Preseason Countdown #2: Bullpen preview

Maryland is going to have plenty of arms to choose from during later innings this season, as all but about three-to-four of the 22 pitchers on the roster will be providing their stuff from the bullpen. With a schedule that’s limited to weekend series, many of the probable bullpen pitchers will be missing out on reps they would normally get during midweek contests, but for the team’s case, it should allow the best of the group to be fresh for every weekend.

As the season countdown ticks to two days, take a look at the crowded bullpen that Maryland boasts heading into the 2021 season:

LHP Tyler Blohm (Graduate Student)

After not appearing in a game during his senior season last year, Tyler Blohm is returning as a graduate student. The former starter will likely pitch out of the bullpen with younger talent taking his place in the weekend rotation, but his veteran leadership will certainly play an important role with the seven incoming freshmen. Before his absence from the mound in 2020, Blohm recorded a career 3.98 in 150 innings.

LHP Ryan Murphy (Freshman)

Coming in as the first of two freshmen left-handed pitchers, Ryan Murphy was ranked the second-best left-handed pitcher recruit out of Massachusetts. In his final high school season, Murphy earned his conference’s player of the year award.

LHP Drew Wilden (Redshirt Junior)

Drew Wilden was one of Maryland’s midweek starters in 2019 as a redshirt freshman, recording a 5.82 ERA in his 11 overall appearances. The 2020 season didn’t give Wilden much of a fair chance to show improvement on the mound, as his lone appearance saw him give up two runs over one innings against Rhode Island.

LHP Ryan Ramsey (Sophomore)

Ryan Ramsey had a tough go of it in the short 2020 season, appearing four times but recording a 12.60 ERA. While the sample size was extremely small for the then-freshman, keep in mind that Ramsey came into 2020 as the fourth-best left-handed pitcher recruit out of New Jersey, per Perfect Game, and was even drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 36th round of the 2019 MLB Draft. Although the bullpen will be especially crowded this season, Ramsey will likely get a chance to prove himself as a reliable arm.

LHP Logan Ott (Freshman)

Logan Ott enters Maryland as a LHP/OF dual-threat, but the majority of his talent comes as a pitcher. Ranked the sixth-best LHP recruit in Pennsylvania, per Perfect Game, his last season in high school ended with him being named his league’s pitcher of the year as he cruised to an 8-0 record and 1.17 ERA.

RHP Will Glock (Redshirt Sophomore)

After pitching to the tune of a 2.38 ERA over 13 appearances in 2019, Will Glock served a redshirt season during 2020 as he recovered from an injury. Having had nearly two years to get back in shape, Glock should provide some very strong innings out of the pen in 2021.

RHP Sam Bello (Sophomore)

Sam Bello couldn’t have had much of a better debut season — if that’s what you would call the 6 2/3 inning he pitched in 2020 — allowing one run in his four appearances while striking out 11 batters. Bello also led the team with an incredible .091 opposing batting average. He made his collegiate debut during Opening Day last season, and proceeded to one-hit Charleston Southern over 3 2/3 innings of relief with seven strikeouts.

RHP Chris Chaney (Sophomore)

Chris Chaney was one of the only Terps pitchers to not allow a single run during 2020, though the then-freshman had pitched just two innings. Part of a 2020 freshmen class that featured so many talented arms, Chaney will likely see plenty of innings out of the pen in 2021.

RHP Trevor LaBonte (Junior)

Trevor LaBonte was shifted to the bullpen last season after a disappointing freshman campaign as the Sunday starter, but he didn’t get many opportunities in 2020 to prove himself. The then-sophomore pitched four innings and allowed six runs while walking more than double the batters he struck out. Now one of the older members of the prospective bullpen, LaBonte will likely get his chances in 2021 to improve on a couple of underwhelming seasons.

RHP Chris Bookhultz (Freshman)

Coming in as the sixth-best RHP recruit out of Maryland, per Perfect Game, Chris Bookhultz is one of four freshmen right-handed pitchers to commit to Maryland from 2020. In his last high school season in 2019, Bookhultz recorded a 0.51 ERA and struck out 12 batters.

