Season Preview: Outfield

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.


LF Marty Costes

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.

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.


CF Zach Jancarski

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.

Centerfielder Zach Jancarski led the team with 17 doubles last year, and his 76 hits ranked second on the Terps. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 5/13/2017

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:


OF Randy Bednar

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.

OF Richie Schiekofer

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

OF Will Watson

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.

1B/OF Michael Pineiro

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.

Season Preview: Infield

With the 2018 season just days away, Maryland Baseball Network continues its preview of what to expect from the Terps this season. After breaking down the pitching staff, both starters and relievers, it’s time to take a look at Maryland’s infield.

The Terps will be without shortstop Kevin Smith, who led the team in RBIs (48) and slugging (.552) a year ago, and tied for the team lead in home runs (13) before being drafted by Toronto in the 4th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. Nevertheless, the Maryland infield is in good shape, with three returning starters from last season, albeit one – AJ Lee – at a different position. Here’s how the infield shapes up for the opening series against Tennessee.


C Justin Morris

Catcher – Justin Morris

A mainstay behind the plate during the Terps’ postseason run in 2017, senior backstop Justin Morris will maintain his role as starting catcher this spring. Throughout most of his time in College Park, Morris has been best known for his defensive abilities, both in blocking pitches in the dirt and throwing out runners. But last year, the Edgewater, Maryland, native showed some thunder with the bat after taking over as the full-time starting catcher in early May. In the final 14 games of the season, he hit .267 with three homers and nine RBIs, including a two-run shot against UMBC in the NCAA Regionals.

Morris stayed hot for the summer, slashing .308/.418/.508 in 20 regular season games for the Cal Ripken League’s Bethesda Big Train. He came up clutch in the playoffs as well, earning League Championship Series MVP honors after going 6-for-12 with four RBIs and five runs scored during Big Train’s title run.

Entering this season, the Terps don’t quite know what they’ll get out of Morris offensively. He has some of the best power potential on the team as well as a patient eye, and if he hits consistently, as he did down the stretch last season, then the lefty-swinging backstop will be a valuable asset that strengthens the bottom of the order. At the very least however, he will provide strong defense behind the plate with the ability to come up with a big hit from time to time.


1B Kevin Biondic

First Base – Kevin Biondic

Like Morris, senior Kevin Biondic has had an up-and-down career with the Terps. After struggling as a freshman, the Oak Lawn, Illinois, native had a breakout sophomore campaign. He appeared in all 57 games, slashing .278/.377/.407 with five homers. He couldn’t replicate his success last year though, hitting .161 with no extra-base hits in 72 plate appearances and losing the starting first-base job to graduate transfer Brandon Gum.

A summer in the Northwoods League rejuvenated Biondic, however, as he found a groove in more ways than one. In 49 games with the Thunder Bay Border Cats, he hit .254 with a .745 OPS, five homers and 26 RBIs, very similar numbers to the ones he posted in the spring of his sophomore year. He also experimented on the mound, tossing 16.2 innings with 11 strikeouts and a 1.62 ERA, good enough to garner him consideration for a bullpen role with the Terps this season.

Biondic continued to impress this fall as well, going 7-for-9 in the Fall World Series, which, coupled with his strong summer, earned him a spot back in the starting lineup.

“[Biondic] went to work this summer and came back a different guy,” Terps Head Coach Rob Vaughn said at spring sports media day. “I think there’s something to be said for having talented seniors and he is a tough, talented senior. We’ll look to hit him in the middle of the order, as well, and let him do what he does.”


2B Nick Dunn

Second Base – Nick Dunn

Nick Dunn is reliable. In two seasons at Maryland, he has started every game: 57 as a freshman in 2016, and 61 last year as a sophomore. The second baseman is undoubtedly the rock of a Terps infield that will see new starters at three positions this season.

2B Nick Dunn has not missed a game in two seasons at Maryland, and figures to be a key contributor yet again for the Terps this spring. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 5/14/2017

Recently named a Preseason Third-Team All-American by Baseball America and Perfect Game, Dunn figures to be a mainstay in the upper part of Maryland’s lineup this spring. In 118 games as a Terp, the junior owns a .280/.363/.388 slash line. The Sunbury, Pennsylvania, native had a down year average-wise in 2017, hitting just .261, but found a power stroke, hitting five of his six career long balls.

