Maryland baseball commences its 2018 season under first-year head coach Rob Vaughn in just two days on the road against Tennessee. Maryland Baseball Network has already broken down the Terps starting pitchers, relievers and infielders, but now it’s time to wrap up our positional previews with the outfield.
The Terrapins will only have to replace Madison Nickens, who played in nearly every game since his arrival from LSU-Eunice after his sophomore season. The Louisiana native started in 104 games over two years, committing just one error during his senior season. The Terps will miss Nickens for his consistency in the outfield and speed at the bottom of the lineup, but especially for his unforgettable walk-up song, “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” which often provided an instant energy boost at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
Left Field – Marty Costes
Marty Costes was drafted in the 25th round by the Houston Astros over the summer, but decided to return for his junior season with the Terps. He’s hit a team-leading 22 home runs in the last two seasons, helping earn a Big Ten All-Freshman team selection in 2016 and a first team All-Big Ten selection last year. After batting .263 as a freshman, Costes emerged as a player who could hit for both average and power in 2017. He led the Terps with 13 home runs and 77 hits, and ranked second in slugging (.548) and third in batting average (.322) while starting all 61 games.
An infielder in high school, Costes’ arm in the outfield has become one of the strongest in the conference, and he was named as having the “best outfield arm” last week in Baseball America’s Big Ten preseason coverage. People might know Costes in the outfield for his arm, but anyone who closely followed the Cape Cod Baseball League over the summer will remember his range while chasing down a game-saving catch for the Brewster Whitecaps. The Whitecaps went on to win their first Cape title in 17 years, as Costes slashed .293/.427/.511 for the summer.
— Maryland Baseball (@TerpsBaseball) August 14, 2017
Costes has been used primarily in the middle of the Terps batting order in the last two years, but there’s been serious conversation about having him lead off this season.
“With Marty’s reputation with what he’s done for himself, if I’m a pitcher, I’m not supper comfortable [throwing] a fastball to start the game if I know he’s walking to the plate,” Vaughn said at spring sports media day last week.
Center Field – Zach Jancarski
With a senior behind the plate in Justin Morris and at first base with Kevin Biondic, Jancarski will continue to bring a veteran presence to the outfield in 2018. He’s played in 132 games over the last three seasons, more than anyone on the current Terps roster. His 20 stolen bases and 17 doubles last year led the team, while his .325 batting average and .434 on base percentage last year both ranked second. His patience at the plate makes him a good fit near the top of the order, as he walked (33) as many times as he struck out in 2017. Despite being among the best leadoff hitters in the Big Ten last season, Jancarski would hit second in the order if Vaughn does decide to lead off with Costes.
The East Norriton, Pennsylvania, native followed up his breakout spring with a big summer in the Cal Ripken League, where he led the Bethesda Big Train with a .347 batting average and .462 on-base percentage.
Jancarski, not known particularly for his power, hit three home runs last season after hitting just one in his first two years, but none bigger than the one he hit on a Friday night against Penn State in April. Maryland trailed the Nittany Lions 1-0 and had collected just one hit, a Brandon Gum single in the first inning. Jancarski’s one-out, game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth preceded Gum’s walk-off home run on the very next pitch. You can listen to the home run calls here:
Right Field – Randy Bednar, Richie Schiekofer
A pair of freshmen, Randy Bednar and Richie Schiekofer, will vie for the majority of playing time in the unfilled outfield spot this season. A decision hasn’t been made on who the official “starter” is, but both have opportunities to prove themselves in the first week of the season.
“Randy and Richie are both going to play out there a lot,” Vaughn said. “They will both play out there Week 1. We’ll figure out if that becomes a matchup thing or whether it becomes a ‘hey, he’s on a hot streak’ kind of thing. But they’re both going to get a ton of at-bats and be right in the middle of what we’re doing all year.”
Bednar was drafted in the 27th round of last year’s MLB Draft by Atlanta Braves and comes into this season as the 39th-best freshman in the country, according to Baseball America. He verbally committed to the Terps after his freshman year of high school, the first player to do so in the 2017 recruiting class. Before starting his college career, Bednar starred for the Baltimore Redbirds of the Cal Ripken League last summer. He led the team with six homers and a .574 slugging percentage while hitting .327 in 31 contests.
While Bednar is a right-handed hitter who throws lefty, Schiekofer is the exact opposite, which is likely why Vaughn said matchups could be a way to determine who plays on certain days. Schiekofer was fantastic in high school, hitting over .500 his senior year and ended his Millburn High School career with a home run. Over the summer with the Ripken League’s Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts, he hit .306 with five doubles in 20 games. If he succeeds in his early-season chances, he could split a lot of time with Bednar in the outfield this season.
Reserves — Will Watson, Michael Pineiro
Will Watson started 55 games last season as a junior after transferring from LSU-Eunice, seeing time in the outfield and at first, but primarily appearing as the designated hitter. He hit five home runs and stole 14 bases in 15 attempts in his first season in College Park. An all-or-nothing guy at the plate, he led the team with 56 strikeouts, but ranked second in walks and posted a lofty .384 on-base-percentage. With two promising freshman who are likely to follow in the outfield footsteps of Jancarski and Costes when their careers are over, Watson could spend more of his time during his season as a designated hitter while Bednar and Schiekofer gain college experience.
— Maryland Baseball (@TerpsBaseball) March 26, 2017
Pineiro, a freshman, is listed on the Maryland roster as both an infielder and outfielder. A native of Rancho Cucamonga, California, he is the first Terp from the Golden State since former Maryland right-hander Jake Stinnett, who was selected in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs.