Terrapins RHP Brian Shaffer was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, LHP Tyler Blohm was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, OF Marty Costes was named First Team All-B1G, and 3B AJ Lee was named Third Team All-B1G, the conference announced Tuesday.
Shaffer, who finished the regular season with a 7-3 record and a conference-best 1.67 ERA (ranked sixth nationally), is the first Maryland player to earn Big Ten Player of the Year honors. The Pylesville, Md., native—who was named to the Midseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List earlier this season—also led the conference in innings-pitched (97.0), WHIP (0.91), was second in strikeouts (98), and was third in opponents’ batting average (.206).
In 10 of his last 11 starts—including seven of eight in Big Ten play—Shaffer has eclipsed seven innings-pitched while allowing three or fewer earned runs. Over his last three starts—two in Big Ten action—Shaffer is 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA and has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 23:2 over 24.0 innings.
Shaffer was also named First Team All-B1G.
Blohm is the first Maryland player to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The southpaw led the conference in victories (8), as well as having the most wins of any freshman in the nation. The Severna Park, Md., native was a mainstay in the Terps’ weekend rotation for the entire season, earning the Sunday starting role during the first weekend of the season, and moving to the Saturday starting role after two weeks of Big Ten play.
Blohm finished 8-6 with a 3.46 ERA, striking out 57 and walking 28 in 67.2 innings-pitched. His opponents’ batting average of .228 ranked sixth in the conference and was best among freshman. He tied for 12th in the conference in strikeouts (57), a mark that was also best among freshman.
Blohm was also a unanimous selection to the All-B1G Freshman team.
Costes has started and played in every game Maryland has played this season, making 50 starts in right field and three starts in center field, and starting all 53 regular season games as the No. 3 hitter in the lineup. The Baltimore native finished the season eighth in the Big Ten in batting average (.336) and fifth in hits (71). The right-handed slugger also led the team in RBIs (39) for the second straights season. in addition to leading the team in RBIs (39) for the second consecutive season. Costes also hit nine home runs—good for second on the team and tied for ninth in the conference.
Costes is the first Maryland player to be named First Team All-B1G since RHP Mike Shawaryn (unanimous) and 2B Brandon Lowe were First Team All Big Ten selections in 2015.
Lee enjoyed a breakout season that saw him finish third on the team in batting average (.323), home runs (7) and RBIs (31). He also tied-for second on the team in stolen bases, with 14 in 17 attempts. In Big Ten play, Lee was sixth in average (.366) over 24 conference games. The Washington, D.C., native’s success was catalyzed by his torrid month of April, when he slashed .400/.471/.650 with four home runs, three doubles, 11 runs scored, 12 RBIs and five stolen bases. He carries an 11-game hitting streak—which includes five multi-hit games—into this week’s Big Ten Tournament.
Lee is the first Maryland player to be named Third Team All-B1G since 2B Nick Dunn, RHP Brian Shaffer, and RHP Taylor Bloom were named All-Big Ten Third Team in 2016 and C Kevin Martir was named All Big Ten Third Team in 2015.
OF Zach Jancarski was named Maryland’s Sportsmanship Award recipient.
Tayler Stiles, Taylor Bloom and Ryan Selmer. These three pitchers are integral pieces on a Maryland pitching staff that has helped the Terrapins to a 34-19 record this season.
But this trio is bound by more than the fact that they pitch for Maryland. All three hurlers were all coached, at some point, by Matthew Selmer, Ryan’s father. The elder Selmer, who is currently the head coach at Indian Creek High School, specializes in pitching mechanics, and began working with each of the three current Terps at different stages of their playing careers.
Senior left-hander Tayler Stiles joined Matthew Selmer’s 12U Kingston Royals team and was immediately the best power hitter and power pitcher on the team, according to Matthew Selmer.
“The coaching staff knew [Stiles] would make it to college ball without a doubt, but the question was whether he would make it because of the bat or the arm,” Matthew Selmer said. “As I started working with him, it became evident his arm would carry him.”
Stiles only played under Matthew Selmer through 16U, but he still seeks his former coach out for workouts and lessons every offseason, and the two still speak regularly to talk pitching.