Unlike some of his teammates, Dunn isn’t subject to swing-and-miss tendencies, either. Last spring, he walked 28 times and struck out just 23, making him the only Maryland starter with a strikeout-to-walk ratio under one. In his career as a Terp, he has struck out in just 8.81 percent of his at-bats, easily the best mark on the team in that span. While not the fastest Terp, Dunn can provide a spark on the basepaths, and is a smart base runner, going a perfect 11-for-11 in steal attempts in his career.

His offensive performance in College Park, while impressive, doesn’t compare the Cape, where Dunn shines the brightest. In two summers with the Cape Cod League’s Brewster Whitecaps, Dunn hit .321 with an .809 OPS. He garnered national attention last summer when he earned Cape Cod LCS Co-MVP honors after leading the Brewster Whitecaps to their first Cape title in 17 years. Like the previous Cape playoff MVP, Smith, Dunn will look to translate his summer accolades to spring success at Maryland. A strong showing at the plate from Dunn will not only help the Terps this spring, but will boost his stock heading into June’s MLB Draft.


SS AJ Lee

Shortstop – AJ Lee

A year after a breakout season as Maryland’s third baseman, AJ Lee will slide over to his natural position for his junior campaign. A local product out of St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., Lee burst on the scene as a sophomore after limited contributions as a freshman. He started 55 of Maryland’s 61 games last spring, slashing .307/.389/.474. Viewed mostly as a speedster (his 15 stolen bases ranked second on the team last year), he showed impressive pop as well, trailing only Smith and Marty Costes in slugging and home runs (8).

With Smith’s departure, Lee can switch back to his natural position. Lee played stellar defense at the hot corner for most of last spring, and played short over the summer for the Cal Ripken League’s Baltimore Redbirds, so the defensive switch should be easy for him. Despite taking a step back at the plate over the summer (.262/.381/.352, 7 XBH in 147 PA), Lee figures to be a key component in the Terps’ lineup this season.


3B Taylor Wright

Third Base – Taylor Wright

Joining the four returning upperclassmen in the infield is Taylor Wright, who comes to Maryland after two strong seasons at Colorado Northwestern Community College. As a freshman in 2016, he slashed .328/.407/.423 in 48 games, with 27 RBI and 31 runs scored. He followed that up with a sophomore campaign in which he led the team in batting average (.333), on-base percentage (.453), slugging (.544), home runs (5), doubles (17) and stolen bases (23), while playing in 52 of the team’s 53 games. He boasts patience at the plate, as he walked (56) more times than he struck out (40) in his two years at Colorado Northwestern. 

Wright is coming off a strong summer with the Kelowna Falcons of the West Coast League, as he led the league with 54 RBIs in 53 contests, while smacking 12 homers and hitting a stellar .337. The Vancouver, British Columbia, native will take over as the starting third baseman this spring, and Vaughn said that he thinks Wright will be an impact bat in the heart of the Terps’ order.


Reserves

Other infielders on the roster include freshmen Bubba Alleyne, Michael Pineiro and Tommy Gardiner, sophomore Barrett Smith, and junior college transfer Brad Barnett. Behind the plate, Morris will be backed up by redshirt freshman Ty Friedrich and freshman Justin Vought.

Season Preview: Relief Pitchers

With four days until the Terrapins open the 2018 season at Tennessee, Maryland Baseball Network continues to preview Maryland’s roster. Today, we look at the bullpen.

After a strong 2017 season, Maryland’s relief corps has a whole new look this spring. Gone are Ryan Selmer and Jamal Wade, two of former Head Coach John Szefc’s favorite arms last season who are now playing pro ball. In fact, of the eight pitchers with double-digit relief appearances a year ago, only John Murphy and Ryan Hill return this season. 


