17 strikeouts and just 16 hits allowed. Coupled with 20 runs of support, they were able to easily earn victories that gave Maryland its first non-conference road series win since March of 2019. 

Dean, the Big Ten’s preseason pitcher of the year, utilized his deadly fastball and changeup combination to keep hitters guessing throughout his start. The changeup was often the putaway pitch. 

Ramsey wasn’t quite as effective as Dean, allowing a two-run fourth inning and – although they were ultimately stranded – several runners into scoring position. Still, he bounced back and put the Terps in a position to win. 

Savacool settled down after Baylor scored two runs in the first three innings and began sending the Bears lineup down quickly, including a stretch of seven straight batters retired. He finished after eight innings and just three earned runs. 

“Dean and Ramsey did a really good job of conserving our bullpen,” said Savacool. “The thing I need to do as a Sunday starter is provide length. It was great to get through eight innings strong.” 

The heart of the order is Maryland’s lifeblood

The middle of the Terps’ batting order – headlined by Matt Shaw, Maxwell Costes, Nick Lorusso, Bobby Zmarzlak and Troy Schreffler Jr. – was key in Maryland’s series sweep. 

Shaw and Costes led the way, combining for 12 hits, nine RBI and four home runs, which all came on Sunday. 

Lorusso, Zmarzlak and Schreffler Jr. added eight hits and five RBI. 

With Shliger and Alleyne often setting the table for them, the sluggers frequently followed by moving them up and bringing them in. Even without help from the hitters before them, the middle of the order still found a way to come through – Shaw, Costes and Zmarzlak all hit solo home runs. 

“I know what I can do,” said Shaw. “I got pitches to hit and I didn’t miss them. It’s very easy to hit when you got guys in front of you and guys behind you. I don’t think there’s any holes in our lineup.” 

‘He’s going to take my job one day’: How assistants Morrison, Papio’s careers led to new roles at Maryland

Head coach Rob Vaughn was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for Father’s Day visiting his parents with his son last summer. The weekend trip, which took place just weeks after Maryland’s season ended in early June, had been in the plans for four months and was during a recruiting dead period. 

Roughly 10 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach is Coastal Carolina University’s campus. Vaughn, with an assistant coach opening on his staff after losing Corey Muscara to Wake Forest after the 2020 season and never replacing him, had an eye on Coastal Carolina assistant Mike Morrison to potentially fill the void. 

After talking to Coastal Carolina head coach Gary Gilmore and getting the go-ahead, Vaughn arranged a meeting with Morrison at a local Starbucks. What was meant to be a quick meeting over a cup of coffee turned into nearly an all-day event. 

“I sat down to grab coffee with him, which is what I thought was going to be, you know, 30 or 40 minutes to get to know him,” Vaughn said. “We were there for almost four hours.” 

Vaughn and Morrison connected instantly. Immediately, Vaughn knew Morrison was who the Terps had been missing. 

“In that moment it was very clear,” he said. “I walked out of Starbucks in Myrtle Beach and knew that was our guy.” 

Morrison is a Coastal Carolina lifer. So much so that Vaughn worried if meeting with him would be a waste of time, assuming he’d never want to leave Myrtle Beach. 

A Gilbert, South Carolina native, Morrison walked onto the Chanticleers as a pitcher in 2013. He only made 12 appearances, all out of the bullpen, as a freshman but shined in the limited role. His earned run average of 2.31 was third lowest on the team. 

His opportunity steadily rose over the course of his four year career. By his senior season in 2016, Morrison logged over 70 innings on the mound. 

After a 40-14 regular season, including a 21-3 record in conference play, Coastal Carolina won the Big South Conference championship to earn a trip to the NCAA Regionals. After making quick work of the competition at their Regional site and LSU in their Super Regional, the Chanticleers advanced to their first ever College World Series. 

Facing Arizona in the College World Series Finals, Morrison started Game Two, a must-win for Coastal Carolina after falling in Game One of the best-of-three series. He lasted 6.2 innings on the mound, allowed just two earned runs and was credited with the win in their 5-4 victory over the Wildcats to set up a winner-take-all Game Three. 

Coastal Carolina held on to win the deciding game 4-3 after leading by as much as 4-0 in the sixth inning. Morrison was among the first out of the dugout to join the celebratory dogpile that quickly covered the pitcher’s mound. 