“I can always look to him and ask for advice if I am struggling,” Stiles said. “He has basically taught me everything I know as far as the foundation of my mechanics and I probably would not be where I am without him.”
Stiles and Matthew Selmer worked on more than just pitching mechanics. The southpaw had a “bit of an attitude problem” when he first started playing for the Kingston Royals, which the coach addressed immediately.
“Stiles was always a fiery competitor and he hated it when things didn’t go his way,” his coach said. “I am one of those old-school guys when it comes to the discipline side. Whenever he pushed my buttons, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull him out of the games, but he responded well, learned how to control himself and is a better all-around baseball player for it.”
Taylor Bloom first started working with Matthew Selmer when he began his career at Riverdale Baptist High School, where Selmer was a coach. The right-hander was already “polished” because of his previous work with pitching instructors, according to Selmer, but still had room to improve.
“I videotaped Bloom’s delivery when we started working together to address some things he could clean up, but he was always a very mechanically sound pitcher,” he said. “Having him at Riverdale Baptist was a pleasure because we knew we could give him the ball and he’d get the job done.”
Bloom posted an 8-1 record with 86 strikeouts and a 0.89 ERA as a senior at Riverdale Baptist. He started in the bullpen when he got to Maryland before carving out a role as the team’s main Saturday starter in 2016, leading the team in ERA and walks per nine innings.
“I owe a lot of what I have been able to do [at Maryland] to Coach [Selmer],” Bloom said. “He has been with me every step of the way since high school, through years of summer ball, and now he’s still just a text or phone call away if I need help.”
After a breakout 2016, Bloom has struggled during parts of the 2017 season. The junior right-hander went through a slump at the end of March into early April, and Matthew Selmer was in touch with him to help guide him through it.
“I typically try to stay in the background during the season because these players have their own pitching coaches on their teams, but I couldn’t help it during Bloom’s recent struggles,” Matthew Selmer said. “I watched his game tape from his start against Nebraska for hours and reached out to him with some tips.”
Matthew Selmer maintains a close relationship with the players he has coached, but none closer than his relationship with his son Ryan.
Ryan’s older brother, Matthew Jr., was always “the more talented one,” according to their father. While Matthew Jr. was the star shortstop and pitcher, Ryan was essentially a utility player, filling in wherever he was needed.
The elder Selmer never prioritized Ryan over other players, saying that “he had to work for everything he earned.” Because of this Ryan Selmer took nothing for granted on the field and embraced his father’s tough love.
“Being the coach’s son was never easy,” Ryan Selmer said, “but I am grateful for everything he has done for me. Sometimes you see coaches just play their sons because they’re their sons, but he made me work for everything. I can’t tell you how many times he benched me, but I am a lot better for it.”
He was “slow and uncoordinated,” according to his father, but things quickly changed when he hit his growth spurt. He was a late bloomer and sprang up to 6-foot-8 during his high school years at Riverdale Baptist, eventually earning his spot on the mound.
“It was fun to watch Ryan develop from a father’s perspective and a coach’s perspective,” Matthew Selmer said. “He didn’t really have any schools after him until a scout came to watch someone else from that Riverdale team and said ‘why is there a 6-foot-8 pitcher throwing 90 [mph] that I didn’t know about?’ From that point, he ended up at Maryland and I couldn’t be more proud of the player he has become.”
What the elder Selmer praises most about his son, however, isn’t what he does on the mound. Ryan has the ability to be light-hearted and brighten the mood around the dugout while still being able to flip the switch when it is time to compete.
“Ryan never had an issue having fun in the dugout, but sometimes he got a little carried away,” Matthew Selmer said. “He eventually found that balance and it has been a joy to see his evolution as a teammate. I believe every dugout needs a Ryan Selmer or two to help maintain a positive attitude.”
