Player Countdown: Kevin Smith, #4

Maryland Baseball Network is counting down to Opening Day! Today marks four days until the start of the 2017 season, so here’s a look at #4, Kevin Smith.

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SS Kevin Smith
KEVIN SMITH | 4

Year: Junior

Position: Shortstop

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’0 / 188

Hometown: East Greenbush, NY

Previous School: Columbia High School

2016 Summer Stats (Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, CCBL): 
41 games, .301/.348/.427, 21 runs, 12 2B, 2 HR, 14 RBI
Postseason: 7 games, .370/.345/.778, 2 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI

2016 Spring Stats: 
57 games (57 starts), .259/.308/.409, 9 2B, 8 HR, 34 RBI

About Kevin: No other player on the Terps’ roster has received more summer and preseason accolades than Kevin Smith.

The junior shortstop was named the Cape Cod Baseball League LCS MVP after leading his Y-D Red Sox team to a third straight title, batting .370 with three home runs during the playoff run. Of his 10 postseason hits, five were for extra bases (three home runs, two doubles). As a result of his stellar summer, Smith was named D1Baseball.com’s “Breakout Summer Prospect,” the No. 5 prospect in the Cape Cod League, and has consistently been in the top-20 in various 2017 college prospect breakdowns.

Smith was named a Preseason First-Team All-American by both Baseball American and Perfect Game, and was named a Preseason-Third Team All-American by D1Baseball.com. All three publications tabbed Smith as the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. In addition,Baseball America. named him as the best defensive shortstop in the Big Ten, the top 2017 prospect in the Big Ten.

Last season, Smith was one of just two players—the other Nick Dunn—to start and play in all 57 games. He tied with Madison Nickens for second on the team in home runs (8), finished second on the team with 60 hits (trailing Dunn, 68), and was second on the team with 34 RBIs, trailing only Marty Costes (37).

The junior also played in every game his freshman season, when he was named a Freshman All-American. Dating back to that year (2014-2015), Smith has started—at shortstop—for 115 consecutive games.

Smith joined MBN on the Maryland Baseball Network podcast in November, along with D1Baseball.com’s Aaron Fitt.

Preseason Countdown: Brandon Gum, #5

Maryland Baseball Network is counting down to Opening Day! Today marks five days until the start of the 2017 season, so here’s a look at #5, Brandon Gum.

3B Brandon Gum
INF Brandon Gum

BRANDON GUM | 5

Year: Redshirt Senior

Position: Infield

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’2″ / 185 lbs.

Hometown: Woodbridge, Va.

Previous School: George Mason University

2016 Spring Stats: .304 (14-for-46), 2 2B, 4 RBI, 11 R, .407 OBP, .457 SLG

About Brandon: Transfer infielder Brandon Gum comes to Maryland as a redshirt senior, playing in just 11 games last season for George Mason due to an injury. He started in all 11 games he played in, however, and hit above .300 for the Patriots, adding a pair of doubles, a home run and 11 runs scored. In Gum’s last full season in 2015, he was a key player for George Mason. He ranked second on his team with a .338 batting average, and tallied the third-longest hitting streak in George Mason history — 25 games. He also earned Atlantic 10 All-Conference Second Team honors. Gum played against the Terps three times as a Patriot, going 4-for-10 with 3 RBIs. Gum has experience at both positions on the left side on the infield but will get the bulk of his opportunities this season at third base, along with AJ Lee.

2017 Season Preview: Infield

The Maryland Baseball season is officially less than one week away. After dissecting the starting pitching, bullpen and the outfield earlier this week; here is a look at Maryland’s talent-loaded infield.


Catcher: 

C Justin Morris
C Justin Morris

It remains to be seen who will begin the season behind the plate for the Terps, but all signs point to a situation similar to last season, with junior Justin Morris starting at catcher and senior Nick Cieri serving as the designated hitter.

