Summer Ball Update 7/11/17: Four Terps make Ripken League All-Star squad

As the calendar approaches the middle of July, many Terps are in the midst of fine summer campaigns, including four who earned Cal Ripken League All-Star honors this week. Here’s a rundown of how different Terps are doing around the country.

We’ll start in the Cape Cod League, where left-hander Tyler Blohm has made four appearances, including three starts, for the Falmouth Commodores, pitching to a 4.50 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 16 frames. Fellow Terp pitcher Hunter Parsons has struggled in limited appearances for the Cape’s Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. The rising junior right-hander has made six appearances, all in relief, allowing four earned runs in 5.1 innings, but picking up six strikeouts along the way.

Outfielder Marty Costes and second baseman Nick Dunn have not yet found their rhythms at the plate with the Brewster Whitecaps. Dunn, a 2016 CCBL All-Star for the Whitecaps, is fourth on the team in at-bats (59), but owns a .237 batting average and just three extra-base hits. Costes is hovering around the Mendoza line, hitting just .200, but has still shown strong plate discipline (.373 OBP) and ranks third on the Whitecaps with three homers.

Locally, pitcher John Murphy, catcher Justin Morris, and outfielders Zach Jancarski and Randy Bednar represented Maryland in the Cal Ripken League All-Star Game Monday. Murphy (Bethesda Big Train) pitched a scoreless inning, and owns a 3.31 ERA over five appearances (19 innings) this summer. Morris, who is hitting .347 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 15 contests for the Big Train this summer, walked in his only All-Star Game plate appearance, and threw out two runners from behind the dish. Jancarski leads the Big Train with a .385 average and .512 on-base percentage, and ranks third on the team with 10 stolen bases. Bednar, an incoming freshman, paces the Baltimore Redbirds with three long balls, and his .329 average is the second-best mark on the squad.

Elsewhere in the Ripken League, AJ Lee has heated up after a slow start for the Redbirds. The Maryland third baseman is hitting just .200 on the season, but has three multi-hit contests over his last five games. His Redbird teammates, Mike Vasturia and Jon Dignazio, have not fared as well on the mound. Vasturia has a 7.36 ERA in 11 innings out of the bullpen, but that mark is inflated by a couple rough outings, as the right-hander has given up one run or less in four of his six outings. Dignazio, a southpaw, owns a similar 7.44 ERA in 9.2 innings, and while his 15 walks are worrisome, he has whiffed 12 batters.

A pair of incoming freshmen have impressed with the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts. Infielder Tommy Gardiner‘s .351 batting average is second on the team, and he has been especially hot of late, collecting multiple hits in three of his last four games. His teammate, outfielder Richie Schiekofer, is hitting .242 in 11 games, but has come up big this season, collecting a walk0ff hit against Rockville in late June. Senior outfielder Will Watson has made just one appearance for the T-Bolts, going 0-for-3.

Left-hander Zach Guth has made three appearances for the Big Train, allowing four runs (all earned) over two innings of work.

With the Amsterdam Mohawks of the Perfect Game League, catcher Danny Maynard maintains a .309 average with two homers and 11 RBIs in 18 contests. Right-hander Cameron Enck owns a 2.70 ERA in six contests for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Newport Gulls. Enck has struck out 16 and walked just five in 20 innings of work this summer.

North of the border, first baseman Kevin Biondic is hitting .247 in 27 games for the Northwoods League’s Thunder Bay Border Cats. The rising senior has launched three homers and driven in 15, and has more walks (14) than strikeouts (13) this summer.

Pro Terps Update: 7/5/2017

Maryland baseball has had a busy few weeks, but former Terps have been making headlines as well. Multiple Maryland players have signed professional contracts after being drafted, while others are excelling at higher levels.

Adam Kolarek, who was called up last week by the Tampa Bay Rays, continues to come out of the bullpen and pitch well. He appeared against his hometown team, the Orioles, on July 1. Kolarek has now pitched 2.1 scoreless innings for the Rays, allowing just one hit. 