RHP John Murphy

Closer – John Murphy

After struggling early in his collegiate career, right-hander John Murphy solidified his role out of the Terps bullpen with a terrific stretch last spring. The then-sophomore led Maryland with a sparkling 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings of work, striking out 27 and holding opponents to a .183 average. In 42.2 collegiate innings, he has surrendered just two homers – both his freshman year in 2016 – and owns a 1.10 career WHIP.

Murphy was especially impressive in the postseason, whiffing 12 hitters in nine innings. Twice, he struck out the side with the bases loaded – once in the Big Ten Tournament against Purdue, and once in the NCAA Regionals against West Virginia.

Now, with Selmer’s departure to the New York Mets’ organization, Murphy inherits the closer role for the Terps this year. After his dazzling spring and a strong summer with the Cal Ripken League’s Bethesda Big Train (24 IP, 29 K, 3.38 ERA), the Merchantville, New Jersey, native is primed to succeed in the role, despite just one prior save in his career.


RHP Ryan Hill

Middle Relief

With Murphy taking over as closer, senior right-hander Ryan Hill remains the only veteran in a group of young middle relievers. A Frisco, Texas, native, Hill pitched two seasons at Grayson College before transferring to Maryland a year ago. In 2017, his first season as a Terp, he made a team-high 29 appearances, including 27 in relief. His 46.2 innings pitched were the most of any Terps pitcher outside of the three weekend starters, and his 10.61 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second on the team behind only Jamal Wade.

RHP Ryan Hill led Maryland relievers in innings pitched in 2017. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 5/13/2017

Last season, Hill quickly evolved into a jack of all trades on the Maryland pitching staff, serving as a long man and spot starter at various points, as well as joining Selmer and Murphy as a go-to guy that could get crucial outs in tight spots. One of his finest moments of the 2017 season came April 8 at Nebraska, in an 8-5 Terps’ win over the Cornhuskers. With Maryland down 3-0 early, Hill came on in relief of starter Taylor Bloom in just the second inning. He dominated, tossing 4.2 innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts, allowing the Terps to get back in the game and bridging the gap to the back end of the bullpen. Hill had other similar shutdown performances last year, so look for him to be a crucial part of the Maryland pen this season that can be inserted in any situation.

RHP Alec Tuohy

The only other veteran in the Terps bullpen is redshirt senior Alec Tuohy, who transferred to Maryland from Buffalo after the Bulls cut their baseball program last summer. Tuohy served as a starter for the last two seasons, but will likely join Hill as a key component out of the pen. The Gahanna, Ohio, native owns a 4.57 ERA in 191 innings across parts of four seasons, and struggled in 2017, with an 8.76 ERA in seven starts. He will look to return to his 2016 form, when he served as Buffalo’s ace, pitching to a 2.98 ERA in 14 starts (93.2 innings) with 69 strikeouts and a 1.24 WHIP.

“The guy was an impact guy at Buffalo,” Head Coach Rob Vaughn said of Tuohy. “What I love about this team is there are a lot of guys who have played on big stages – a lot of college at-bats, a lot of college innings under their belt, and that’s stuff that’s hard to replace. That’s something a guy like Tuohy can bring in and is gonna be huge for us.”

RHP Mike Vasturia
RHP Elliot Zoellner

Alongside Hill and Tuohy are a handful of young arms that will factor into the bullpen’s workload, including redshirt freshman Mike Vasturia. The right-hander was rated as the No. 8 pitcher in New Jersey coming out of high school in 2016, but missed all of the 2017 season. Vasturia had inconsistent summer in the Ripken League with the Baltimore Redbirds (18.1 innings, 19 K, 5.40 ERA) but followed that up with a strong performance in Maryland’s Fall World Series. In Game 1, he came in with the bases loaded and nobody out and turned in a Murphy-esque performance, striking out the side in order to end the game. Like Vasturia, right-hander Elliot Zoellner saw limited action as a freshman in 2017 (one appearance, 3 ER vs. LSU), but could play a role out of the bullpen this season after seeing action in the Fall World Series.

LHP Grant Burleson
LHP Sean Fisher

A pair of freshmen from Salisbury, Maryland’s Parkside High School – Sean Fisher and Grant Burleson – will also see time out of the bullpen this spring, according to Vaughn. The two southpaws join fellow Parkside grad Hunter Parsons on staff, and will look to duplicate the success that he had as a freshman two years ago.