 

C/DH Nick Cieri
C/DH Nick Cieri

Morris is considered as the better defensive catcher, but struggled offensively last season, batting .194 over 40 appearances (34 starts). However, the backstop swung the bat much better over the summer, hitting .287 with 25 RBIs for the Cal Ripken League Champion Bethesda Big Train.

 

C Danny Maynard
C Danny Maynard

Cieri had what some consider a disappointing offensive campaign in 2016, hitting .256 with three home runs after a breakout summer season that saw him hit .320 in the Cape Cod League. However, Cieri finished the 2016 season with a .379 on-base percentage thanks to a team-high 31 walks. He was the only player on the team with more walks (31) than strikeouts (25).  Over the summer, he played for the Thunderbolts in the Ripken League and crushed five home runs (three of them coming in one game) while batting .301. The senior will likely split time at catcher with Morris while being a mainstay in the lineup at DH.

 

 

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C Ty Friedrich

Danny Maynard and Ty Friedrich are other names to keep tabs on throughout the season. Despite only six starts as a freshman, Danny Maynard appeared in 36 games and was one of head coach John Szefc’s go-to pinch hitters. Maynard turned in a .306 average and an on-base percentage of .359. Meanwhile Friedrich, a freshman, batted .491 in his senior year of high school and .351 in 13 games this summer with the Silver-Spring Takoma Thunderbolts, playing with Cieri.

 

 


First Base:

1B Kevin Biondic
1B Kevin Biondic

Maryland junior Kevin Biondic will return to first base after starting 56 games (of 57 possible) at the position last season. He ranked second in the team in batting average (.278), on-base percentage (.377) and doubles (10) in 2016, and made just two errors in the field.

During the offseason, the former high school hockey goaltender was named the best defensive first baseman in the Big Ten by Baseball America.

 


Second Base:

2B Nick Dunn
2B Nick Dunn

Following an impressive freshman campaign, sophomore Nick Dunn is back to anchor the middle of the field and the middle of the lineup. He started all 57 games and led the team in batting average (.300), hits (68), doubles (16) and multi-hit games (15) en route to earning Big Ten All-Freshman Team, Big Ten All-Third Team, and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors in 2016.

Dunn sparkled in the Cape Cod Baseball League over the summer, finishing ninth in the league in batting average (.311) and fifth in the league in runs scored (26). He was also seventh in the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio (.882) after striking out 17 times and drawing 15 walks.

Dunn was named the No. 1 Big Ten prospect for the 2018 MLB Draft by Baseball America and was also named the “best pure hitter” in the conference.

 


Shortstop: 

SS Kevin Smith
SS Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith’s name has become synonymous with terms like “All-American” and “Top Prospect” after a breakout summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Smith hit .301 with two home runs in 41 games for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, then led the team to the Cape Cod Baseball League Championship by hitting .370 with three home runs and seven RBIs in seven postseason games.

D1Baseball.com named Smith the “Breakout Summer Prospect,” the No. 5 prospect in the Cape Cod League, and a Preseason Third-Team All-American. Smith was named a Preseason-First Team All-American by Baseball America and Perfect Game.

Additionally, Kevin Smith was named the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year by all three publications and named the “Top Defensive Shortstop” by Baseball America.

 

Last spring, Smith was one of two players to start all 57 games, hitting .259 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs, a mark that was second on the team.


Third Base:

3B A.J. Lee
3B A.J. Lee

With the departure of Andrew Bechtold (transfer), the starting position at third base was up for grabs this fall, with the battle between graduate transfer Brandon Gum and sophomore A.J. Lee.

Lee is the favorite to begin the season at the hot corner after an impressive fall. According to the coaching staff, Lee’s summer in the Alaskan League with the Mat-Su Mines, while not statistically eye-opening, helped Lee develop as both a player and a person. He’s consistently been regarded as having one of the best fall seasons of anyone on the team.

Last spring, Lee struggled in limited time, hitting .179 in just 19 games (9 starts).

3B Brandon Gum
3B Brandon Gum

Gum, a transfer from George Mason, suffered a torn rotator cuff last season that cut his season short and has limited him this offseason.

The infielder hit .297 in his career at George Mason, including a career-high .338 in 2015. Gum has also seen action this fall at first base, given his limited throwing ability following his injury.

This spring, Gum could become one of Szefc’s first options off the bench as a pinch-hitter, or emerge as a starter at the hot corner or first base should Lee or Biondic struggle.


 

Preseason Countdown: Mike Vasturia, #7

Maryland Baseball Network is counting down to Opening Day! Today marks seven days until the start of the 2017 season, so here’s a look at #7, Mike Vasturia.

RHP Mike Vasturia
RHP Mike Vasturia

MIKE VASTURIA | 7

Year: Freshman

Position: Pitcher

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’5″ / 235 lbs.

Hometown: Medford, N.J.

Previous School: St. Augustine Preparatory School

2016 Spring Stats: None

About Mike: Mike Vasturia dominated as a junior at St. Augustine Prep, posting a 6-3 record with a 1.18 ERA, 5o strikeouts and 10 walks. He didn’t pitch during his senior season after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery to “clean out the joint” in April, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Despite the setback, Perfect Game still rated him the No. 8 pitcher and No. 18 player overall in New Jersey in the 2016 class. A Perfect Game scout said Vasturia “pounds the strike zone with a heavy fastball with lots of sink and run” and that he “gets outstanding sink at times on his changeup.” Vasturia’s fastball reaches the high 80s. His older brother, Steve, is a senior at Notre Dame, averaging 14.1 points per game for the Fighting Irish basketball team.

2017 Season Preview: Starting Pitchers

The Maryland Baseball season is just eight days away, and with that, our team preview continues. So far, we have broken down the Big Ten Conference and looked at the Terrapins’ bullpen and outfield. Now, it’s time to take a look at the Terps’ 2017 starting pitchers.

Maryland will be without star right-hander Mike Shawaryn this season, as the team’s all time leader in innings pitched (307.1), strikeouts (307) and wins (30) was drafted last June in the fifth round by the Boston Red Sox. But despite Shawaryn’s departure, the Maryland rotation that features junior right-handers Brian Shaffer and Taylor Bloom figures to be just as strong as it was a year ago. Beyond these two, several formidable underclassmen will be in the mix for the Sunday slot, as well as midweek appearances. But first, let’s take a look at the weekend starters.

Friday:

RHP Brian Shaffer
RHP Brian Shaffer

Coming off a strong 2016 as Maryland’s primary Sunday starter, Brian Shaffer moves up to the number one slot on Friday nights this season. The promotion is well-deserved, as he finished in the top ten in the conference in innings pitched (103.2), ERA (2.60), opponents average (.209), and strikeouts (75), while leading the Terps in wins (8), WHIP (0.88) and innings pitched. The Terps were 10-5 in his starts, and he led the team to six wins in series-deciding rubber matches. Shaffer pitched three complete games last season, two of which were shutouts, including a two-hit, eight strikeout victory over Indiana in a Big Ten Tournament elimination game. He sports a low- to mid-90s fastball to go with a change-up and a slider, and relies on his pinpoint control (13 walks in 103.2 innings) for his success.

Saturday:

RHP Taylor Bloom
RHP Taylor Bloom

After excelling as the Terps’ Saturday starter a year ago, Taylor Bloom will return to that same role in 2017. He was just as dominant as Shaffer in 2016, leading Maryland with a 2.46 ERA and five complete games. With a fastball that tops out in the high-80s, Bloom uses his change-up to pitch to contact and keep hitters off balance. As with many contact pitchers, his control is his calling card, as he was the only pitcher in the nation to throw more than 100 innings while walking fewer than ten batters (9 walks in 102.1 innings). His 0.79 walks per nine innings ratio was second best in the nation, while his 6.67 strikeout to walk ratio ranked 15th. His finest appearance of the year came on April 8 against Ohio State. Filling in for Shawaryn in his first career Friday start, Bloom took a perfect game into the sixth inning before finishing with a 90-pitch complete-game shutout.