Kolarek joins Brett Cecil as the only Terps in the MLB. Cecil, a fellow left-handed reliever, has been throwing the ball very well as of late. His ERA was 5.66 a little over a month ago, but is now 3.69. He has not given up a run since June 7, and just turned 31 a few days ago.

With Kolarek graduating to the big leagues, several other Terps are tearing it up in the minors. RHP Mike Shawaryn has continued to impress with the High-A Salem Red Sox (Boston Red Sox). In his last two starts, the right-hander has pitched 12 innings, striking out 11 while surrendering just one run.

Elsewhere in High-A ball, 2B Brandon Lowe is continuing his All-Star season with the Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays). Lowe has five hits in his last four games, and leads the Florida State League in average (.333), OBP (.420), slugging (.593) and doubles (27). 

LHP Alex Robinson is having his most consistent professional season with the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins). Robinson has an ERA just over 3.00, and is striking out nearly 12 batters every nine innings. His fellow Terp in the Twins system, OF LaMonte Wade, is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts (Minnesota Twins). Wade has increased his average to .280, and has more walks (54) than strikeouts (46).

3B Jose Cuas is hitting under .200 this year with the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and High-A Carolina Mudcats (Milwaukee Brewers), but has been walking a lot, with an OBP near .300. RHP Jake Stinnett of the Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs) has still not seen any action yet as he returns from an injury.

Numerous Terps have started their professional careers over the past few weeks. RHP Ryan Selmer, who was assigned to the Kingsport Mets (New York Mets) of the Appalachian League, has thrown two scoreless innings on the mound. SS Kevin Smith started out in rookie ball with the Bluefield Blue Jays (Toronto Blue Jays). He began his professional career very slowly, hitting .161 in his first seven games, but has five hits in his last three games, including three doubles.

RHP Brian Shaffer, a sixth-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks last month, has made two appearances, one in rookie-ball and one in Short Season-A. The tall right-hander struck out two in his first inning of work for the Short-Season Hillsboro Hops. RHP Jamal Wade, LaMonte’s brother, recently signed with the Seattle Mariners, and has thrown one scoreless frame for the rookie-ball AZL Mariners. 

Maryland hires Corey Muscara as new pitching coach

Maryland baseball has hired Corey Muscara to be the team’s next pitching coach, the team announced in a press release Monday. Muscara joins a coaching staff led by newly-minted Head Coach Rob Vaughn. He is the third Terps pitching coach in as many years, after Ryan Fecteau left to join former Maryland head coach John Szefc at Virginia Tech earlier this month.

Corey Muscara. (Photo courtesy of St. John’s University)

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity work with such a great young passionate staff,” Muscara said in a Maryland press release. “The future is very bright at with Coach Vaughn and the players we have here. I’m excited to get started and I think we can achieve great things at the University of Maryland.”

For the last five years, Muscara has served as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for St. John’s University. Under his tutelage, a Red Storm hurler has been named Big East Pitcher of the Year for three straight seasons, as right-hander Sean Mooney captured the title this spring. Muscara also led the Red Storm to the Big East ERA title this year with a 3.11 mark that ranked eighth in the country. St. John’s led the conference in strikeouts in two of his five seasons there (2014 and 2015).

Over his five seasons at St. John’s, nine of Muscara’s pitchers have been drafted, including Thomas Hackimer (4th round, 123rd overall, 2016 MLB Draft), who in 2016 became the first reliever in more than a decade to win Big East Pitcher of the Year.

“The number one thing that I was looking for in hiring a pitching coach was a guy that had a ton of passion for developing young men and had a vision for what this place is going to be,” Vaughn said in a press release. He also noted that Muscara has an excellent resume as a recruiter.

Muscara graduated from Franklin Pierce in 2009 after playing two seasons there and two at Siena. After his collegiate career, he coached the Danbury Westerners of the NECBL for two seasons.

Prior to his time at St. John’s, Muscara served two stints on the coaching staff at Southern New Hampshire University, in 2010 and 2012, and spent the 2011 season as the pitching coach at Binghamton.