LHP Billy Phillips

At the spring sports media day, Vaughn also mentioned left-hander Billy Phillips, who returns to the Maryland pitching staff after winning his battle with cancer. “[Phillips] is gonna be a guy that’s not just a feel good story, but a guy that’s gonna throw some innings for us that matter, and hopefully develop into a good guy out of the ‘pen for us,” Vaughn said.

1B/RHP Kevin Biondic

Another arm to throw into the mix – perhaps surprisingly – is veteran infielder Kevin Biondic. The senior, who has played first and third base throughout his Maryland career, enjoyed a successful summer as a two-way player in the Northwoods League. He hit .254 with five homers while posting a 1.62 ERA in 16.2 innings, pitching for the first time since he started college. The Oak Lawn, Illinois, native pitched in the Fall World Series as well, and while he figures to be the primary first baseman this spring, expect the right-hander to see some action out of the bullpen as well.

Season Preview: Starting Pitchers

Maryland baseball is back in just five days, and MBN is breaking down the Terps’ roster position-by-position. First up: Maryland’s starting rotation. 

The 2017 season was a big one for Terps’ starters, especially their Friday night ace, Brian Shaffer, who cracked the top five in Maryland’s all-time innings pitched and wins marks, and, before postseason struggles, flirted with single-season program records. 

With Shaffer in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system after he was drafted in the sixth-round, Maryland will look toward some of its other success stories — namely Tyler Blohm and Taylor Bloom — to pick up the slack.

It will be even more important that Blohm and Bloom continue their success, because first-year head coach Rob Vaughn has an important decision to make regarding midweek starters.


Friday – RHP Taylor Bloom

After a breakout sophomore season in 2016, during which the Severna Park, Maryland, native was fourth in the Big Ten in ERA, Taylor Bloom took a slight step back in 2017. Now a senior, he will look to regain his form for his final season, and for the first time, he will take the hill on Friday.

Senior right-hander Taylor Bloom will take over the Friday night spot in Maryland’s rotation this season. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Bloom has earned the spot. Last year, he posted a 3.83 ERA and had some memorable starts. In an elimination game of the NCAA tournament, he allowed two runs in eight innings against UMBC; he also had a seven inning, four-hit win against Bryant and struck out seven batters against Indiana.

The problem for Bloom is that far too often, he failed to go deep into the game and forced then-head coach John Szefc to go to his bullpen early. He totalled just five innings in his first two starts of 2017, and then had starts of 1.1 innings (Nebraska) and four innings (Rutgers).

Nevertheless, Bloom has proven to be a key factor in Maryland’s rotation. He’s relied on control to find success, walking just 1.84 hitters per nine innings in his three years in College Park, and for his career, the 6-foot right-hander is 15-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 224.2 innings.


Saturday – LHP Tyler Blohm

After a terrific high school career at nearby Archbishop Spalding, Tyler Blohm was drafted by his hometown Baltimore Orioles in the 2017 MLB Draft. The 6-foot-3 lefty turned down the offer to play pro ball, instead electing to head to Maryland, where he had a fantastic freshman year for the Terps. He won a team-high eight games, and ranked second behind Shaffer with a 3.48 ERA.

After a strong freshman campaign, LHP Tyler Blohm will be the Terps’ Saturday starter. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 4/23/2017

Blohm earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week in back-to-back weeks after he allowed five hits in 13 shutout innings against Princeton and Bryant. Collegiate Baseball Newspaper named Blohm a Freshman All-American, and Baseball America named him a second-team Freshman All-American. 

Like Bloom, Blohm did struggle to pitch deep into games, however, tossing just 75 innings over 16 starts. The now-sophomore southpaw will seek to improve in 2018 is his control, as last season, he walked a team-high 35 batters and threw six wild pitches, leading to a high-pitch count and early exits. 