“Mike Morrison is 100 percent the right person,” Vaughn said. “He knows what it takes to win at the highest level. It’s been confirmed a thousand times over that I got the right guy.”

Morrison returned to Coastal Carolina for the 2020 season as a student manager, the role he also held in 2021. That’s when another new Maryland assistant discovered him and suggested to Vaughn he was worth a look. 

“I’ve worked with this guy, Mike Morrison, at camps,” Anthony Papio told Vaughn. “He’s our kind of dude. He’s been at Coastal. He’s a career Coastal guy. I don’t know if he would even be interested, but you should get on the phone and talk to him.” 

Much like Morrison to Coastal Carolina, Papio is a Maryland lifer. As a player from 2012 to 2016, the Terps enjoyed their best stretch in program history with Papio on the team. Over his five seasons, Maryland went to two straight Super Regional tournaments including a defeat of No.1 overall seed UCLA in the 2015 Los Angeles regional. 

He ended his playing career as the program’s all-time leader in games played and is the winningest player in school history. 

“He loves this place,” Vaughn said. “You cut him open and that Maryland flag is coming out of his veins.” 

Papio has been Vaughn’s right-hand man through the entirety of his Maryland tenure. His redshirt freshman season was when Vaughn was hired as an assistant, and the two have risen through the ranks together. 

“He’s been with me every step of the way,” Vaughn said. “To see him go from walk-on player to scholarship player to team captain to volunteer – that guy could do anything he wants to do. He’s doing this because he believes in this place. He believes in what we can do and how we can impact the lives of these young people.” 

As a volunteer in recent years, Papio was the first base coach, worked with outfielders and helped Vaughn coach hitting. After his promotion to a full-time assistant this offseason, he now works mostly with pitchers alongside Morrison. 

When looking at the effect the two new assistants have had on players over the winter and early spring, they rave about the coaches’ experience and history of winning. 

“Mo’s been awesome,” senior relief pitcher Sean Heine said of Morrison. “He stepped in and really proved his professional experience. He’s a national champion so he knows what he’s talking about. Anytime you have a guy who’s pitched in the World Series and won a national championship, you just have to soak it in and listen.”

“Pap’s been a really big influence to me since I’ve been here as a freshman,” senior outfielder Chris Alleyne said. “He’s driven me to be better every day so to see him finally get that assistant coach job is awesome. We’re really happy for him.”

Maryland players haven’t held back on praise for the two new full-time assistants, and neither has their new boss.  

“It was a no-brainer for me,” Vaughn said. “He deserved it. Thrilled that I was the one that was able to give him that first job. I would have been a moron to let that guy leave. He’s going to take my job one day.”

Preseason Countdown No. 2: Top Series in ’22

Maryland’s biggest test in terms of opponent rankings won’t come in conference. The Terps travel to Dallas Baptist, d1baseball.com’s No. 22 ranked team in the country, for a weekend series beginning March 25. They’ll also face No. 12 East Carolina March 6, a rematch of last season’s regional tournament. In conference, they miss Nebraska from their Big Ten West slate, the conference’s only ranked team in most polls. 

The series Maryland’s players are looking forward to most, however, is Michigan at home from May 13 through May 15. 

“Playing them at home… that’s what I’m excited for most,” senior relief pitcher Sean Heine said.

D1baseball.com projected the Wolverines to finish third in the conference, behind Maryland and Nebraska. Collegiate Baseball Newspaper has Michigan at No.30 in their preseason top-50. 

Maryland took the overall season series last season, winning three of their five matchups. The first meeting came in early April with Michigan at No. 25. They split a two-game series. 

Less than two months later, in Maryland’s penultimate regular season series, the Terps took two of three from No. 24 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Maryland entered the series winners of 11 of its last 12 games, with the series win over a ranked conference foe confirming its winning streak was legitimate. 

This season, Maryland gets Michigan in College Park. Again, it will be the Terps’ second-to-last series of the regular season. 

Maryland will also see Michigan for one game in early March as part of the Keith Leclair Classic, a weekend where the Terps will also see Indiana State and East Carolina. 

“It’s going to be a bear of a schedule,” Rob Vaughn said.

Preseason Countdown No. 6: Starting Pitchers Preview

Approaching year five of the Rob Vaughn era, Maryland figures to have as strong of a starting rotation as it’s had under the head coach. It’s easily the biggest strength of the roster. 

“Those three are going to carry us,” senior reliever Sean Heine said. 

One of those three, and the headliner of the group, is d1baseball.com’s preseason Big Ten pitcher of the year Nick Dean. The right hander led last season’s starting rotation with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP as a sophomore. 

Now as a junior, he’ll be in line to start Friday nights, taking over for Sean Burke who held the role last season. 

Sophomore Ryan Ramsey led all qualified pitchers with a 1.67 ERA last season as a freshman. He mostly entered out of the bullpen in a multiple inning role, but now slides into the rotation spot left by Burke. 

His 2021 season was headlined by an eight inning, one earned run outing in the regional that sent Maryland to the regional championship. It’s a game that he and the team are hoping propels him into his first season as a full-time starter. 

It was an up and down freshman season for Jason Savacool 2021. Two of his first three starts were complete games and he allowed just nine earned runs across his first four games. 

From there, his ERA ballooned, allowing four or more runs in his next four starts. He capped off his freshman season with a 2 2/3 inning, six run outing against Michigan and a 3 1/3 inning, eight run performance in Maryland’s first game of its regional tournament. By season’s end, Savacool led all Maryland pitchers in innings. 

“We put him in a big spot last year,” Vaughn said. “That ain’t an easy spot as a freshman.” 

In the offseason, Savacool was scheduled to play in the Cape Cod Collegiate Baseball League, but he and the Maryland staff decided it would be best if he didn’t. 

Entering his sophomore season, he and the staff are focused on maintaining his body to be able to withstand a long season and keep fatigue from crippling his season. Savacool began working out four days a week and staying on campus over the summer with the team’s strength coach Nathan Garza. 

“I thought a big thing he needed to do was really get his body right, get a little more physical to be able to hold up through the courses of a rigorous season,” Vaughn said. “He came back in the fall and his body was just different. I’m fired up.” 

With the return of midweek non-conference games to the schedule, it allows Vaughn to give younger pitchers an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise get during an in-conference weekend series. He highlighted freshmen Andrew Johnson and Ryan Van Buren as possible candidates to start in those matchups. 

“We’re going to be able to develop some of those young arms to slide into weekend rotation in the future,” Vaughn said. 

Vaughn is entering his fifth season as head coach with something he’s never had before.  Most programs struggle to put together a group of three solid starting pitching options, therefore turning Sunday into a bullpen game of sorts. This season, Vaughn doesn’t see that problem arising. 

“We’re going to run out three starters on the weekend that I think give us a chance to win every single game,” he said. “To be able to run those guys out there on a weekend series, holy cow. I haven’t had that through the whole weekend. Sunday was always kind of a revolving door. I really think we have three No. 1s. As good a top three as we’ve had here.”

Preseason Countdown No. 10: Top Series of ’21

Maryland’s 2021 season was a tale of two halves. 

Through its first 22 games of the regular season, the Terps sat at 10-12, two games below .500. They allowed seven or more runs nine times and lost by margins of 11 and nine. The season appeared over before it could begin. 

Then, a switch flipped. Over its last 22 games, Maryland went 18-4. The Terps won every remaining weekend series including three sweeps. In its biggest test, Maryland took two of three from No. 24 Michigan in Ann Arbor. 

The winning stretch catapulted Maryland to a 28-16 finish and into second place in the Big Ten standings. 

Considering this, the top series of 2021 is the home series sweep of Ohio State April 16 through 18, the metaphorical switch that flipped Maryland’s season for the better. 

Maryland kicked the series off with a 10-6 drubbing of the Buckeyes on Friday night in a game that wasn’t as close as the box score reads. Sean Burke allowed just one earned run in six innings of work with nine strikeouts. 

The Terps broke the game open and never looked back with a seven-run bottom of the sixth with the game tied at two, topped off with a three-RBI double from Chris Alleyne. 

Game two was a more closely contested affair. After an eight inning, two earned run outing from Nick Dean, Maryland led 4-2 in the top of the ninth inning. With no outs, Ohio State scored on a bases-loaded walk and a run-scoring double play to even the score at four. The Terps countered in similar fashion, scoring the winning run on a bases-loaded Luke Shliger walk to win 5-4 in 10 innings. 

