Head Coach Rob Vaughn signs five-year contract extension

Tuesday morning, Maryland Baseball Head Coach Rob Vaughn agreed to a contract extension that keeps him at Maryland through June 2026, per an announcement from University of Maryland Director of Athletics Damon Evans.

Vaughn’s extension follows the season in which he led his team to a pair of postseason victories and to the NCAA Greenville Regional Final against East Carolina. Although the Terps fell short in the tournament, the 2021 season certainly made for a memorable one on Vaughn’s coaching resume.

Maryland’s .636 winning percentage within the Big Ten conference marked a program-high since the Terps joined the Big Ten in 2015, and it was the program’s highest conference winning percentage since the team hit the .700 mark in 1981.

The outstanding regular season — despite only playing against the Big Ten due to a COVID-affected schedule — was also highlighted by a more outstanding second half. Vaughn’s squad went 18-4 in the team’s final 22 games, which was the best record in that span among all Power Five schools.

Overall, the Terps finished second in the Big Ten in 2021 behind Vaughn’s coaching — the team’s best finish since joining the conference.

Since Vaughn become the head coach in 2018, he’s led the Terps to a 93-82 record (.532 win percentage, and he’s helped six Maryland products get drafted into professional baseball. The two most-recent draftees were RHP Sean Burke and SS Benjamin Cowles, both of whom were selected in the first 10 rounds of the 2021 MLB Draft.

Before becoming head coach, Vaughn had long been a member of the Maryland coaching staff as an assistant coach (2013-2014), assistant head coach (2015-2016), and associate head coach (2017). During his time on the staff, he oversaw Terps squads that won NCAA Regionals in back-to-back years (2014-2015) while also setting school records for wins with 40 and 42, respectively.

In the nine years that Vaughn has been a coach at Maryland, the program has accumulated a 273-204 record (.572 win percentage) with eight of those seasons setting a .500 mark or better.

With Vaughn coming back for five more seasons, Maryland Baseball is in great hands as it looks to run back its tremendous success from 2021.

Seattle Mariners sign Randy Bednar as an undrafted free agent

A day after the 2021 MLB Draft concluded, the Seattle Mariners signed Randy Bednar as an undrafted free agent. Bednar is the third Maryland alum expected to play professional ball after this year’s draft, joining Sean Burke (Chicago White Sox) and Benjamin Cowles (New York Yankees).

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When Bednar was a freshman in 2018, he was immediately thrown into the fray, starting in 38 of 54 games. While he didn’t come out of the gates crushing the ball as a freshman (.208/.272/.376), he quickly made the adjustments he needed, posting a .893+ OPS in the following three seasons as he became a cornerstone in the Terps outfield.

Bednar never got much national attention let alone attention from the Big Ten conference while at Maryland until his latter two years. He was named a National College Baseball Writers Association Preseason Third Team All-American before the COVID-shortened 2020 season. A year later, he was given the honor of Perfect Game Preseason All-Big Ten.

Perhaps Bednar’s greatest contributions to the program while in College Park came in the Greenville Regional during the 2021 NCAA Baseball Tournament. While Maryland was unable to advance to the Super Regional round, Bednar helped propel Maryland from potentially being knocked out in two games to playing for a winner-take-all match with East Carolina. In the four Greenville Regional games, Bednar slashed .429/.526/.928 with two home runs, earning a spot on the 2021 Greenville Regional All-Tournament Team.

Maryland selected to NCAA Tournament for first time since 2017

For the first time since 2017, the Maryland Terrapins are dancing.

Following the conclusion of the 2021 regular season — a disappointing loss on Senior Day to Indiana — the Terps (28-16) were elated to find out they were named on Monday’s selection show as the No. 3 seed in the Greenville Region.

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To put the cherry on top, the Terps also climbed up in the D1 Baseball top-25, being ranked No. 24 to enter the week.

Maryland joins No. 12 East Carolina (41-15), Charlotte (39-19) and Norfolk St. (25-26) in the Greenville Region, and it will meet with the No. 2 seed Charlotte 49ers in game one Friday at 6:00 P.M..

Early in the 2021 season, Maryland had quite the mountain to climb to even be recognized in the Big Ten, but a strong second-half performance jettisoned the Terps to second place in the regular season standings. In its final 21 games, Maryland won 17 contests and won its last seven series.

With this being the program’s first tournament appearance since it was eliminated in regionals in 2017, there are huge expectations for this extremely hot team to carry its regular season momentum into the postseason as the road to Omaha begins.

Baseball is what Maxwell Costes does, it’s not who he is

A panic attack once turned into an anxiety attack at the same time for Maryland baseball star Maxwell Costes, and with several other factors the first baseman realized he needed to seek help.

“After, I would kind of sit there like I need some help or something because I can’t keep going on like this,” Costes said. “This gets to a point now where it’s affecting my play, it’s affecting me and my ability to just be a regular human being.”

The panic attack that turned into an anxiety attack occurred during a weekend series at Minnesota in the spring of 2019, Costes’ freshman season. Costes had so many different stresses going on in his life at the time and it all culminated with an attack on his mental health. He had trouble sleeping, trouble paying attention in school and trouble enjoying just doing anything. 

Costes was the 2019 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and an All-Big Ten First Team and All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection. The Baltimore native also earned Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball. He led Big Ten freshmen in slugging percentage (.547), RBI (49), home runs (15), doubles (15) and total bases (117). The slugger hit five home runs in the season’s final six games, including three in the Big Ten Tournament.

After the series against Minnesota where Costes dealt with some of his mental health struggles, he expressed to his head coach Rob Vaughn and his hitting coach Matt Swope what was occurring and also that he needed help with it.

“The spring of his freshman year is when it kind of came to light,” Vaughn said. “You look at him and you’re like ‘what are you talking about, you’re hitting .350 with 14 home runs, what do you mean you struggle with some of this?’ Having that conversation and seeing what internally he actually felt and bringing that to the surface was a major step.”

There is a clear stigma within sports that keeps many athletes hesitant from speaking out about their mental health.

“He’s not afraid to express how he feels, which in sports is just not something that is the norm,” Swope stated.

Vaughn and Swope have both been an incredible help to Costes’ improvement with his mental health struggles, in addition to the University of Maryland Athletic Department’s Clinical and Sport Psychology Services, which has been directed by Dr. Michelle Garvin since 2017.

“Dr. Garvin is literally the most wonderful human being in the world,” Costes expressed.

Garvin has really helped Costes learn what mental health is and she’s helped him find ways that work in coping with some of his struggles. In their weekly meetings together, Garvin has helped Costes realize that these struggles did not begin at that Minnesota series, but these are some things he dealt with in high school at the Gilman School.

“Now that I’ve really learned about mental health and the symptoms and effects of it, I realized I was dealing with this stuff all throughout high school,” Costes said. “I had really, really bad anxiety throughout high school, I didn’t deal with stress well and I was depressed. I am glad to say that I figured all this stuff out young, so now I know what to work on so when I get into my 30s and 40s this isn’t something that has been affecting me to the point where it affects my actual physical health.”

Vaughn and Swope, along with Maryland pitching coach Corey Muscara and assistant coach Anthony Papio, have instilled meditation and visualization into the Maryland baseball program. Every single day before hitting at practice, Swope has the players meditate for three minutes to clear their minds.

Swope brings this aspect of baseball to his team everyday because it helped him cope with some of the biggest tragedies during his life. His brother passed away when he was in high school, his sister died from cancer when she was in her 30s and his mother is currently battling cancer. Meditation is something that worked for Swope in getting through hard times, so he brings it for his players to try at practice.

“We talk about meditation and visualization all the time and I think the thing about our staff is that we’ve seen it work,” Vaughn said. “Coach Swope has dealt with a lot of stuff in his life, a lot of pain and emotional stuff. Meditation and visualization are so real to him because it has allowed him to address some of this stuff. Swope has been extremely diligent in saying, ‘if the head is not right, we don’t need to just dive in and start hitting and if the head is not right, nothing else is going to work right.’”

Looking up to Swope and having a great relationship with him has allowed Costes to adopt meditation as a major part of his mental health battle and his routine before games. 

“Right before we come out for infield-outfield warm ups, I always spend 10 to 15 minutes doing mindfulness meditation,” Costes said. “It’s not because I need to stop bad thoughts, it’s not so I stop feeling anxious and stop feeling nervous. It is more so to just recognize it, like ‘hey I feel like this right now, what do I need to do to be able to function the best.’” 

On top of the meditation that Costes does, he also turned to writing poetry as an avenue to help him mentally because it helps him get his thoughts out.

“I first started writing poetry because I had so many thoughts and things running through my head that I could never calm down,” Costes stated. “Sitting down and just writing my thoughts out is what turned into poetry.”  

Writing down his thoughts and feelings helped Costes form a journal that he writes in everyday, which he says started as a joke. Swope signs off on Costes’ journal before each practice or game and they joke that he is signing Costes’ permission slip to go hit. Over time, this became more serious and helpful for Costes’ mental health.

“I think it originally started with him knowing that it’s okay to express some of this stuff and it doesn’t take away from the fact that you could still be a really good athlete and do that,” Swope said.

Swope believes that sometimes you can go too far to the other side mentally and analyze the game of baseball and your performance too much. All of that works hand-in-hand with mental health. So, since the beginning of April, Costes has been jotting down his thoughts in his journal, which helps him express his thoughts and allows Swope to be connected to Costes’ mental health. 

“It’s just as important that he’s been able to start to express himself as a person, but making sure that he still has something that’s applicable to that day,” Swope said. “So I sign off on his journal before every game. He writes down what the starting pitcher is doing or what his plan is going to be and I had to start signing off on it because sometimes it was too cerebral. For his overall maturation and development as a person, I think it’s a lot bigger than just the game for sure.”

For Costes, sitting down with Swope and developing something that he could follow is what has helped him mentally.

“I’m not stepping into the batter’s box like ‘what’s going on?,’” Costes said. “I have a path to follow and sometimes it’s wrong, but at least I have something to base my at-bats on and something to guide me through my at-bats.”

Vaughn, Swope, Muscara, Papio and the rest of the Maryland baseball program are extremely approachable and welcoming in talking about mental health. As a coaching staff, they try to be super transparent and have specific conversations about mental health on a personal level. Costes has been lucky to have coaches believe in him and see what he is going through, which helps him open up more.

Costes and Vaughn have known each other beyond Costes’ time at Maryland because his older brother Marty Costes played at Maryland from 2016 to 2018. This allowed Vaughn and Maxwell to create a relationship early on and Vaughn has raved about him ever since.

“He is an extremely intelligent young man,” Vaughn said. “The dude could have gone to play at the Ivy League schools if he wanted to. Maxwell was very outspoken and very passionate about a lot of what we’re seeing today, before it was a new thing and before Black Lives Matter had the slogan. When he was a freshman I told him, ‘you’re going to change the world and it’s going to have nothing to do with baseball.’ I hope he plays baseball as a profession, but he’s so passionate about more.”

One of Vaughn’s messages to Costes during the early parts of his freshman year has allowed him to be more comfortable with himself as a person and open up more about his mental health struggles.

“Baseball was clearly what he does, not who he is,” Vaughn said. “He didn’t necessarily know that and we helped him grow into learning that and actually being able to appreciate that, so when he does start losing himself on the baseball field he can come back to it. But, he’s always been an incredible human being. He has serious depth to him and he cares about people. You can’t say enough about Maxwell, he’s an incredible person.”

Pro Terps Update: 2020 Opening Day edition

Opening Day for the abbreviated 2020 MLB season has finally arrived, and several former Terps find themselves on 30-man rosters in what can only be described as a 60-game sprint to the postseason.

Those in the majors may be the only ones seeing any professional baseball action over the pandemic-filled summer, as the 2020 Minor League Baseball season was canceled on June 30. Some independent leagues are currently active, but a majority of the group of former Terps that were in those leagues are sitting the season out.

Here is a list of the pro Terps that begin the shortened season on their teams’ 30-man and taxi squad rosters:

LHP Adam Kolarek, Los Angeles Dodgers

Many fans and analysts alike have speculated that Adam Kolarek’s role as a Left-Handed One Out Guy (LOOGY) would be diminished with the league’s new three-batter minimum rule for relief pitchers, but Kolarek still stands out as one of L.A.’s best bullpen arms.

Kolarek was one of the 11 relief pitchers to be added to the Dodgers’ 30-man roster, and he earned the win for L.A. in MLB’s Opening Night on Thursday as he recorded five outs with just 14 pitches against the San Francisco Giants

2B Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays

The versatile Brandon Lowe looks to follow up his all-star 2019 season as a core piece for the contending Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have a crowded, talented infield featuring Yandy Diaz, Joey Wendle, Willy Adames, and the newest Japanese import Yoshi Tsutsugo, so Lowe may have to settle into more of a utility role while occasionally starting in the outfield.

Regardless of where Lowe finds his playing time, he’ll continue to play a big part in the Rays quest to the postseason in 2020.

OF LaMonte Wade Jr., Minnesota Twins

LaMonte Wade Jr. made it onto the Twins 30-man roster as one of the final outfield additions to the club, and the former Terp will look to build upon a solid rookie season with a stronger sophomore year, especially after putting together a decent Spring Training. Although it was four long months ago, Wade Jr. slashed .286/.423/.381 through 11 games, striking out only four times in 26 plate appearances.

Wade Jr. may struggle to have outfield starts over the likes of Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler, but his on-base proficiency provides a great tool for the Twins off the bench.

RHP Mike Shawaryn, Boston Red Sox

Mike Shawaryn did not make the cut for Boston’s 30-man roster, but he has been included in their taxi squad playing in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In a simulated game Thursday, Shawaryn threw 2 1/3 innings, securing a hold and striking out four batters.

With Boston losing many of its notable relief arms over recent years, Shawaryn could find his way into the bullpen if he continues throwing the ball well in Pawtucket.

 

INF Kevin Smith, Toronto (Buffalo) Blue Jays

Kevin Smith missed the mark to make it on the Blue Jays’ 30-man roster and will start the 2020 season playing with the Toronto taxi squad.

After having a tremendous 2018 where he slashed .302/.358/.528 across two minor league levels, Smith has struggled to find his footing ever since. In Spring Training earlier this year his on-base percentage-plus slugging was .503.

Smith, along with other Blue Jays on the taxi squad, may have to wait before having intrasquad workouts and games due to the home stadium snafu that Toronto is caught in. Today the team announced it will be playing the majority of its season at their Triple-A affiliate’s stadium in Buffalo, New York, where the taxi squad was originally supposed to play.

Outlook: Coach Vaughn on the pandemic and the future of college baseball

On Wednesday, March 12, within minutes of each other, the NCAA and the Big Ten ended the season for all spring sports, including baseball, due to concerns over the impact of the mounting COVID-19 pandemic.

Head coach Rob Vaughn and the Maryland baseball team left College Park early Wednesday, beginning their journey to Dallas, Texas, ahead of their biggest regular season contest: a weekend series against TCU.

But rather than shuttle the team to practice after the plane landed, Vaughn and his fellow coaches had to gather the group in a hotel conference room and discuss the news that their 2020 season was over before conference play had even started.

In that moment, and now, months later, Vaughn’s message to his team was simple, real and authentic.