RHP Sean Heine (Junior)

Sean Heine looked like he was definitely trending in the right direction in 2020 after concluding his freshman season with a 10.38 ERA in 17 appearances. His ERA through four appearances in 2020 sat at 5.40, but the righty did have two appearances that displayed upside, one being two scoreless innings against Iona and the other being 1 2/3 scoreless innings against Delaware.

RHP Connor Staine (Sophomore)

Connor Staine pitched the most innings out of any freshmen last season, and certainly showed why he deserved it. In 10 1/3 innings, Staine wasn’t overwhelming in terms of whiffing batters — striking out just nine batters — but he ended the short season with a 2.61 ERA.

RHP David Falco (Redshirt Freshman)

The sixth-ranked overall recruit out of New York, per Perfect Game, did not appear during the 2020 season, but he brings plenty of potential with him into 2021. His fastball velocity came in at 93 MPH when he first committed to Maryland, good for the 98th percentile of his class. He will most likely get plenty of opportunities in 2021 to display that fastball and shine.

RHP Elliot Zoellner (Graduate Student)

The leader of Maryland’s bullpen in recent years, Elliot Zoellner is returning in 2021 as a graduate student, potentially playing a monumental role — similar to Tyler Blohm — in guiding the incoming freshmen and all underclassmen with his experience. He appeared seven times in 2020 — the most out of any relief pitcher — and didn’t allow a single run as he picked up 16 strikeouts.

RHP Mark DiLuia (Senior)

After more-or-less treading water out of the bullpen in his freshman and sophomore years, Mark DiLuia looked like a very improved pitcher in his short 2020 stint. He pitched five innings in five appearances, and didn’t allow a run. DiLuia also pitched Maryland’s final inning of the 2020 season, throwing a perfect frame against James Madison.

RHP Gavin Stellpflug (Freshman)

Part of a high school team that won a state championship in New Jersey in 2018, Gavin Stellpflug has some winning experience under his belt as he joins a Maryland team with great aspirations. The Somerville, New Jersey, native was ranked the No. 18 RHP recruit in the state.

RHP Nigel Belgrave (Freshman)

Nigel Belgrave comes to Maryland as the No. 11 RHP recruit out of Massachusetts, per Perfect Game, and the 18th-best recruit in the state overall.

RHP Jason Savacool (Freshman)

If the 2020 MLB Draft was more than five rounds, Jason Savacool would most likely not be mentioned in this list. The righty, who was ranked the 19th-best recruit in the nation, per Perfect Game, was also ranked No. 152 on MLB Pipeline’s top draft prospects. Savacool has already been given preseason praise, earning 2021 Baseball America Big Ten Preseason Newcomer of the Year ahead of the season, and while it’s unknown if he’ll be a starter or reliever for 2021, his talent is certainly going to make a difference for the Terps.

Preseason Countdown #3: Starters preview

While no official rotation has been set for Maryland as we close in on three days until Opening Day, the unique 2021 schedule helps us narrow down the 22 pitchers on the roster to the few that will likely be starting games every weekend.

Since the schedule is limited to weekend series (with a few doubleheaders mixed in), the opportunity for non-starters to get starting reps on the mound is barely a possibility, so it could take more than a weekend for Coach Rob Vaughn to figure out his rotation. Before that decision is officially made, here’s a look at the prospective starters for the 2021 season:

LHP Sean Fisher (Senior)

Coming in as the likely Friday starter to kickoff the season, Fisher started four games in 2020, earning a win in three of them. Up until 2020, Fisher had only come out of the bullpen, so it was a major milestone for the senior to have thrown 5 1/3 innings while allowing two unearned runs in his starting debut last season against Charleston Southern. In his final start of the season, he cruised the Terps to a win, striking out a career-high eight batters over six innings. Nothing is official yet, but in his final season as a Terp, it seems likely that he’ll be reprising his role as the Opening Day starter this Friday.