At Maryland, he inherits a staff that ranked fourth in the Big Ten in ERA (3.91) and second in strikeouts (479), thanks in part to ace Brian Shaffer, who recently signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Muscara will work with a young staff that has lost not only Shaffer, but relievers Ryan Selmer, Jared Price, Jamal Wade, Mike Rescigno and Tayler Stiles. Key remaining arms include starters Tyler Blohm and Taylor Bloom and reliever John Murphy.

 

Former Terps lefty Adam Kolarek called up to Tampa Bay Rays

Former Maryland left-hander Adam Kolarek has been called up to the Tampa Bay Rays after spending parts of eight seasons in the minors. Kolarek, 28, pitched for the Terps from 2008 to 2010 before being selected in the 11th round (332nd overall) by the New York Mets in the 2010 MLB Draft. He joins fellow southpaw reliever Brett Cecil as the only Terps currently in the major leagues.

Over his three years at Maryland, Kolarek made 60 appearances (51 in relief) spanning 111 innings. The Catonsville, Maryland, native pitched to a lofty 5.03 ERA but often kept hitters off balance, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning in both his freshman and junior seasons. He was a workhorse for the Terps, ranking in the top three on the team in appearances in his first two years in College Park.

After being drafted, Kolarek spent his first six pro seasons in the Mets organization. He enjoyed great success early in his minor league career, posting a sub-3 ERA in three of his first four campaigns. In 2013, he turned what was at that point his finest performance in the minors. After struggling in a brief stint in Triple-A, he dominated for the Double-A Binghamton Mets, tossing 63 frames with a 1.71 ERA and .204 opponents’ batting average. He couldn’t replicate his success at the same level, however, posting an ERA north of six in 2014 and a 4.43 mark a year later in 2015.

At the end of the 2015 season, the Mets released Kolarek, and he briefly signed on with his hometown Baltimore Orioles, before being claimed off waivers by the Rays.

He began the 2016 season and his Tampa Bay organization career with the Montgomery Biscuits (Double-A), making 13 appearances with a 3.32 ERA before his promotion to Triple-A Durham. In 34 relief appearances with the Bulls, he pitched to a 3.05 ERA and held opponents to a meager .194 mark at the plate while averaging over a strikeout per inning. He continued to dominate this spring with Durham, posting a 1.36 ERA in 33 innings pitched, which earned his call-up to the show.

The promotion is well-timed, as the Rays travel to Baltimore this weekend for a three-game set with the Orioles, so Kolarek may get the opportunity to pitch in front of his hometown crowd.

With Kolarek joining Cecil in the big leagues, there are multiple Terps in the majors for the first time since September 1, 2015, when former Maryland outfielder Justin Maxwell was designated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants.

Featured image courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Fecteau, Haines to join Szefc at Virginia Tech

Former Maryland Head Coach John Szefc will be bringing two of his Terps assistants with him as he takes over as the head coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies. Ryan Fecteau and Corey Haines are now listed on the Virginia Tech website as Assistant Coach and Director of Operations, respectively.

This is the second time in two seasons that Maryland will search for a new pitching coach, as Jim Belanger left the Terps staff last June to take a job at Kentucky.

Pitching Coach Ryan Fecteau visits the mound early in the second inning to confer with sophomore Hunter Parsons. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

Fecteau, who replaced Belanger, departs Maryland after a one-year tenure as the team’s pitching coach. The New Hampshire native came to College Park in the summer of 2016 following a six-year stint at Bryant, where he molded a pitching staff that consistently dominated the Northeast Conference.

In four of his final five seasons with the Bulldogs, Fecteau’s staff boasted the NEC Pitcher of the Year. That trend continued when the coach moved on to Maryland as the Terps’ Brian Shaffer took home the top pitching award in the Big Ten in 2016.

This season, Fecteau led the Terps to a 3.98 ERA, and helped develop young arms such as Tyler Blohm and John Murphy into key pieces on the Maryland pitching staff. He will inherit a Virginia Tech pitching staff that ranked dead last in the ACC in ERA this spring with a 5.79 mark.