Bloom, Stiles and Ryan Selmer have been fixtures on the Maryland pitching staff over the last three seasons. Ryan Selmer has been the team’s most reliable reliever, leading the team with seven saves this season. Bloom has been a staple in the weekend rotation for the past two years, pitching to a 3.34 ERA in 177.2 innings. Stiles has been able to fill in any role necessary, making appearances out of the bullpen and filling in as a spot starter. Matthew Selmer has enjoyed every bit of it.
“Sometimes people think it is the pitchers who are lucky to have knowledgeable pitching instructors, but it is the pitching instructors – like myself – who are lucky to come across talent,” he said. “I lucked into coaching three very talented pitchers, and it is great to see them all having success on the field as teammates at Maryland.”
The view from the mound is a little bit better than the view from the batter’s box, according to junior Jamal Wade.
Wade, an outfielder-turned-reliever, has emerged as one of the Terrapins’ more effective—and surprising—arms out of the bullpen. In just 16.1 innings, the right-hander has struck out 27 batters and walked twelve. His .203 opponent’s batting average is third-best on the team among pitchers with 15 or more innings-pitched.
Currently, Wade is striking out 14.9 batters per nine innings, a mark that would be second in the nation if he had enough innings to qualify.
His first career appearance as a college pitcher came against then-No. 5 LSU at Alex Box Stadium on February 25. It was mop-up duty, with the Terps already trailing 12-0. He entered the ballgame with two runners on base and nobody out, with 10,608 fans clad in purple and gold cheering against him—a daunting situation for a debut.
“Usually when hitting, I’m never nervous—I don’t think I’ve ever been nervous hitting or in the outfield,” Wade said after the appearance. “I was fine the whole time warming up, and then when I got out there, I was like ‘wow, this is for happening for real.'”
His first career pitch was a ball. The second pitch induced a 6-4-3 double play. Then, after allowing a single that scored a run (charged to freshman right-hander Elliot Zoellner), Wade closed out the inning with a flyout. In the next frame, he retired the side in order, recording his first two career strikeouts in the process.
“Until this fall, I never thought I’d be pitching in a college game, so it was pretty cool,” Wade said after the outing. “After that first pitch, I was locked in.”
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE
Over the summer, Wade played for the Keene Swamp Bats in the Northeast Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). He arrived as a hitter, and returned to College Park, Maryland, as a two-way player.
Early in the summer season, the Swamp Bats found themselves trailing the Valley Blue Sox 14-5 in the seventh inning, and discovered they had run out of pitchers because rosters were still depleted—many players were still with their college teams in the NCAA Tournament or playing in other leagues on temporary summer contracts.
So, the Swamp Bats’ head coach, Jimmy Neygrych—currently a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh—asked the dugout for volunteers. Wade was the first to raise his hand, and got the ball.
“I just warned him not to throw any off-speed pitches or gear up and throw hard, just lob that ball over and get ready for it,” Negrych said.
Unbeknownst to Negrych and the rest of the team, Wade had pitched in high school for the St. Paul’s Crusaders. His senior season, he went 8-1 with a single-season record 0.52 ERA. In 69 innings, he struck out 54 batters and walked 21. So, Wade had no intention of listening to his summer coach.
“He told me to just go out there, throw all fastballs at 75 percent so you don’t hurt yourself,” Wade said. “In the back of my mind, I was like, ‘All right, I’m not going to do that. I want to actually try to pitch.’”
He came out firing heaters in the low-to-mid-90s, and flashing a powerful curveball. The right-hander worked a 1-2-3 frame, striking out two. In the next frame, Wade allowed a leadoff single, but struck out the next three batters he faced.
“His first pitch, he got into his stretch and threw it in there, and it was like, WHOOMPH,” Negrych said. “Three pitches later, the guy hitting wasn’t even near the baseball. It was just shocking how good it was.”
Neygrych recognized that Maryland head coach John Szefc might have lightning in a bottle in Wade, and gave the Terps’ skipper a call.
“I told him [Wade] was sitting 91-93 with a breaking ball that was absolutely filthy,” he said. “So, I asked [Szefc] if he wanted me to get [Wade] with our pitching coach to mix him in to see what he could do out there. You could tell right away that that ball just—I mean, there was something different about it.”