When Blohm is on, he is electric, as seen in one of the signature moments of his freshman season. In the Big Ten Tournament, he struck out 10 Nebraska batters in 4.1 innings, leading the Terps to an elimination game victory which was crucial in strengthening their NCAA Tournament resume. 


Sunday – RHP Hunter Parsons

Last season, Szefc had to reach deep into his bag of tricks to find a midweek starter. Although six different pitchers started a midweek game (excluding the usual weekend starters), Hunter Parsons started the most often.

Hunter Parsons will man the Sunday spot in the rotation this season. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 3/7/2017

In his four starts last season, Parsons had some major struggles. He failed to reach the third inning in any of his starts, allowing 20 runs (17 earned) in just six innings. However, the right-hander has had success in the past, as he enjoyed a breakout freshman season in 2016. Two seasons ago, Parsons made 15 appearances, including five starts, striking out 28 hitters in 36 innings while pitching to a 3.50 ERA and holding opponents to a .201 average.

Sunday’s starting spot is a huge wild card for this Terps team, and its success could be dependent on the performance of Maryland’s veteran pitcher.


Midweek – RHP Mark DiLuia

Terps freshman Mark DiLuia, pictured here in high school, was ranked as one of the top prep pitchers in Illinois. He was drafted by the Texas Rangers in June, but declined, opting to come to Maryland. Photo courtesy of Mark DiLuia.

Entering the season, freshman right-hander Mark DiLuia has earned his spot as Maryland’s midweek starter. There will be some competition if DiLuia gets off to a slow start, but it seems as if Vaughn is looking forward to seeing the 6-foot-3 Illinois native take the mound.

DiLuia is expected to touch the low-90s on the radar gun (as MBN’s Dylan Sinn noted in his story about DiLuia, “More mass equals more gas”). The 11th-ranked prospect in Illinois’ Class of 2017 enters the 2018 season with the opportunity to secure midweek victories. His first career start could come on Feb. 21, when the Terps travel to William & Mary.

Preseason Countdown: Terps face seven NCAA tournament teams in 2018

Maryland baseball is just one week away from its season-opener on the road against Tennessee. While the focus is currently on the Volunteers, the Terps will play seven opponents this season against teams which, like Maryland, earned a trip to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

A few of the teams are from mid-major conferences and others lost a lot of pieces, but the Terps will only play one game at home this season against one of those teams. Thirteen of 14 games against an opponent from last year’s tournament will be played away from College Park.

Circle the following contests on your calendar because winning games against many of these teams could improve the Terps resume, as they’ll look to make it four trips to the tournament in the last five years.

1. Radford (27-32) — March 2 

Maryland will play the Highlanders on a Friday night to start the Coastal Carolina Tournament, the only regular season tournament the Terps will play in. Radford finished the season below .500, but won the Big South Tournament for the second time in three years to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament as a 4-seed in the Louisville Regional. The Highlanders entered the tournament, where they went 0-2, ranked 155th in RPI of 299 teams in the country. Both Maryland (9-6) and Radford (5-2) had winning records in neutral-site games last year.

2. Delaware (34-23) March 6, 13

Four days later, the Terps will begin a home-and-home series with Delaware in College Park. Unlike Radford, the Blue Hens had a winning record in 2017, finishing 34-23 and also earning a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They, too, lost both games they played in June. Delaware went 8-14 in true road games last season, but 22-4 at home. The Terps will play in Newark for the second game of the series exactly one week after their first meeting. After winning the CAA Tournament last season, Delaware is projected to finish second in its conference this year.

3. North Carolina (49-14) — March 20

While Radford and Delaware come from mid-major conferences, perhaps the best team the Terps will see all season will come during a highly-anticipated midweek road game against North Carolina. Maryland traveled to Chapel Hill last year, too, losing 9-2. Playing the Tar Heels is great opportunity for Maryland to boost its resume. Not only is it a road game against an ACC opponent, but the North Carolina currently sits in the top-10 in most major polls, including sixth by D1baseball.com. A perennial title contender, the Tar Heels are favorite to win the ACC, and would huge if the Terps can come away with a win.