RHP Sean Burke (Redshirt Sophomore)

After serving a redshirt season in 2019 due to an injury, Sean Burke came into 2020 roaring as the Saturday starter, a role that will likely continue to be his in 2021. Bestowed the honor of 2021 Perfect Game Preseason Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, Burke looks to build off a 2020 where he pitched to the tune of a 1.99 earned-run average over four starts. The redshirt sophomore has also built somewhat of an early reputation of a strikeout machine, racking up 35 strikeouts in those starts compared to 11 walks. Assuming he slides back in as the Saturday starter, he and Fisher will form quite the formidable one-two punch to opposing Big Ten batters.

Nick Dean (Sophomore)

Nick Dean came into last season ranked the third-best right-handed pitcher recruit out of Pennsylvania, and he did not fail to disappoint through his first four collegiate starts as Maryland’s Sunday starter. While he struggled in one start against Rhode Island (five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings) his overall stats featured a 3.98 ERA and a .222 opposing batting average. The sophomore did throw a fantastic start against a strong Coastal Carolina team, and while the Terps suffered a loss, Dean helped keep it to a 3-2 ballgame, throwing five innings of two-run ball. Dean has certainly earned an opportunity to continue starting Sundays, and should he pick up where he left off in 2020, Maryland could have a very scary weekend rotation.

Zach Thompson (Redshirt Senior)

Zach Thompson was Maryland’s primary midweek starter option in 2020, but with 2021 featuring no midweek games, the redshirt senior may see his starts dwindle. A couple opportunities he might have include two early-season doubleheaders, as well as the three series that revolve around three teams playing each other in one location, like the home series from April 2 to April 5 where Maryland hosts Northwestern and Iowa and splits four games between them. Thompson’s spot as the potential double-header starter could also be in jeopardy because of his 2020 performance, pitching to a 6.75 ERA in three starts. While he did pitch five innings of one-run ball in his season debut against George Mason, his next two starts ran a total of nine earned runs over 8 1/3 innings.

Preseason Countdown #4: Outfield preview

The 2020 Terrapins outfield was stacked by all accounts, but the COVID-19 pandemic promptly put an end to the start of three young, talented freshmen seasons along with the junior years of a couple of established Terps outfielders. With the 44-game 2021 season ahead, that same crew will be returning in hopes of cashing in on all of the potential they had last season.

As we enter the week of Maryland Opening Day, have a glance at the returning outfield corp:

Randy Bednar (Senior)

Randy Bednar has done nothing but improve, year after year, during his career as a Terp, and he’s entering 2021 coming off his best (partial) season to date. In the 15 games he started last season, slashed .387/.459/.581 while leading Maryland in RBI (16) and doubles (9). Bednar’s career on-base plus slugging percentage stands at .835, and at the rate he’s going at, he’s due for a monster senior season.

Chris Allayne (Senior)

Also entering his final season as a Terp is Chris “Bubba” Allayne, who in the (short) span of 2020 showed a great improvement at the plate while continuing to be a killer on the base paths with his speed. Allayne tied for second in the Big Ten in stolen bases (6) while following closely behind his fellow senior outfielder as second in the Big Ten in doubles (8). After establishing himself as a primary outfielder with his bat in 2019, he turned in last season with a .333/.413/.500 slash line. There might be a huge logjam in the Maryland outfield, but with his improving bat and quick defense in the field, Allayne is sure to start a majority of games.

Troy Schreffler Jr. (Sophomore)

One of the three highly-touted freshmen outfielders to make their collegiate debut last season, Troy Schreffler Jr. showed exactly why he was ranked the fourth-best outfielder recruit out of Pennsylvania in 2019. He slashed .214/.371/.464 in the ten games he played in and picked up one triple along the way.

Tucker Flint (Sophomore)

Tucker Flint came into the 2020 season with a lot of hype around him, being ranked the number-one recruit in Rhode Island in 2019, per Perfect Game. He had become somewhat of the starting left-fielder for the Terps, starting 13 of his 14 games in left field. While he couldn’t quite get going in terms of slugging the ball, he was a pitcher’s worst nightmare, getting on base at a .462 clip. His 22 combined walks and hit-by-pitches nearly doubled his 13 strikeouts, making him a potentially formidable on-base monster for the three seasons to come.

Bobby Zmarzlak (Sophomore)

Flint wasn’t the only Maryland recruit in 2019 to be ranked first in his state, as Perfect Game ranked Bobby Zmarzlak as the best overall recruit out of Connecticut. Zmarzlak didn’t hit too often in 2020 — collecting five hits in 27 at-bats — but when he hit, he hit hard. His .185/.444/.405 slash line speaks for itself, but three of his five hits were of the extra-base variety, including a grand slam as part of a seven-RBI performance versus Bryant on March 6. He may be tagged as a future outfielder for Maryland, but his seven starts in 2020 all came as the designated hitter, giving the impression that the DH will be under his control until the seniors depart.

Preseason Countdown #5: Infield preview

We have entered the latter half of the preseason countdown, and this time we’re previewing the Terps infielders. While the veteran experience in the group is there with the likes of Maxwell Costes, Justin Vought, and Tommy Gardiner, a majority of the infielders are either freshmen or sophomores who were given very little playing time last season due to the short season. Overall, the mix of old and young has plenty of potential, so without any further delay, here is the Terps infield corp for the 2021 season:

Catcher – Riley Langerman (Junior)

Coming in as Maryland’s only transfer for the 2021 season, Langerman brings much-needed veteran experience behind the plate to pair with the senior Justin Vought as three of Maryland’s catchers have yet to play in a game. Langerman transferred from a junior college program at Ventura College in California, where he hit .280/.348/.366 in 20 games during a 2020 season that got cut short.

Catcher – Blake Badman (Freshman)

Badman is the first of two freshmen to be featured among the Terps’ catchers, and he has some very high praise backing him up. A Maryland native, Perfect Game ranked him as the state’s second-best catcher recruit, and the fourth-best recruit out of Maryland overall. During his high school career at DeMatha Catholic, Badman hit .412 with a .667 slugging percentage.

Catcher – Justin Vought (Senior)

The veteran backstop is back for his final season at Maryland after the short 2020 season was cut even shorter, as Vought suffered a hip injury at the end of February. In the seven games he did play, he slashed .190/.452/.190 and collected three RBI. The performance is far from the above-average offensive output he displayed in 2019, where his on-base plus slugging percentage was .786 while hitting ten home runs.

Catcher – Luke Shliger (Freshman)

The second freshman catcher hails from Connecticut, where Perfect Game ranks him as the best catcher recruit in the state. Shliger spent his last high school season hitting at a .489 clip with five home runs and 20 RBI, earning him the honor of First Team All-Founders League.

Catcher – James Heffley (Sophomore)

Heffley is entering his second season at Maryland, but the sophomore has yet to make an appearance on the diamond as a Terp. With somewhat of a logjam at the catcher position this season, he still may have trouble finding some playing time.

First Baseman – Maxwell Costes (Junior)

Coming off an incredible sophomore campaign, albeit only 15 games, Maxwell Costes comes into his junior year with tons of preseason hype. Costes finished the brief 2020 season slashing .432/.620/.750 and with four home runs, his 1.370 OPS being tops in the Big Ten. With seven preseason honors, Costes was among the 55 names mentioned on the 2021 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award watch list. He’ll surely be the driving force of this Maryland team as he continues to establish his name among the best in college baseball.

Second Baseman – Aaron Perez (Sophomore)

Aaron Perez saw just 18 plate appearances during 2020, and while he didn’t record a hit, he walked six times and got hit by a pitch once, giving him a .389 on-base percentage. All of his plate appearances came during five starts at second base.

Second Baseman – Austin Chavis (Senior)

The senior Austin Chavis is entering his second year at Maryland after transferring from Potomac State College a year ago. He spent last season starting ten games at second base, where he slashed .194/.268/.306. His best performance was a three-hit day against Bryant on March 8, where he picked up a double and a RBI.

Shortstop – Benjamin Cowles (Junior)

Looking to be Maryland’s stalwart at shortstop, Cowles comes into his junior season as one of Maryland’s most versatile weapons at the plate and on the bases. He started all 15 games at shortstop last season, slashing .241/.364/.463 and slugging three home runs. On the base paths, he stole six bases in six attempts, making him quite the pest for opposing pitchers.