So Szefc called Wade to see how he felt about pitching, and asked if wanted to continue. Wade jumped at the opportunity.
“I remember talking to our pitching coach—Chris Combs—and he was amazed at how much [Wade] wanted to work at it,” Negrych said. “[Wade] would seek him out to ask to throw a flat-ground to work on a change-up, or work on a breaking ball. I think the success he had on the mound made him hungrier to keep learning that because he just felt so good about what he was doing out there.”
Wade finished the Swamp Bats’ season as a two-way player, hitting .267 with two home runs in 24 games. On the mound, he stuck out 21 and walked only eight batters in 11⅓ innings, posting a 1-1 record and a 1.58 ERA. Wade led the league (min. 10 innings) in strikeouts-per-nine innings, posting a mark of 16.70.
The experiment continued in the fall during intrasquad scrimmages, and Wade quickly made his mark. More than once, he earned “Flamethrower of the Week” honors from the team, awarded to the pitcher who throws the hardest fastball during intrasquad action. Still, he struggled, admittedly trying to prove himself to the team as a pitcher based on the numbers he posted during the summer. When he relaxed and took the pressure off himself, results improved.
“I think the first few times, you saw him as a position player who was just throwing,” Maryland shortstop Kevin Smith said. “Now when he gets up there, it’s like any other pitcher that comes out of the bullpen.”
And, like any other pitcher, Wade has had the occasional rough outing. Just this past weekend, he entered in the fifth inning against Northwestern after five straight batters reached base against right-hander Ryan Hill. Wade subsequently threw a wild pitch—his eighth of the year—and allowed a single before walking the final three batters he faced. He was charged with two runs and failed to record an out, resulting in his ERA ballooning from 3.86 to 4.96.
The growing pains are not uncommon for a position player transitioning to a become a full-time pitcher. And Wade isn’t the first Maryland player to make that conversion. Right-hander Mike Rescigno was the most recent to jump from the batter’s box to the mound, becoming a full-time pitcher last season. Former Terps right-hander Jake Stinnett began his Maryland career as the starting third baseman his freshman year. He eventually became the team’s ace en route to his selection in the second-round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs.
“[Transitioning to the mound] is not a foolproof process where there’s only one way to do it—it depends on the guy. It’s taken [Wade] a while, but his progress has been very impressive,” Szefc said. “[The fall] was a quick, early look at what might be there and you can’t deny it, so you look at it and go, ‘well, let’s keep working with this, keep developing it, and see where it goes.’”
Wade arrived at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, like Stinnett, as a third baseman. Not only was he a third baseman, but considered to be the top third baseman in the state of Maryland according to Perfect Game. His play for St. Paul’s earned him First Team All-Metro honors from The Baltimore Sun in 2014.
During his first few practices, Wade, like he did in high school, played the infield. But after just a couple of weeks, he was moved to the outfield—his first position switch. It wouldn’t be his last.
The 6’0, 200-lb. Wade began his collegiate career 0-for-8 at the plate. Then, in his ninth at-bat, he crushed a home run against Princeton for his first career hit. Two weeks later, Wade smacked another long ball—this time against Michigan—for his second career hit.
Then, just one week later, Wade was a late addition to the starting lineup in the Terps’ series finale against Nebraska after Nick Cieri injured his hand during batting practice. In his second at-bat of the day, Wade went deep again, giving him three career hits, all of which were home runs.
“I was kind of shocked, Wade said. “I wasn’t trying to hit home runs, I was just trying to swing hard and get a hit. After the third one, I did try to swing for the fences and ended up actually hitting a single.”
Wade hit two more home runs his freshman year, but finished the season with a .231 average, tallying more strikeouts (29) than hits (21) in 35 games. As a sophomore, Wade managed just three hits in 27 at-bats, striking out 11 times. This season has been much of the same for Wade at the plate, where he’s 0-for-7. In his career, Wade has struck out 41 times in 125 at-bats, or once every three at-bats.
“You have less than a second to react to the ball, and you don’t know what’s coming,” Wade said. “[Hitting] is the hardest thing to do in sports. No matter how much you practice, three-out-of-ten and you’re a Hall-of-Famer, so you’re pretty much set up for failure.”