“It happened so fast,” Vaughn said. “There are no words. Sometimes I feel like words get int the way in situations like that.”

Vaughn has since told his team not to be “superheroes” and to follow the state-by-state guidelines, listening to health officials. He’s also pushed his players to use their time without baseball to work on themselves and focus on academics.

“Don’t use this to stress about the baseball stuff,” Vaughn said, “use this to better yourself as a person in some way, shape, or form.”

Over two months later, the Terps have been adjusting to a different way of staying connected. Early-on, once the team had all returned home or to their apartments in College Park, the Terps tried an all-team Zoom session, experimenting with different ways to remain in touch and maintain the group’s bonds.

“The reality is, when you get 50 people on a Zoom call it’s a zoo,” Vaughn said. “Nobody’s paying attention, like your eyes just glaze over.”

After that initial video chat, Vaughn and the other coaches have changed their approach. Rather than risk getting “zoomed out,” as Vaughn put it, they’re meeting in smaller, targeted groups based more on personal interests. Shortstop Ben Cowles has been talking with assistant coach Matt Swope about his hitting, while pitcher Sean Burke and pitching coach Corey Muscara are working on Burke’s breaking ball, all via video chat.

More recently Vaughn heard from senior pitchers Tyler Blohm, Elliot Zoellner and Zach Thompson, all of whom will be returning for their final year of eligibility in 2021, a result of the NCAA Division I Council’s ruling that spring sport seniors would receive an extra year of eligibility.

While there remain many unanswered questions, including topics like roster management and how eligibility will be funded, Vaughn is happy to have three veteran arms back on the mound for what he believes will be an exciting season, in part as a result of MLB’s five-round draft.

“You’re going to see the most loaded college baseball around the country that you’ve ever seen,” Vaughn said. “I think across the landscape you’re going to have more high school kids get to [college] and more juniors staying in school…I think the landscape of college baseball one year doing [a five-round draft] is going to drastically change from here on out.”

For Maryland specifically, Vaughn is sticking to his mantra of treating each day as the most important, not making any one day, game or practice more special than the rest.

“It’s just more a sustained thing,” Vaughn said. “It’s great we have returning guys, but can we behave like winners and make decisions like winners for 60 days in a row. It’s not east to do but that’s going to be out biggest challenge [next year] and I’m excited.”

Like so many, Vaughn is taking it day-by-day, valuing the time he’s able to spend with his family and the interactions he’s having with his athletes, even if it is through a screen.

“I’m excited,” Vaughn said. “I don’t even care about the 2021 season, I’m just excited to get back out and take batting practice…try to strike out guys out every day. That’s what I want to do.”

Cool and collected, Burke proves perfect Sunday starter for Terps

Whenever redshirt-freshman Sean Burke takes the mound, Maryland first baseman Maxwell Costes knows the Terps are going to win. And, in fact, Maryland has won all but one of Burke’s four starts so far this season.

“Burke is a baller,” Costes said after the Terps’ 13-3 sweep-clinching win over Bryant Sunday. “Even last week against Coastal Carolina, even though we lost on Sunday, I was like, ‘We about to get us one today.’ Like, whenever he steps on the mound…the whole vibe of the team feels different.”

Burke_RI_front_SUNAfter missing last season while recovering from injury, Burke has proven to be the most dominant arm of Maryland’s pitching staff. With a team-best 1.99 ERA and 35 strikeouts–the most strikeouts by a freshman pitcher in Division I baseball, and the fourth-most strikeouts overall in the Big Ten–Burke’s composure on the mound has shone through even when Maryland’s offense is struggling. 

Against Coastal Carolina, Burke tossed six innings and set Maryland up for a potential comeback, allowing only two runs on three hits and three walks. Behind Burke, the Terps had a chance to prevent a sweep, after the Chanticleers defeated Maryland 16-0 and 10-3 on Friday and Saturday, respectively. 