Shortstop – Matthew Shaw (Freshman)

Matthew Shaw represents half of the shortstop recruits that Maryland brought in for 2021, and he comes in as the third-best shortstop recruit out of Massachusetts, per Perfect Game. He brings a very solid bat with him, as he slashed .370/.414/.907 in 58 plate appearances as well as nine home runs.

Shortstop – Kevin Keister (Freshman)

Kevin Keister is the second shortstop recruit to join the Terps, coming in as the second-best shortstop recruit from Delaware, per Perfect Game. After his senior campaign last season, Keister was a finalist for the Gatorade Delaware Player of the Year Award.

Third Baseman – Tommy Gardiner (Senior)

Tommy Gardiner’s junior campaign was limited to six starts at the hot corner after he suffered an injury. In those six starts, he was one of Maryland’s most proficient hitters, slashing .350/.500/.350 and picking up multiple hits in half of his games.

Third Baseman – Matt Orlando (Sophomore)

With the injury that Gardiner suffered, Matt Orlando made the majority of starts at third base in 2020. In nine starts, he slashed .182/.270/.212 while bringing home a pair of runs.

Infielder – Michael Bouma (Sophomore)

The sophomore Michael Bouma didn’t see the field very much during 2020. His only four appearances came as a pinch-hitter, but he did not record a hit. Bouma’s most notable appearance was when he picked up a sacrifice-fly RBI against George Mason.

Preseason Countdown #6: Meet the transfer

With how unique the 2021 season will be, it only makes sense that the incoming class of transfers will be just as unique. In 2019, Maryland brought in seven transfers. Last season, it brought in two. Ahead of this season, the program brought in a single transfer.

Despite the thinner-than-average group of transfers, we will still introduce the new transfer as we normally would. Without further ado, meet Riley Langerman.

JR. C Riley Langerman – Ventura College (Junior College in California)

Langerman will begin his Terps career as a junior and should bring plenty of experience behind the plate for a program with two freshmen catchers and one sophomore catcher.

The Parker, Colorado, native had his 2020 season at Ventura College cut short, but in the 20 games he played last year he hit .280/.348/.366. Langerman also picked up 12 RBI in his 82 at-bats.

Langerman also played travel ball with the California Gold Sox in the summer of 2019, where he slashed .333/.371/.424 in 35 plate appearances. He was later named a Golden Coast Collegiate League All-Star.

On the defensive side, he brings a very strong throwing arm to Maryland’s catching corp despite having a smaller build than the average catcher.

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Preseason Countdown #7: Meet the freshmen

Out of the 11 recruits that committed to Maryland before the 2021 season, ten are now freshmen for the Terps ahead of what will be a very weird first collegiate season. The lone exception to the group was right-handed pitcher Alex Santos, who the Houston Astros drafted 72nd overall in the 2020 MLB Draft.

With no Fall World Series or any exhibition games prior to the 2021 season, many of these freshmen’s first taste of college ball will be after the season starts. To get familiarized with all of the new, young faces on the diamond, take a quick glance at who they are.

C Blake BadmanHuntingtown, Maryland (DeMatha Catholic)

A product of DeMatha Catholic, Blake Badman was ranked No. 2 among catchers and the fourth-best overall recruit out of Maryland, per Perfect Game. He batted .412 to go along with a .667 slugging percentage in his high school career while hitting 18 home runs.

RHP Nigel BelgraveAuburn, Massachusetts (Auburn Senior High School)

Nigel Belgrave hails from Auburn, Massachusetts, and the RHP is ranked as the No. 18 overall recruit out of the state, per Perfect Game.

RHP Chris BookhultzBrookville, Maryland (St. John’s College)

Just like Badman, Chris Bookhultz is a Maryland native, except comes from St. John’s College. During 2019, he went 2-0 while recording a 0.51 earned-run average. He came in as the sixth-best RHP recruit out of Maryland, and the 30th-best recruit out of the state overall, per Perfect Game.

IF Kevin KeisterSmyrna, Delaware (Caravel Academy)

Kevin Keister was among the best recruits out of Delaware in 2020, coming in as the fourth-best overall recruit in the Blue Hen State, per Perfect Game. While also being the second-ranked shortstop in the state, he was a finalist for the 2020 Gatorade Delaware Player of the Year Award.