COMMITTED TO PITCHING
Down in Wilmington, N.C., before a two-game set against the UNC Wilmington Seahawks earlier this season, the Maryland coaching staff had a meeting with Wade. They asked him how he was feeling about pitching, and told him they planned on using him more, so he should be ready to come into the game later that day.
Just a few hours later, the right-hander was on the mound, making just his third career appearance. To that point, he had tossed three innings, allowing three hits and a run, striking out three and walking two.
The first batter he faced, shortstop Kennard McDowell, struck out swinging, but scampered to first base after the ball got away from catcher Danny Maynard. McDowell later moved to second on a balk, and scored on a single. After the single, Wade struck out the next three batters he faced, striking out four batters in an inning for Maryland for the first time since redshirt senior right-hander Jared Price turned the trick on April 8, 2014 against George Mason. The four strikeouts in the frame for Wade also more than doubled his career total.
The next frame went much quicker for the hurler, as he struck out the side in order for a total of seven strikeouts in just two innings of work.
“Right after, [pitching coach Ryan Fecteau] said, ‘Well, I guess our talk went well,’” Wade said with a laugh.
Smith, Wade’s roommate, doesn’t have a vivid memory of the feat, even though he was only a few feet away at shortstop.
“You don’t really notice when you’re playing,” Smith said. By the eighth or ninth inning you’re looking back and realize you don’t remember much about those two innings and that’s because he struck everyone out.”
Throughout the beginning of the season, Wade continued to take batting practice. But, the weekend after his appearance against UNC-W, during the Terps’ series against Rutgers, he decided to quit hitting and commit to focusing on pitching. Since 2016, he was just 3-for-34 (.088) with twelve strikeouts and zero extra-base hits. The coaching staff was fully supportive of his decision.
“I think he wanted to put 100-percent of his effort into what he feels like is going to be his future, here and at the next level,” Szefc said.
And, Wade is being called on out of the bullpen more often since that weekend—the midway point in the season. The first half of the year, the right-hander appeared just four times in 25 games. In the 25 games since, he’s made ten relief appearances, tied with Hill for second-most on the team in that span, trailing only right-hander Ryan Selmer.
“He has gradually worked his way into a pretty important role, Szefc said. “It’s almost like he’s kind of re-made his baseball life a little bit, which is a good thing. He’s become one of our really important guys and I think he knows that.”
THE NEXT STEP
As the season has progressed, there have been more and more scouts whose radar guns perk up when Wade enters a ballgame. His fastball has touched 95 mph, and his curveball, which sits in the low-80s, has many teams intrigued.
Negrych thinks that Wade could end up being one of the best prospects to come out of the 2016 NECBL summer, largely because of his untapped potential, but also because of his curveball.
“I talked to some scouts who were asking about his story, and I told them I thought his breaking ball was the best one in the league,” Negrych said. “It’s a 12-6 [curveball] that’s just got some snap to it.”
And, even though he’s come a long way he pitched over the summer, and even farther since he pitched in high school, Wade still surprises even himself.
“I didn’t think I’d be throwing as hard as I am now,” Wade said. “When they told me, I was like, ‘Wow, I never threw that hard in my life.’ My curveball still shocks me sometimes. Sometimes it’s okay, and other times it moves a lot more than I thought it would.”
When he enters from the bullpen, “Do What I Want” by Lil Uzi Vert blares through the stadium speakers. The song—and it’s lyrics—are emblematic of Wade’s journey from third base to the outfield, and now from the outfield to the mound.
“Do What I Want” – Lil Uzi Vert
After struggling at the plate for a few seasons, Wade has found success on the mound. Now, Wade is doing what he wants. And what he wants to do is pitch.
After a strong start to the season and Big Ten play, the Maryland Terrapins (33-17, 15-9 Big Ten) have struggled of late, losing their last three weekend series. Over the weekend, they dropped two out of three to Northwestern at home – just their second and third losses in College Park this season. They currently sit fourth in the Big Ten, but with their regular season conference schedule over, their final position in the Big Ten standings will be decided by the rest of the conference next weekend while the Terps scoreboard watch from High Point, North Carolina.
Maryland entered the week ranked in just one national poll (Perfect Game, 25), but after a 2-2 week and with two home losses to Northwestern, the Terps have dropped out of all major rankings. They have also fallen to 36th in RPI, a drop of 12 spots since last week.
While the Terps can no longer influence their finish in the Big Ten standings, they will look to close out the regular season strong when they face off against High Point. The Panthers are not ranked in any national poll and sit 132th in RPI.
With over a month of the Major and Minor League seasons complete, let’s check out how Maryland alumni have faired in the professional ranks so far this season.
LHP Brett Cecil struggled out the gate in his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals letting up a total of five earned runs in his first four appearances. Since then the Cardinals’ setup man has rebounded nicely. Despite blowing a save against the Braves on Sunday, Cecil has let up just one run in his last 13 outings. He currently has a 4.38 ERA and has struck out 16 batters in 12 1/3 innings.
While Cecil is the only Terp that is currently in the majors, LHP Adam Kolarek has been making a case to be in the big leagues as well. The Baltimore native has posted a 1.35 ERA in 12 appearances for the Triple-A Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays). He has struck out 14 batters with just three walks in 13.1 innings. He has not given up a run since April 16.
RHP Mike Shawaryn dazzled on Saturday for the Class-A Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox). He pitched six innings of one run ball, walking one and striking out 12 batters. The No. 14 prospect in the Red Sox system has been fantastic since he let up nine runs in his first start of the season. In his last five starts, Shawaryn is 2-0 with 42 strikeouts and a 1.33 ERA.
LHP Zach Morris has been solid pitching in relief for the Class-A Lakewood BlueClaws (Philadelphia Phillies). In 12.2 innings the southpaw has struck out ten batters, walked nine, and let up five earned runs on 14 hits. He is 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP and one save in two chances.
LHP Alex Robinson has rebounded well after letting up five earned runs in his first three appearances of 2017. He has not given up an earned run in any of his last five appearances. The Class-A Cedar Rapids Kernels’ (Minnesota Twins) reliever is 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 11.1 innings pitched.
Chattanooga Lookouts (Minnesota Twins) outfielder LaMonte Wade, brother of current Terp Jamal Wade,has kicked it up a notch in Double-A. Wade is hitting .536 in his last 10 games, giving his batting average a 75 point boost and giving Wade a spot on MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week. He currently owns a .321/.468/.494 slash line to go with three homers, five doubles, three stolen bases, 11 RBIs and 21 runs scored.
Third baseman Jose Cuas has struggled lately for the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers), hitting .167 in his last 10 games. He is batting .209 with a .321 OBP, two homers and a .753 OPS.
Second baseman Brandon Lowe has gotten off to a nice start this season for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays). In 28 games Lowe is slashing .340/.431/.570 with three homers, and ranks in the top five in the Florida State League in doubles (10), runs scored (23) as well as OBP and slugging.
While all these former Terps have been doing well on the field, three remain on the shelf. Springfield Cardinals’ (St. Louis Cardinals’ Double-A affiliate) LHP Jimmy Reed was placed on the 7-day disabled list on April 17. He currently owns a 8.10 ERA in three appearances spanning 6.2 innings. The southpaw missed the entire 2016 season due to injury. LHP Jake Drossner made one start with the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers), throwing four innings of one-run ball, before hitting the disabled list April 12. He has since been activated and reassigned to the Rookie affiliate Helena Brewers, but has yet to make an appearance. Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs’ Double-A affiliate) RHP Jake Stinnett has not pitched yet this season due to injuries.
When left-hander Andrew Miller retired Michigan State second baseman Dan Durkin for the last out of Sunday’s doubleheader, the Maryland Terrapins not only clinched their fifth sweep of the season, but they improved to 18-1 at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
Maryland (28-11, 12-3 Big Ten) currently sits atop the Big Ten standings, in large part due to its success at home. In their three conference series’ in College Park this season, the Terps swept Penn State and Michigan State, and took two of three from then-No. 18 Michigan.
In 2014 and 2015 — the last two seasons Maryland reached the NCAA Super Regionals — the team went 21-7 and 16-9 at home, respectively. With just five home games left this season, the Terps have clinched a home-record finish with single-digit losses in College Park for the third time in the last four years. Currently, Maryland is tied for the third best home record in the country.
After finishing 15-16 away from Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium last season — which includes neutral site games — Maryland is 10-10 in such contests this season. But head coach John Szefc believes the difference between his team’s home and away record isn’t because they necessarily struggle away from College Park.
“I don’t think we play bad on the road, it’s just that the results have been a little bit different,” he said. “The home team usually wins 70 percent of the time in college baseball.”
This statistic is consistent with the Terps’ 70-28 record — 71 percent — in College Park over the past four seasons. During this span, Maryland owns a .551 record away from Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
Maryland’s tough away schedule is a factor in why the team can’t duplicate its home record on the road. Of the Terps’ 10 losses away from home, seven have come against teams ranked in the top 40 in RPI. The Terps lost a game during opening weekend to Louisville (RPI 6) in Clearwater, Florida, were swept by LSU (RPI 13) in Baton Rouge, lost two of three at Nebraska (RPI 38) and dropped a midweek game at North Carolina (RPI 3). The Terps are currently ranked 25th in RPI.
At home, eight of the Terps 18 wins have come against teams outside the top 200 in RPI — Penn State, Princeton, Saint Joseph’s and Richmond. Overall, Maryland has the 82nd toughest schedule of 299 teams. Even though the Terps’ home schedule has been easier on paper than on the road, there appears to be an extra energy Maryland has when it plays at home, to which Szefc attributes to his “veteran squad.” The numbers led credence to the affect it has on the Maryland weekend rotation.
For the second consecutive weekend at home, Maryland’s starters — Brian Shaffer, Tyler Blohm and Taylor Bloom — all lasted at least six innings. As a team, Maryland allowed just 11 runs in their last six home games against Penn State and Michigan State.
Altogether, that makes the Maryland weekend starters a combined 12-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 102 innings at home. The same trio is 5-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 72.2 innings when pitching on the road.
Bloom says that College Park has become a difficult location to play at as a visiting team, helping not only the pitching staff, but the team as a whole.
“I think we’re a really tough place to play just because of the energy we have in the dugout,” Bloom said. “We just supply the energy ourselves and I think it’s just really hard for teams to come in here and beat us.”
Maryland’s energy in the dugout was present for both games of Sunday’s doubleheader, which featured dancing from senior infielder Pat Hisle, loud “U-S-A” chants after drawn walks and abrupt cheers during a streak of 12 straight balls thrown by Spartan pitchers.
“You have to really respect [the bench] because they’re not sitting there pouting because they’re not playing,” Szefc said. “They’re trying to get involved and help the group win. You talk about why you have that kind of success, well that has something to do with it.”
Not only has the weekend pitching flourished at home, but the offense has followed their lead. Maryland’s bats average more runs, hits, doubles and home runs per game at home than on the road.
Even on the base paths, the Terrapins show more aggressiveness on their own turf. The team is 34-for-45 (76 percent) in stolen base attempts in away games and 48-for-53 (91 percent) in College Park.
“Every day we’re here we bring a lot of energy. Our guys just do a good job of battling for nine innings every time we’re out here and we expect to win every time, especially at home,” outfielder Zach Jancarski said. “It definitely gives our guys a confident boost before the game even starts and I think that’s important, too.”
The Terps are currently on an eight-game road trip and won’t play in College Park again until May 9. In its five remaining home games, Maryland will look to continue making Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium a tough and unenjoyable location for any opponent to win ballgames, says Szefc.
“People don’t want to come in here and play,” Szefc said. “There’s some places we go to that I don’t want to go play at. I think [Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium] is becoming one of those kind of places for opposing teams.”
The Major League Baseball season is now three weeks old and most minor league seasons have begun, leaving us all to wonder how the former Terps are doing in the pros.