Though Coastal Carolina ultimately defeated Maryland 3-2, Burke’s performance has time and again proven that he has what it takes to dominate Division I hitters. 

In his four starts Burke has lasted a minimum of five innings per start and struck out a minimum of eight batters. Against Bryant on Sunday, Burke matched his longest start of the season–his six innings against Coastal Carolina–while striking out a season-high 11 batters and allowing a season-low two walks. 

“His composure throughout the game was incredibly impressive,” head coach Rob Vaughn said of Burke’s start on Sunday. “We were dropping fly balls behind him, causing him to throw extra pitches, and they were taking some decent swings, and he didn’t flinch.”

A perfect example of Burke’s composure is his first inning against Bryant. The Bulldogs put their first three batters on base, after a missed fly ball that was later ruled an error, a single, and a double that scored Bryant’s first run of the game. With that, Burke and the Terps were behind 1-0 with no outs and runners on the corners.

But after a quick mound visit from pitching coach Corey Muscara, Burke struck out three consecutive batters to strand those two baserunners, including a three-pitch strikeout to end the half. 

“[Muscara] said that if I could just limit [Bryant] to one more run and get us out [and into the dugout, it’s like 2-0, then out lineup’s going to hit,” Burke said regarding Muscara’s mound visit. “Fortunately I was able to strike out the side there, and then our team’s bats just took care of the rest.”

Coincidentally, it was a start against Bryant two years ago that turned around former Maryland pitcher Hunter Parsons’ junior season and in part resulted in his development into the Terps’ ace. 

While Parsons and Burke are different when it comes to the pitches they toss–Parsons tossed a two-seam cutter more and Burke throws a four-seam curveball–their mindset on the mound is similar, according to catcher Justin Vought. Burke_RI_SUN

“[Burke has] arguably the best stuff on the team,” Vought said. “To have him on Sunday’s, or out there against anybody that we play, we’re extremely confident going out there on Sunday’s with him on the mound. I think you’re going to put him with any Sunday starter in the country and you’re going to give yourself a chance to win, so that’s huge for us.”

A big part of Burke’s success, aside from his obvious pitching ability, is that mentality on the mound. It seems that Burke subscribes to Vaughn’s motto that “everything matters, nothing is special,” meaning that players shouldn’t put their play in-game on a pedestal, because it’s just as important as practice. 

“In the past, and kind of in this preseason, when I struggled a little bit I was trying to do too much and trying to make things way bigger than they were,” Burke said. “Now just having a real simple pinch plan and making adjustments along the way…just overall being real simple and keeping everything to one pitch.” 

Heading into the remainder of the season, Burke’s Sunday starts could play a major role in deciding whether or not the Terps make the Big Ten Tournament for the second year in a row. But at his current pace, Burke’s performance should be the last thing Maryland worries about. 

“When you’ve got a guy like him who, he’s going to hopefully give up [fewer] than three, four runs, give your offense a chance to come through late in the game…that’s huge,” said Vought. “That’s all you want.”

Confidence, chemistry key in successful start to season for Terps

In their best start to a season since 2015, the Maryland Terrapin’s heads were held high after winning a closely-contested Sunday matinee versus the Rhode Island Rams.

While that 2015 squad was the last to make the NCAA tournament super regionals, the prospect of the Terps fully replicating that season doesn’t have head coach Rob Vaughn chomping at the bit.

“It’s so early,” said the third-year head coach las week, after a perfect 3-0 road trip to begin the season. “We sit here this weekend and we have a good weekend, the boys are on top of the world, they feel good, but you and I both know that this game can flip at the drop of a hat.”

Not one to jump to conclusions, Vaughn still saw the first weekend of the year as an early barometer for the remainder of the season, and Maryland outscoring opponents 23-6 in this three games, along with three stellar performances from the starting arms, certainly makes that barometer spike.

Before Maryland’s home opener versus Rhode Island this past weekend, Vaughn preached the importance of confidence to his team.