4. Michigan (42-17) — April 13-15

The Wolverines are one of three of Maryland’s conference opponents this season that made last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Terps hosted No. 18 Michigan last season, picking up two wins on the weekend in what was maybe the most important result of the year. Michigan lost 15 players at the end of last season, though, including 11 to the MLB Draft. The Wolverines will return less than half of their lineup, but they’ll return All-Big Ten first team selection Ako Thomas, who led the conference with a .354 batting average. Michigan won’t be the same team as last year, but nevertheless winning a conference series on the road is never easy.

5. West Virginia (36-26) — May 1

Madison Nickens drove in four runs in Maryland’s win over West Virginia in College Park last April. Two months later, the Terps lost to the Mountaineers twice in the NCAA Tournament. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 4/1//2017

This won’t be a big game just because it’s on the road against a tournament-caliber team, but because it’s a perfect time for revenge for the Terps. After beating the Mountaineers in a thrilling 7-6 game in College Park last season, the Terps fell to West Virginia twice in the NCAA Tournament. The Terps won’t have to face preseason All-American right-hander Brandon Zarbnisky, but the Mountaineers scored six runs per game last year. West Virginia is currently ranked No. 22 by D1baseball.com, and if the Mountaineers stay in the top 25 by May, it would be another huge opportunity for the Terps.

6. Nebraska (35-22-1) — May 4-6

The Cornhuskers earned a 2-seed in the Corvallis Regional after a 35-22-1 season and the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Terps traveled to Lincoln last season, winning the Saturday game of the series behind reliever Ryan Hill’s one-run performance in 4.2 innings out of the bullpen. The Cornhuskers have one of the top relievers in the country, Luis Alvarado, who was named a preseason second-team All-American selection by Collegiate Baseball. It’ll be another tough conference road test for the Terps near the end of the season.

7. Indiana (34-24-2) — May 17-19

The Terps will end the regular season with a three-game series against the Hoosiers, who are the current favorite to win the Big Ten. Indiana is the only conference opponent that will start the season ranked by any of the national outlets. Maryland also traveled to Bloomington last season, where they picked up one win. Outfielder Marty Costes went 3-for-5 with two RBI to guide the Terps to a 9-2 win. The Hoosiers earned a No. 2 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament but were eliminated by Kentucky after winning one game. If the Terps are on the bubble at the end of the season, winning two games that weekend would certainly help their chances.

 

After an offseason of moving pieces, Maryland baseball will rely on experience, familiarity this spring

When the first pitch is thrown at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville on Feb. 16 for the Terps’ season-opening series against Tennessee, first-year head coach Rob Vaughn—named to the position in June—will officially begin to lead a new era of Maryland baseball.

Vaughn isn’t the only staff member occupying a new position this year, though. Matt Swope will begin his first season as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator; Corey Muscara enters his first season as pitching coach after spending five years at St. John’s; Anthony Papio is no longer a student assistant coach, but assumed the role of a volunteer assistant coach after last season.

Rob Vaughn, left, seen here last season coaching third base, was named the eighth head coach in Terps history last June. He takes over the role after five years as an assistant on staff. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 5/14/2017

While their titles have changed since Maryland’s 2017 season came to an end in the NCAA Regionals, their prior experience in College Park suggests the program can pick up right where it left off. Vaughn, for instance, spent five years on staff in various assistant roles before being named the eighth head coach in program history this past summer. He helped secure Maryland’s best-ever recruiting class in 2016, and as the leader of the offense, coached the Terps to a top-35 finish in home runs (67) and stolen bases (101) in 2017.

“I think the big part is that being here for five years, [you] get to know the ins and outs of how our things go,” Vaughn said. “Even though the staff is new, Coach Swope has been our [director of operations] for five years. Anthony Papio played here, and at the same time, it’s been his second year of coaching. There’s so much familiarity with this place and the people that it’s been a pretty smooth transition.”

Vaughn, Swope and Papio were promoted from within the program, but it’s Muscara’s first year in College Park after helping lead the Red Storm to two NCAA Tournaments in five years. His pitching staff’s 3.11 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 2017 were good for top-20 in the country.

“The guy is a rockstar,” Vaughn said. “He’s done a really good job with our guys and done a great job on the recruiting trail, as well. So he’s been a huge get for us.”