LHP Ryan MurphyBillerica, Massachusetts (Billerica Memorial)

Ryan Murphy is the second freshman to come out of Massachusetts, and despite being ranked as the 11th-best overall recruit out of the state, he was the second-best left-handed pitcher, per Perfect Game. He led his high school with a career 1.80 ERA, and was named Merrimack Valley Conference Player of the Year in 2020.

LHP/OF Logan OttMontoursville, Pennsylvania (Montoursville Area)

The pitcher/outfielder has plenty of baseball talent in his blood, as his grandfather, Ed Ott, helped the Pittsburgh Pirates win the 1979 World Series. As for Logan himself, the 18-year-old was ranked as the sixth-best LHP recruit in Pennsylvania, per Perfect Game. While he has played outfield and could likely see reps as a Terp, his strength is his pitching, as he recorded a 1.17 ERA over 60 innings in 2019, earning a pitcher of the year award.

RHP Jason SavacoolBaldwinsville, New York (Baker)

If the 2020 MLB Draft was more than five rounds, Savacool likely wouldn’t be at Maryland. The pitcher was ranked as the No. 156 draft prospect, per MLB.com’s rankings. Instead, he’ll be continuing his academic career while pitching for the Terps in hopes of improving his draft stock.

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Savacool was ranked as the second-best overall recruit out of New York while being ranked as the second-best RHP in the state, only behind Santos. In high school, he threw 11 complete games — including a no-hitter — as he recorded a 1.34 ERA in the 156 innings he pitched.

IF Matthew ShawBrimfield, Massachusetts (Worcester Academy)

Ranked as the No. 3 shortstop recruit out of Massachusetts for 2020, per Perfect Game, Matthew Shaw will be bringing a very strong bat with him into his freshman season. The Massachusetts native spent Summer 2020 playing with the Worcester Bravehearts of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League of New England, where he hit .370/.414/.907 in 58 plate appearances. The strong bat of his was also responsible for nine home runs in the 14 games he played.

C Luke ShligerDanbury, Connecticut (Trinity-Pawling School)

The lone Connecticut native in this group of freshmen, Luke Shliger was ranked the best catcher recruit out of his home state, per Perfect Game. In his last high school season, he hit .489 with five home runs and 20 RBI, earning him a spot on the 2019 All-Founders League First Team.

RHP Gavin StellpflugWhitehouse Station, New Jersey (Somerville)

Gavin Stellpflug comes in as the No. 18 right-handed pitcher out of New Jersey, per Perfect Game. In his sophomore year at Somerville, he helped his team win a state championship.

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Preseason Countdown #8: Top five performances of 2020

The 2020 season may have only been 15 games long, but it had more than a few strong Terps performances — both hitting and pitching –along the way. With eight days left until Maryland Opening Day, relive five standout moments (in no particular order) that give Maryland fans plenty to look forward to for 2021.

No. 1: Sean Burke’s stellar debut

After serving a redshirt season his freshman year, Burke came into the 2020 season roaring with a dominant start against the College of Charleston. He threw five innings of one-run ball while striking out eight batters and allowing one run. Burke did strike out 11 batters in a start 20 days later, but his debut stands out particularly because it’s the beginning of what should be a very bright career for Burke at Maryland and will certainly be warmly remembered.

No. 2: Bobby Zmarzlak brings home seven

Maryland’s group of freshmen hitters in 2020 was full of talent, and one freshman — Bobby Zmarzlak — displayed some of that talent at full force in Maryland’s 14-3 win over Bryant on March 6. Zmarzlak went 2-5, but added a walk to that as well as an early career-high of seven RBI as Maryland’s designated hitter that day.

No. 3: Benjamin Cowles goes perfect at the plate

In a midweek win over Delaware on March 4, Cowles led the way for Maryland as he went a perfect 4-4 in plate appearances. The crafty shortstop picked up two hits, two walks, and brought in five runs to boot. Cowles also stole one base and scored three runs as Maryland blasted the Blue Hens for 13 runs.