Sunday:

RHP Hunter Parsons
RHP Hunter Parsons

With Shawaryn’s departure and Shaffer’s promotion to Friday night, Sunday’s spot in the rotation is up for grabs. One candidate is sophomore right-hander Hunter Parsons, who emerged as a formidable midweek starter in his freshman season. In 15 games (five starts) a year ago, he pitched to a 3.50 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 36 innings while holding opponents to a .201 average. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for his seven-inning, two-hit performance against James Madison on April 6, and earned a spot start on Sunday against Purdue later in April. He had an impressive summer as well, posting a 1.41 ERA for the Baltimore Redbirds en route to being named the Cal Ripken League Pitcher of the Year.

LHP Tyler Blohm
LHP Tyler Blohm

The other Sunday option is freshman left-hander Tyler Blohm. Drafted in the 17th round by the the Baltimore Orioles last June, Blohm did not sign, electing to play for Maryland instead. The Archbishop Spalding (Severn, Md.) product was a perfect 9-0 in his senior season, posting a 0.74 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 66 innings. Over the summer, he played alongside Parsons on the Redbirds, pitching to a 2.07 ERA in 26 innings. Blohm’s fastball sits in the low-90s, and he uses a mix of this, his change-up, and a plus curveball to miss bats. Either Parsons or Blohm would be a solid option on Sundays, and even just eight days before the season starts, Maryland Head Coach John Szefc still has not made a decision on who will get the nod in the opening series.

Midweek:

Between Parsons and Blohm, whoever does not get the ball as the Sunday starter will be Szefc’s primary option in midweek contests early in the year. But as the season progresses, some other young arms will could figure into the midweek rotation.

RHP Cameron Enck
RHP Cameron Enck

Sophomore right-hander Cameron Enck struggled in limited action a year ago (5 G, 6 IP, 7.50 ERA), but had a breakout summer with the Amsterdam Mohawks of the Perfect Game League. In nine games (46 IP), Enck posted a 0.39 ERA, decimating the previous record of 1.02. This impressive summer performance should be enough to get him a midweek look at some point in the season.

RHP Elliot Zoellner
RHP Elliot Zoellner

Freshman righty Elliot Zoellner pitched to a 0.97 ERA in his senior year at St. Mary’s High School (Annapolis, Md.) after posting a 1.56 ERA in his junior season, and has impressed Maryland coaches this offseason. He played locally over the summer for the Gaithersburg Giants in the Cal Ripken League, going 1-2 with a 4.94 ERA in eight appearances.

Preseason Countdown: Corey Haines, #8

Maryland Baseball Network is counting down to Opening Day! Today marks 8 days until the start of the 2017 season, so here’s a look at #8, Corey Haines.

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Volunteer Asst. Coach Corey Haines
Position: Volunteer Assistant Coach

Hometown: Elkton, Md.

Alma Mater: Maryland (’11)

Experience: 5th season at Maryland

About Haines: Corey Haines is entering his fifth season as the Terps’ volunteer assistant coach, after graduating from the University of Maryland in 2011 with a degree in kinesiology.

Haines serves as Maryland’s first-base coach throughout the season, and is in charge of organizing Maryland’s offseason prospect camps at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.

Prior to his graduation, the Elkton, Md. native was a volunteer and student assistant coach for three seasons, from 2009-2011. He played for two years at Cecil College as a second baseman, appearing in the regional championship in 2007 and winning the Maryland JuCo state title in 2008.

In 2012, Haines served as an assistant coach with Shippensburg University, coaching infielders and hitters, and focusing on base running. The Raiders finished with a record of 32-21, a nine-win improvement from the season before.

In the summers of 2011 and 2012, Haines was the head coach for the Alexandria Aces, a member of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. He led the Aces to the team’s first playoff appearance in franchise history in 2012.

 

2017 Season Preview: Outfield

Our countdown to the first pitch of the Maryland Baseball season is down into single-digits. Now that we’ve previewed the entire Big Ten and introduced the Terrapins’ deep bullpen, let’s review the outfield corps for the 2017 season.