Pitching Coach Corey Muscara enters his first season at Maryland after a successful five-year stint at St. John’s University.

One of Muscara’s biggest tasks in the offseason has been adjusting the Terps to life without right-hander Brian Shaffer, last year’s Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, who the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted in the sixth round of the 2017 MLB Draft. Even though Maryland will have to replace its successful Friday night starter, Vaughn is confident in the exposure his returning weekend pitchers—senior right-hander Taylor Bloom and sophomore left-hander Tyler Blohm—have seen on the college stage.

Bloom pitched the Terps to an NCAA Regional Championship during his freshman season, allowing one hit and one earned run in 6.1 innings. As for Blohm, he was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a freshman All-American after winning eight games for the Terps last season. Junior right-hander Hunter Parsons, who has pitched 57.2 innings in two seasons, is expected to start on Sundays.

Right-hander Taylor Bloom will pitch Friday nights for the Terps this season after Brian Shaffer’s departure. Bloom, a senior, is 15-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 224.2 career innings at Maryland. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 3/12/2017

“If you gave me [Shaffer] back this year, I’d be pretty excited about that,” Vaughn said. “But at the same time, I think the biggest piece is we don’t need either [Bloom or Blohm] to be Brian Shaffer. We need them to be them because they’re extremely talented.”

Comprised mostly of upperclassmen, the Maryland lineup returns four of its top six bats from last season. Leading the offense will be junior Marty Costes, who crushed a team-leading 13 home runs last season, and he’ll be joined by veterans including senior center fielder Zach Jancarski and junior second baseman and preseason third-team All-American Nick Dunn. Junior AJ Lee, last year’s third baseman, will fill the gap in the middle of the infield left by shortstop Kevin Smith, who was drafted in the fourth round of last year’s MLB draft.

“I feel really good about our top 13 or 14 guys,” Vaughn said. “I don’t know if I’ve felt that in the last five years here … The beautiful thing about having an older team is that you don’t have to run six freshmen out there every day. If we want to win on the level we want to win at, it’s really hard to win when you have that many young guys.”

Another pair of seniors returning to the Maryland lineup are catcher Justin Morris and first baseman Kevin Biondic. Morris came on strong in the postseason after taking over the full-time role behind the plate in early May. Biondic started 56 of 57 games as a sophomore, but took a backup role to infielder Brandon Gum last season. Even though Biondic received limited playing time in 2017, his work ethic, leadership and impressive offseason earned him a starting spot once again.

“I think the true test of any man is how you respond to adversity,” Vaughn said. “It’s not about being the best all the time; it’s how you respond when you get punched in the mouth. I think Kevin immediately earned the respect of his teammates because of the way he did.”

So while coaching spots, positions in the field and nights starting on the mound were left empty at the start of the offseason, those voids were quickly filled with reassurance due to the extensive experience of coaches and players that took the place of their predecessors.

“Experience is something that you can’t replace,” Vaughn said. “We have some really, really talented freshman, but what I love about this team is that there are a lot of guys that have played on big stages, got a lot of college at-bats [and] got a lot of college innings under their belt. That’s something you can’t replace.” 

Season Preview: Six things we learned from Media Day

Maryland held it’s spring sports media day on Tuesday, which gave Terps Head Coach Rob Vaughn his first chance to meet with the media before the start of the 2018 season.

Vaughn revealed a lot about his roster and his plans for the year, and we’ve narrowed it down to the six most important things we learned about the Terps on media day.

1. Hunter Parsons will start the season as the Sunday starter

Hunter Parsons posted a 3.50 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in a freshman season that included five starts and 10 relief appearances. However, last season the success just wasn’t there. Parsons started the year as the Terps midweek starter, but quickly lost that role after three consecutive rough outings. The righty finished the year with a 12.05 ERA and 2.31 WHIP in 21 2/3 innings.

Right-hander Hunter Parsons is slated to be the Sunday starter. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Despite a tough 2017, Coach Vaughn is sticking with Parsons, and said Tuesday that he will start on the first Sunday of the season against Tennessee.