Unlike Fecteau, Haines was a long-term member of Maryland’s staff, serving the last five years as an assistant coach under Szefc and three previous years (2009-2011) as a student assistant and volunteer.

In his most recent stint in College Park, Haines focused on developing hitters and working with the team’s infielders. He worked with players such as Brandon Lowe (3rd round pick, Tampa Bay Rays, 2015 MLB Draft) and Kevin Smith (4th round, Toronto Blue Jays, 2017 MLB Draft), two of Maryland’s most decorated infielders in recent years.

Haines is an Elkton, Maryland, native and a Maryland alumnus, having graduated with a degree in kinesiology in 2011.

With the departure of Fecteau and Haines, new Maryland Head Coach Rob Vaughn now has two more spots to fill on the coaching staff.

Pro Terps Update: 6/20/17

Two former Terps have already signed with their pro teams after last week’s 2017 MLB Draft, while many minor league teams have hit the All-Star Break, with a few Maryland alumni involved.

One of those all stars is former Maryland 2B Brandon Lowe, who appeared in the Florida State League All-Star Game after a dominant first half with the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays). Through 51 games this season, Lowe has posted a league-best 1.063 OPS and .433 OBP while launching nine home runs. The 2015 draftee hasn’t played since June 5 due to injury, but he was activated off the disabled list Monday.

While Lowe is slowly trending towards the major leagues, LHP Brett Cecil is still the only Terp in the big leagues. After nine seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, Cecil signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason, but has struggled so far in the Cardinals bullpen. His 4.56 ERA and 1.48 WHIP over 25.2 innings caused him to lose his spot as the set-up man, but Cecil has started to pull it together lately. The lefty has held opponents scoreless in 12 of his last 13 appearances. He was also able to make a mid-season number change after the Cardinals designated SS Jhonny Peralta for assignment.

With Cecil being the only big-leaguer, LHP Adam Kolarek is at the highest level in the minor leagues among former Terps. Kolarek has thrown 30.1 innings for the Triple-A Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays) and has posted a minuscule 1.48 ERA. He is not on the Rays’ 40-man roster, but the team only has one lefty in the big leagues, so Kolarek could be getting the call-up some time this summer.

Kolarek is the most advanced prospect, but RHP Mike Shawaryn is the top-rated former Terp. Shawaryn is now the No. 11 ranked prospect in the Boston Red Sox system and was promoted to the Advanced-A Salem Red Sox in early June. In 13 starts this season, the righty has pitched to a 4.62 ERA and struck out 89 batters while walking only 18 over 64.1 innings. He has had seven starts with at least eight strikeouts. His lofty ERA is the result of early struggles with Salem and his first start of the season with the Class-A Greenville Drive, when he gave up nine earned runs over two innings.

Another high-rising Terp is OF LaMonte Wade, who is with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts (Minnesota Twins). In 64 games this season, Wade is slashing .276/.413/.379 with four home runs and was named to Southern League All-Star Team. His outfield defense continues to improve and the left-handed hitter is actually hitting lefties better so far this season, which bodes well for a potential call-up.

LHP Alex Robinson, who is also in the Twins organization, has had success as well this season with the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels. Robinson has posted a 3.60 ERA and struck out 38 batters over 30 innings this season, while he continues to pump the fastball close to 100 mph.

Three other former Maryland lefties are also trying to climb their way through the minor leagues. LHP Jake Drossner (Milwaukee Brewers), who made one appearance for the High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattler and allowed one run over four innings back in April, has been assigned to the Rookie Helena Brewers, who start their season this week. LHP Zach Morris (Philadelphia Phillies) and LHP Jimmy Reed (St. Louis Cardinals) were both released by their organizations earlier this season.

Like Drossner, RHP Kevin Mooney (Washington Nationals) starts his season this week for the Short Season-A Auburn Doubledays. Mooney, who allowed opposing batters to hit only .209 off him last season, should start this year as the Doubledays’ closer, the same spot he held in the Maryland bullpen back in 2015.

RHP Jake Stinnett (Chicago Cubs) has not yet appeared in a game this season for the Single-A Tennessee Smokies as he rehabs an injury. However, the righty did make it into the Cubs’ Top-30 prospects list at the beginning of the season.

As far as 2017 draft picks go, RHP Ryan Selmer (New York Mets) and SS Kevin Smith (Toronto Blue Jays) are the only two Terps to have already signed their professional contracts. Meanwhile, RHP Jared Price (Miami Marlins) has not signed yet, but should start his pro career soon as the redshirt senior can not come back for another year at Maryland.

Rob Vaughn named eighth head coach in Maryland history

Rob Vaughn will take over as Maryland baseball’s head coach, the team announced Thursday. Vaughn, 29, has been on the Maryland coaching staff since 2012 and will replace John Szefc, who left the program June 9 to take a head coaching job at Virginia Tech. 

Rob Vaughn has been named Maryland head coach. He replaces John Szefc, who left June 9 to take the same position at Virginia Tech. (Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

“I’m thrilled to be able to continue what we started under coach Szefc the last couple years,” Vaughn said Thursday. “Maryland’s a special place… built around really good people and doing things the right way. That’s something that we’ve done over the last five years and something we’re going to continue to do.”

Vaughn, who was promoted to associate head coach last year, has spent most of his time in College Park as the Terps’ hitting coach. He has been instrumental in the program’s recent success, building an offensive unit that he calls “The Pack.” In The Pack, each player has a different role: run, drive in runs, or execute, or a combination of the three. This philosophy has proven successful; since Vaughn took over, the Terps have made three NCAA Tournaments, two super regionals and set a program record 42 wins in 2015.

Under his tutelage, Maryland has thrived offensively, eclipsing 300 runs in all but one year since 2013 and hitting at least 50 homers twice, in 2015 and 2017. Vaughn has helped the Terps utilize their speed on the basepaths as well. In his five years on staff, Maryland has finished second in the conference in stolen bases three times, including this season with 101 steals.

Vaughn has mentored several successful Terps’ hitters, including Brandon Lowe and Kevin Smith, two top-five round picks in the 2015 and 2017 MLB Drafts, respectively, who put up impressive numbers in their time at Maryland.

He inherits a coaching staff without pitching coach Ryan Fecteau and assistant Corey Haines, who both accompanied Szefc to Blacksburg. It is the second time in as many years that Maryland will conduct a search for a new pitching coach, but Vaughn isn’t worried, saying that he was determined to find coaches that share his vision for the program, even if it takes time to finalize the staff.

He also emphasized that he expects returning players to step into a larger role in the coming season.

“I want this to be a player-led team, not a coach-led team,” Vaughn said. “When you have guys like [Justin Morris] and [Zach Jancarski] and [AJ Lee], they know what’s expected and those are the guys that will take over.”

The Humble, Texas, native made it clear, however, that each player will have to work to earn their role on the team, and no preferential treatment will be given to veterans such as Morris, Jancarski or senior right-hander Taylor Bloom.

“This team is coming off a successful five-year stint, I don’t think anybody would argue that,” Vaughn said. “My biggest thing for [the team] to understand is the group assembled in the fall of 2017 hasn’t earned anything yet. That’s something we’ve been really good at is that there hasn’t been any complacency in this program; whether its in the classroom, whether its on the field, you get what you deserve.”

In addition to serving as the hitting coach and associate head coach, Vaughn has spearheaded Maryland’s recruiting efforts while on staff. In 2015, D1Baseball ranked the Terps’ recruiting class as the 17th best in the nation, the highest mark in program history. He has helped bring in players such as Marty Costes and Tyler Blohm, who received Freshman All-American honors in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

A native of Humble, Texas, Vaughn played four years at Kansas State, helping lead the Wildcats to their first ever NCAA Tournament berth, before being drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 30th round of the MLB Draft in 2009. He spent parts of two seasons in the White Sox organization before returning to Kansas State in 2010 as an assistant coach, where he worked on a coaching staff with Szefc. Vaughn came to College Park in 2012 shortly after Szefc was hired as head coach.