After five seasons in College Park, Anthony Papio transitions from an athlete in the outfield to a student assistant coach on the bench for the Terrapins. Papio made 50 starts in the outfield in his final season in 2016 with only two errors in his time in both center and right field. At the plate he hit .261 with four home runs, 28 RBIs and was tied for a team-high with eight steals. He finished his career with 230 games played, the most in Maryland Baseball history.

Although Papio will be missed in the outfield this season, the Terps have solid players to fill the void. Let’s introduce those players, starting with the position Papio leaves behind: right field.

Right Field:

OF Marty Costes.
Right fielder Marty Costes

After making 52 starts as a freshman last season, most of which came in left field, sophomore Marty Costes will likely cross the outfield to become the starting right fielder for the Terrapins to begin the season. Costes’ emergence as a powerful bat in the lineup last season forced Coach Szefc to find him a place in the field. With Kevin Smith occupying his high school position at shortstop, Costes got his chance in left field. He went 2-for-3 with an RBI in his first start in the outfield, and his hot hitting continued, making him an everyday left fielder from that point on.

He led the Terps and all Big Ten freshmen with nine home runs and 37 RBIs to go with a .263 batting average and a .363 on-base percentage. Not only did he provide an offensive spark last season, but Costes recorded just two errors in the field, establishing himself as one of the team’s better defensive outfielders. After a strong summer with the Baltimore Redbirds of the Cal Ripken League (.314, 7 HR, 24 RBIs), he will be an essential member of the outfield this season both defensively and offensively.

Center Field:

Center fielder Zach Jancarski
Center fielder Zach Jancarski

After starting the final 20 games last year, junior Zach Jancarski will return in center field when Maryland begins its season in Clearwater, Florida. Jancarski began last season in center before being replaced by Papio just a couple of weeks later. But when Jancarski started to warm up in mid-April, he returned to the starting lineup as the everyday center fielder.

In addition to making zero errors in 46 appearances in the field, Jancarski hit .257 with four doubles, 18 runs scored and a .348 on-base percentage. The junior played in for the Sanford Mainers in the  New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer, where he hit .288 with 10 doubles and 13 RBIs. Jancarski will not only lead the outfield with his solid defense, but he is also likely to lead the offense near the top of the Maryland lineup.

Left Field:

Left fielder Madison Nickens
Left fielder Madison Nickens

While Costes and Jancarski appear to have their spots in the outfield locked up to start the year, left field still poses a bit of a mystery for Maryland and might continue to confuse us in the first weeks of the season. Although senior Madison Nickens will likely switch from right field to left field to start the season, Coach Szefc has options in the third outfield spot. As a transfer from LSU-Eunice a year ago, Nickens started 54 games primarily in right field. He led the team with 40 runs scored, tied with Papio for the team lead with eight stolen bases, and finished second behind Costes with eight home runs. When Jarcarski reclaimed his position in center field mid-way through the season, Papio moved back into right, giving Nickens some time in the DH spot to finish the season.

Left fielder Will Watson
Left fielder Will Watson

Nickens might start the opening game in left field for the Terps, but there will be plenty of opportunities early in the season on Sundays and mid-week games for others, such as Will Watson, to earn more playing time. Watson, a junior transfer from LSU-Eunice, hit .312 with 11 doubles, four homers and 21 stolen bases in 46 games last season for the Bengals. Just like Nickens a year ago, Watson will get opportunities early in the season to show if his success playing Division II baseball can translate into Division I.

Outfielder/pitcher Jamal Wade
Outfielder/ pitcher Jamal Wade

Even though Jamal Wade has been working on transitioning to the mound since last season, he could also be given opportunities in the outfield like in his freshman and sophomore seasons. In addition to his 1.58 ERA in 11.1 innings, he hit .267 with two homers for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene Swamp Bats this summer. After starting four games in 19 appearances for the Terps last season, Wade could compete for playing time in the outfield, returning to his freshman year form where hit started 26 games between DH and the outfield.