“He often says, ‘Do the right thing, it’ll pay you back,'” said senior pitcher Elliot Zoellner. “So we’re just trying to continue with that and head in with confidence into the weekend.”

Zoellner pitched once in the season-opening road trip a week ago, a perfect sixth inning to keep Charleston at bay, and this Sunday notched the final out in the top of the sixth to keep Rhode Island out of the run column.

While confidence has proven a vital tool for the young Maryland team in these first two weekends, this season’s squad has the most chemistry of any team in the past four years, according to Zoellner.

“We’ve bonded really well, the freshman class is great, all the transfers fit in really well,” said Zoellner. “The coaches have put together a really good culture over the past couple of years, and it’s great to be a part of.”

That sentiment of a strong team bond is felt by players across the board, including freshman Tucker Flint, who played a crucial role — hitting for a .545 average — in the Terps’ first three victories. Flint explained that the team’s chemistry has enabled some of the conficence Maryland has shown of late.

“I think everyone seems to know their role really well,” said Flint following opening weekend. “I think confidence-wise, having a great first weekend helps a lot. Going 3-0, it’s huge, and it makes us believe we can beat anybody going forward.”

While the Terps went only 2-1 in their second weekend — the loss being a near-comeback 11-8 slugfest — having a high level of confidence is crucial for such a young Maryland squad.

Sean Burke, a redshirt freshman who missed the 2019 season recovering from an injury, is an example of the innate power of confidence. The righty threw his second gem in as many starts Sunday versus Rhode Island, striking out eight batters over 5 1/3 scoreless innings en route to Maryland’s 3-0 victory.

“I’ve only been here for this year and last year, but I think this year our team obviously is very close,” Burke said last Wednesday. “We get along with each other really well off the field so I think that translates well on the field with us trusting each other and being confident in each other…I think everybody’s pretty confident.”

Maryland’s confidence will be put to the test on Tuesday, as the Terps play host to the George Mason Patriots in their first midweek matchup of the season. Last season Maryland went 9-4 in midweek matchups, a result the team hopes its confidence and chemistry — and abilities on both sides of the ball — will better this year.

Preseason Countdown No. 3: Top 5 Series for 2020

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As they have the past few years, Maryland baseball faces national blue-blood programs on the road early in the season and will have to get past some of the Big Ten’s elite in order to reach the conference tournament.

Here are the Terps’ top five series of the 2020 season. 


@ Coastal Carolina, February 28-March 1

After opening the season in South Carolina on February 14, the Terps head back to the Palmetto State at the end of the month to face off with the Chanticleers. It’s the third straight year Maryland will face Coastal, losing 7-2 in one game last year, and beating the Chants 7-6 in 2018.

Coastal’s offense, which finished last season fifth in the country with 525 runs,  will be led by outfielder Parker Chavers. Baseball America named the junior a second-team preseason All-American coming off last season, when he batted .316 with 15 home runs.

Control will be key for the Terps’ pitching staff, as Coastal finished 11th in the nation last season with 350 walks, drawing eight in their matchup with Maryland. Coastal can also make free bases hurt, as they stole 79 bases on 93 attempts in 2019 (opponents were 78-95 against the Terps last season). The Chanticleers serve as a useful early-season measuring stick, as the first of five NCAA tournament teams the Terps will face this year. 

@ TCU, March 13-15

The Terps play five straight home games after their trip to Conway, South Carolina, before they head to Fort Worth, Texas to take on the new-look Horned Frogs. Coming off an NCAA tournament berth, the Horned Frogs lost their ace, Nick Lodolo, and their top three hitters to the MLB draft last year.

Despite the roster turnover TCU has plenty of talent, with top-15 recruiting classes in three of the last four seasons. Pitcher Charles King will be looking to step into the ace role left behind by Lodolo, coming off a junior season where he had a 3.36 ERA in 21 appearances, including eight starts. The Horned Frogs’ bullpen should be anchored by junior Augie Mihlbauer, who led the team with a 2.35 ERA in 28 relief appearances last season.