No. 4: Terps pitching blanks Rhode Island

It’s not surprising that Maryland’s only shutout of the short season came during a Burke start. The redshirt freshman tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings, racking up eight strikeouts. Then the bullpen took over, featuring appearances from Elliot Zoellner, Connor Staine, and Mark DiLuia. Zoellner stranded a runner at third base to end the sixth inning, and then Staine came in for 2 2/3 scoreless innings. DiLuia shut the door in the ninth, striking out the Rams’ final batter.

No. 5: Maxwell Costes and Randy Bednar blast George Mason

Both Costes and Bednar combined for six hits to go with a home run each as Maryland put on a 13-3 rout of the George Mason Patriots. The duo also took advantage of a very poor Patriots pitching performance and drew three total walks and a hit-by-pitch. For Costes and Bednar, this game was the pinnacle of what looked to be career-best seasons from the veterans.

Preseason Countdown #9: Maxwell Costes showered with preseason accolades

There are nine days left before Maxwell Costes and his fellow Terps begin the 2021 season against Michigan State, and the junior is entering this unique season with a trophy case full of preseason honors. After collecting one preseason honor before the 2020 season — being named a Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-American — Costes brought in seven honors ahead of the 2021 season.

The pomp is warranted, as Costes finished his sophomore campaign hitting .432/.620/.750 and four home runs in 15 games. His 1.370 on-base plus slugging percentage was tops in the Big Ten, while his four home runs were tied for second.

Costes’ preseason praise is highlighted with a spot on the watch list for collegiate baseball’s most prestigious award — the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award. The award is bestowed to the best collegiate player in the country each year, and many of its honorees have evolved into superstars at the major-league level.

Past Golden Spikes Award winners include former MVPs Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper, former Cy Young Award winners Trevor Bauer and David Price, along with many of the league’s young stars.

Although Costes is among 55 total names on the watchlist, the honor speaks to the incredible career he’s had so far at Maryland and what writers expect from him in 2021.

Below are the six other preseason honors that Costes was awarded as the Terps close in on Opening Day:

  • 2021 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association First Team Preseason All-American
  • 2021 D1Baseball.com Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year
  • 2021 D1Baseball.com First Team Preseason All-American
  • 2021 Perfect Game Preseason All-Big Ten
  • 2021 Perfect Game Third Team Preseason All-American
  • 2021 Collegiate Baseball Third Team Preseason All-American

Preseason Countdown #10: Four things we learned from media day

With the countdown to Terps baseball’s return ticking to just ten days, Maryland baseball held its media day Monday afternoon via Zoom, giving Coach Rob Vaughn and four of his players a chance to field questions about a variety of topics mostly related to the team’s lengthy hiatus off the field and what’s expected for the shortened 2021 season.

The four players to join Vaughn were Sean Burke, Maxwell Costes, Benjamin Cowles, and Sean Fisher, but since there was so much said between the five Terps during the Zoom session, we narrowed down four of the most important things we learned.

No. 1: Staying sharp during the offseason

The Terps haven’t competed in a baseball game since March 11, 2020, so many of the questions to Vaughn and his players had to do with how they stayed prepared and loose — both mentally and physically — during the lengthy offseason.

“Our guys have been very mature in their process and they’ve gone about their business very professionally,” said Vaughn of his team’s response to the pandemic. “You see things how they are, keep a neutral mindset and keep moving forward. That’s what our guys have done a good job of.”

While the 2020 season ended abruptly, it has taught the players how they have to treat each game like it could be their last, especially for the returning seniors this season.

“I was four starts in, thinking I was going to play all year and next thing you know I am back in my home,” said the senior Fisher. “The biggest lesson throughout the whole thing was you have to keep playing like you don’t know when you [won’t be able to play] anymore.”

Meanwhile, Vaughn gave examples of how the players have been keeping their minds right during the offseason, specifically noting reading books, meditating, and generally things to keep themselves mentally fresh.

“Most of the stuff that I worked on [this offseason] was my athleticism and my mental health,” said Costes. “Last year when I was doing bad, I would go back to the hotel and panic. I did a lot more work becoming a much calmer and centered person. I don’t feel that pressure anymore.”