With the series already decided, Maryland entered Sunday afternoon hunting for a sweep. After both teams scored four runs in the third inning, Maryland tacked on two more in the fourth. An Alleyne score on a wild pitch and Ben Cowles two-run home run gave the Terps a five-run lead in the sixth inning, a lead that never got smaller.

Chris Alleyne details decision to return for fifth season

Senior outfielder Chris “Bubba” Alleyne stepped to the plate on June 4, 2021, for the first at bat of Maryland’s opening game in the Greenville Regional tournament against Charlotte. 

A foul ball struck Alleyne in the head, ending his day. Maryland lost that opening game and eventually fell to East Carolina in the regional final a few days later. The Terps were able to climb out of the hole they found themselves in after game one, but did it without Alleyne. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the injury would ultimately end his senior season. 

The 2021 MLB Draft began later that summer. Alleyne – coming off a second team All-Big Ten selection coupled with a .306 average, eight home runs and 22 stolen bases – had a chance to be selected. But his injury cast doubt over whether or not MLB teams would view him as someone worth a selection. 

Throughout the three-day event, Alleyne stayed in close contact with head coach Rob Vaughn. He watched teammates Sean Burke and Ben Cowles get drafted by the White Sox and Yankees, respectively, and Randy Bednar sign as an undrafted free agent with Seattle. 

“We had kind of been in communication all day during the draft and before,” said Alleyne, “kind of letting him know that if it didn’t work out or didn’t really get what I wanted that I was definitely going to come back for a fifth year.” 

The draft ended without Alleyne hearing from an organization. Vaughn immediately reached out with an offer to return to College Park but without trying to sway his decision. 

“I called him as soon as the draft concluded and I said ‘Look, I know this is raw and fresh, but we want you back, we’ll take care of you,” said Vaughn. “But I don’t want to put pressure on you. If you’re ready to move on and sign a pro contract as a free agent, I’m going to be really excited for you, but I think we have a chance to do some special things and you coming back is a huge piece of that.”

Suddenly, Alleyne had a decision to make. He could either sign with any MLB team that was interested in him as a free agent or return to Maryland for a fifth, and likely final, season. 

Two days after their initial conversation following the draft, Alleyne called his head coach. With time to think it over and weigh his options, he came to the decision Vaughn secretly hoped he would. 

“Coach, I’m in,” Alleyne told him. “We’re going to be really good next year and I want to be a part of it.”

“We were fired up,” said Vaughn. 

The decision to come back and exhaust his eligibility was led by his high expectations of this season’s team, one he says has the chance to be special, but last year’s early postseason exit had the team dreaming of more and what could have been. 

“Any season that ends, especially with the injuries we had there at the end, I always feel like there’s something left on the table,” he said. 

The 22-year-old also looks forward to being a mentor for the team’s younger players. Awarded the No. 3 jersey this season, given to the team’s captain who holds on to it for the duration of their college career, Alleyne looks forward to preventing younger players from making the same mistakes he once endured. 

“That’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a freshman,” said Alleyne. “Hopefully I can keep the legacy going. Something I want to do is have a lasting impact on these freshmen and sophomores, just give them my experience and my knowledge from what I’ve learned being here for five years. I’ve definitely had my ups and downs here, so helping them not have as many downs was something I wanted to do.” 

A 5-foot-10 three-year starter in center field, Alleyne led the Big Ten in stolen bases, led the team in runs scored and was top three on the team in hits, doubles, home runs, RBI and on-base percentage. Defensively, he finished 2021 without committing an error and has just two to his name over four years in 209 chances. 

Again, he figures to be a fixture in Maryland’s leadoff spot and a leader in the outfield. 

“Defensively, I don’t know if there’s a better center fielder in college baseball,” Vaughn said. “He’s not afraid to go Superman full extension dives, he’s fearless out there. He’s an elite level defender.”

Continuing to clamor over his centerfielder, Vaugn cited his desire to compete, will to win and extensive experience. The end to the 2021 season was a bitter one for every player, but maybe none more so than Alleyne. 

“We have unfinished business,” said Alleyne. “It was a pretty easy decision for me to come back and finish this thing off right.”