LHP Brett Cecil remains the only former Terrapin in the Major Leagues after he signed a four-year, $30.5 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason. The 2007 first round pick has made 10 appearances for the Cardinals this season, posting a 5.87 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 7 2/3 innings. As a middle reliever for St. Louis, Cecil struggled early, but has posted six consecutive scoreless outings going into Tuesday. In that stretch, he has struck out five batters and walked only two, helping him earn back a spot as a set-up man in the seventh and eighth innings.
Although there is only one Terp currently in the majors, the next one to get his shot in the big leagues could be LHP Adam Kolarek. The 2010 11th round draft pick has pitched well out of the bullpen for the Triple-A Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays), posting a 2.35 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 7 2/3 innings. Five of Kolarek’s six appearances this season have been scoreless, and in three of the six he has retired every better he faced. The Rays just placed left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno on the 10-day DL, so Kolarek could be a possible option for his first call up to the big leagues.
While Kolarek has pitched well out of the bullpen, RHP Mike Shawaryn has opened some eyes as a starting pitcher in the Red Sox organization. The Unicorn, as he was known at Maryland, has pitched to 6.23 ERA in four starts for the Single-A Greenville Drive. Despite the inflated ERA, Shawaryn has struck out 27 batters and walked just five, and got some attention in his April 13 start in which struck out eight in five one-hit innings. The 2016 fifth-round draft pick is currently ranked as the 12th-best prospect in Boston’s system, and has struck out at least eight batters in each of his last three starts.
A trio of former Terps are sidelined early in the season. LHP Jimmy Reed started the 2017 season with the Double-A Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals). After throwing a scoreless two innings in his first appearances of the season, Reed was knocked around in his next two outing and was placed on the disabled list. The 2013 sixth round pick is coming off of Tommy John surgery last season, and his ERA has ballooned to 8.10 so far this season.
RHP Jake Stinnett has started the season on the disabled list for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs). The 2014 second-round pick is the 30th ranked prospect in the Cubs system, according to MLB.com, but has not yet pitched this season because of injury. He posted a 4.27 ERA in 20 starts with the Single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans last season.
LHP Jake Drossner made just one appearance for the Single-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers) before heading to the DL. The 2015 10th-round draft pick gave up one run on three hits in four innings in his only start this season. Drossner’s current teammate in Milwaukee, third baseman Jose Cuas, has stayed healthy for the Timber Rattlers and is slashing .244/.340/.488 in 41 at-bats so far this season.
As for the relievers, LHP Zach Morris has begun to pitch for the Single-A Lakewood Blueclaws (Philadelphia Phillies). In six appearances this season, the 2015 24th-round pick has pitched to a 3.68 ERA and 1.50 WHIP as a middle reliever.
LHP Alex Robinson has made four relief appearances for the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins), posting a 7.94 ERA. Despite the high ERA, he 2015 fifth-round pick has struck out seven batters in 5 2/3 innings. In his last appearance, he pitched a scoreless 1 2/3 innings, allowing only one hit and striking out three while still throwing gas.
Alex Robinson can throw baseballs really hard. Consistenly 97 MPH with the heater again tonight. #Kernels
Outfielder Lamonte Wade, who played alongside Robinson at Maryland and in rookie ball in 2015, has since been promoted to the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts (Minnesota Twins). A 2015 ninth-round pick, Wade has an on-base percentage of .357 with two home runs and five RBI in 56 plate appearances this season. The brother of current Terp Jamal Wade, Lamonte is the 13th-ranked prospect in Minnesota’s system, and still has that same sweet swing he had in College Park.
Second baseman Brandon Lowe has also made a jump in the Tampa Bay Rays organization after a strong 2016 season. The 2015 third-round draft pick is red-hot through 15 games for the Single-A Charlotte Stone Crabs. Lowe is hitting .388, which is second in the Florida State League, while he leads the league in both OBP (.508) and OPS (1.141).
RHP Kevin Mooney emerged as the closer for the Short-Season Class-A Auburn Doubledays (Washington Nationals) a year ago, and the right-hander will return there this season. The short-season New York-Penn League will begin in June.