On offense, TCU returns only four players who appeared in more than 40 games, though those four players include reigning RBI leader, infielder Austin Henry, who hit .288 with 43 RBI and started all 62 games last season. Like the Terps, TCU will lean heavily on a young, yet talented roster, with impending learning curves making it difficult to project where the two teams will be when they meet.

@ Iowa, April 17-19

Entering the last series of 2019, Maryland needed to sweep Iowa to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament. The Terps secured that sweep, battering the Hawkeyes’ pitching staff to the tune of 26 runs in three games in College Park.

This year Iowa’s pitching staff, led by senior Grant Judkins, will look to quiet Maryland’s offense in Iowa City. Judkins was the team’s most reliable starter last season, with a 2.72 ERA in 15 starts, punching out 65 hitters while allowing just 70 hits in 82 2/3 innings.

The pitching staff will also be bolstered by the return of redshirt sophomore Jack Dreyer, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury. When healthy, Dreyer looked sharp, striking out 11 and allowing just 2 runs in 7 1/3 innings over two starts.

The Iowa offense maintains most of its biggest weapons, with the team’s three batting leaders, Izaya Fullard, Zeb Adreon, and Austin Martin, all returning. Outfielder Ben Norman, the only player to start all 55 of Iowa’s games, also returns, coming off a season where he led the team with 12 doubles and 34 RBI along with six home runs, the second-most on the team.

Picked by Baseball America to finish fifth and sixth respectively in the Big Ten, both Iowa and Maryland should be looking to this series as a key time to pick up quality conference wins. 

@ Ohio State, May 8-10

This season the Terps drew a favorable conference schedule, avoiding the defending regular-season champion Indiana and national runner-up Michigan. Maryland will, however, have to face the defending Big Ten Tournament champs when they travel to Columbus.

The Buckeyes lost their tournament hero and closer Andrew Magno to the draft, but did retain their entire weekend rotation of Seth Lonsway, Garrett Burhenn and Griffan Smith. Lonsway was the Buckeyes’ most dominant pitcher the Buckeyes, punching out 126 batters in 92 1/3 innings and recording a 3.70 ERA.

On offense, the two biggest losses for the Buckeyes were Dominic Canzone and Brady Cherry, who had 16 homers apiece last year. The lineup still returns three 30-RBI players in Conner Pohl, Brent Todys and Zach Dezenzo, but the thump-and-fear factor provided by Canzone and Cherry will be difficult to replace.

Ohio State is also perhaps the most vulnerable of the Big Ten’s elite. While they found their stride in the postseason, the Buckeyes also were swept at home by Northwestern (by a combined score of 30-11), and went only 12-12 in conference play. 

vs. Minnesota, May 14-16

For the second year in a row, the Terps finish the regular season at home, this time with a three-game set against the Golden Gophers. Minnesota finished tied for third in the Big Ten last season, with a 15-9 conference record, and took two-of-three from Maryland in Minneapolis last year.

While the Gophers look to be near the top of the Big Ten again, they have a lineup that can be pitched around; the most dangerous hitter in the lineup, infielder Jordan Kozicky, had 11 home runs and 49 RBI last season but hit only .237 and struck out 62 times. Kozicky was the only player with more than 30 RBI and no qualified player hit over .300.

On the mound Minnesota will be led by ace Max Meyer. The now-junior led all Big Ten starters with a 2.11 ERA, had an 87-20 K/BB ratio and held opponents to a .202 batting average in 76 2/3 innings last season. Junior Joshua Culliver also figures to be a key part of the Minnesota pitching staff. Culliver led the team with 13 starts last season, and his ability to bring his ERA down from last season’s mark of 4.64 will be a key factor in Minnesota’s success.

After last year’s dramatic end to the season, the Terps know their series against the Golden Gophers could be the key to their postseason hopes and the deciding fate in their season.