No. 2: High praise for Sean Burke

There wasn’t a clear answer to what the rotation will officially look like to open the season, but both Burke and Fisher are expected to be featured in it one way or another.

Burke had his freshman year cut short after four starts, but he put up phenomenal numbers. The righty recorded a 1.99 earned-run average while striking out 35 batters versus 11 walks, and Vaughn said he expects a big sophomore year from Burke.

“His secondary stuff has gotten much better,” said Vaughn. “He had a wrinkle he could throw for a strike last year when he needed to get guys off his fastball. But, he’s throwing two legit breaking balls right now. He’s got four pitches that he can throw in any count.”

Vaughn also noted Burke’s improved fastball which now sits at 98 mph, as well as a well-improved changeup.

“We’re looking for a really good year out of him,” said Vaughn.

No. 3: Maxwell Costes unnerved by preseason pomp

Nobody on this Maryland squad racked up more preseason accolades than Maxwell Costes, and a look at his 2020 performance would more than speak for itself. The junior upstaged a tremendous .944 on-base plus slugging percentage in his freshman season with a 1.370 OPS through 15 games last season.

Some of his notable preseason nods include a spot on the 2021 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Watch List, being named D1Baseball.com’s 2021 Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, and part of National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association’s 2021 Preseason All-American First Team.

“My hitting coach — Coach [Matt] Swope — tells us all the time that we need to be authentic to ourselves,” said Costes. “I’ve never been someone that’s caught up in accolades and awards and stuff, and I’m blessed to say that [my teammates here] I’m surrounded by friends and brothers that allow me to basically be who I am.”

Costes also talked about not being bothered by the expectations that the preseason pomp could weigh on him.

“I’m not nervous at all. It’s been a whole year, but baseball doesn’t change,” said Costes. “They still have to throw the ball over the plate and you still have to hit the ball, throw the ball and catch the ball.”

No. 4: Expectations for a unique year

There’s no telling how the season could go for Maryland given the extraordinary circumstances the team and college baseball as a whole find themselves in, but Vaughn couldn’t have said it much better than this: “I hope we do things [this season] that have never been done before here. That’s my goal.”

Maryland has been among many collegiate programs to benefit from returning players, such as the veteran presences of Fisher, Randy Bednar, Chris Alleyne, Justin Vought, and Elliot Zoellner, among others. Vaughn said that the mix of the returning players along with the young talent Maryland boasts should shape up to a very potent team.

“I think this team’s got a chance to be pretty special,” said Vaughn. “I think there’s a blend of experience and youth that is really good. I think there’s a lot of ability and a lot of talent, which is something to start with.”

Maryland releases 2021 baseball schedule

At long last, Maryland Terrapins baseball will be making its return to the diamond on March 5, when the Terps travel to Greenville, South Carolina, to take on Michigan State in a four-game series. The Big Ten Conference released the 44-game, conference-only schedule Wednesday afternoon, ending a hiatus of Big Ten baseball that goes back to March 12, 2020.

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The opening series in Greenville will take place at Fluor Field, where the Boston Red Sox’ Double-A affiliate Greenville Drive plays.

Maryland will open up play at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium a week after their opening series when they host Rutgers on March 12-14. It’s the first of seven home series the Terps will be playing during 2021.

Maryland will be playing six series on the road, beginning with a two-series road trip between Penn State (March 19-21) and Ohio State (March 26-28).

Besides the opening series in Greenville, Maryland is scheduled to play four neutral site games in 2021.

The first two are against Iowa in Columbus, Ohio, during their March 26-28 series with Ohio State. The latter two are against Northwestern in Iowa City, Iowa, during Maryland’s April 23-25 series against Iowa.

Maryland’s road schedule wraps up with a May 21-23 trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to take on the Michigan Wolverines before heading home for their season finale against Indiana a week later.

There’s no Big Ten tournament scheduled for the season this year.

As of now, fans aren’t expected to be allowed to attend Maryland home games for health and safety precautions, though Maryland athletics is hopeful that fans may attend games as the season progresses as long as health conditions permit.