“We’re moving forward today like it’s Hunter Parsons,” Vaughn said. “Hunter is back to form. He’s been very, very good. Barring any change there, he’ll go Sunday down at Tennessee.”

“He’s been back to what we were hoping he would be. A lot of power stuff, he’s developed a good secondary pitch with a slider and his changeup’s been good his whole career. Again, the mental side of it, staring adversity in the face last year, and back up to what he’s doing now has been a huge piece for me.”

Parson’s 2017 numbers may have looked bad on the surface, but a deeper dive shows that he may have actually improved in some areas. His walk rate went virtually unchanged from 2016 to 2017, and his K/9 actually improved significantly from 7.00 to 9.97.

2. The left side of the infield is set for now

The loss of Kevin Smith in the MLB Draft left a gaping hole at shortstop for the Terps. However, the easy move was to move AJ Lee over from third base. Lee hit .307 with an .863 OPS last season and will be moving back to his natural position in 2018.

“It’s been an easy transition for [AJ],” Vaughn said. “He’s been super comfortable over there. We’ve had them (AJ and Dunn) working together a ton … AJ’s a natural shortstop, anyways. That’s where he played in high school at St. John’s College right down there road. Him and Dunn working together all fall has been really smooth.”

The Terps had a few options at third base, including junior college transfer Brad Barnett and senior Kevin Biondic, but Vaughn ultimately chose Taylor Wright, the junior transfer from Colorado Northwestern Community College. “[Taylor’s] going to be a middle-of-the-order impact bat for us,” Vaughn said.

3. Jancarski and Costes will be at the top of the order

Zach Jancarski was arguably the Big Ten’s best leadoff hitter last season. As a junior, Jancarski played in all but three games out of the top spot in the order, slashing .325/.424/.887 with 22 extra-base hits and the same amount of walks (33) as strikeouts. However, the now-senior may not be back in that lineup spot to start the season.

On the January 27th edition of the Maryland Baseball Network Podcast, Chris Webb of 10innings.com told us that Marty Costes would be hitting leadoff for the Terps. On Tuesday, Coach Vaughn would not specifically who would dig in to start the game against Tennessee on Feb. 16, but he did say that Costes and Jancarski would be the first two batters in the order.

Outfielder Marty Costes, who led the team in walks and home runs in 2017, will join Zach Jancarski at the top of the order this season. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 3/12/2017

“We’re going to hit them 1-2,” Vaughn said. “I’ve been thinking about leading Marty off, that’s honestly a conversation we’ve had and something we haven’t necessarily set in stone yet.”

“One of our huge things we’ve talked about is that I want every pitch of the game to matter. I don’t want the pitcher to ever throw one pitch he’s not scared it’s going to be hit in the gap. 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.”

Costes actually had a better on-base percentage (.429) than Jancarski last season and led the team in home runs with 13.

4. John Murphy is Maryland’s closer

Maryland had steered away from naming an actual closer over the past two seasons, but Coach Vaughn did just that on Tuesday.

After a stellar run out of the bullpen in 2017, John Murphy will take over closer duties for the Terps this season. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 4/4/2017

One of the big [relievers] is John Murphy. Murph is going to close for us this year,” Vaughn said. “He’ll be in that role. He’s been very good.”

Murphy pitched to a 1.27 ERA and struck out 27 batters while walking just eight in 31 2/3 innings for the Terps last season. However, he really showed his worth in the postseason, when he struck out 12 batters in nine innings and worked out of two almost-impossible jams.

Despite all the success, Murphy did have only one save last season, so this will be a brand new role for the junior right-hander.

5. Richie Schiekofer and Randy Bednar will split time in right field

While Costes and Jancarski have left and center field locked down, the third outfield spot may still be up for grabs in College Park. It looks like the Terps’ top two options right now are freshman — Randy Bednar and Richie Schiekofer.

“Randy are 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 the No. 5-ranked player in Maryland in the class of 2017, according to Perfect Game. The right-handed hitter batted .327 with six home runs for the Baltimore Redbirds in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League this summer.

Schiekofer was the No. 7-ranked outfielder in New Jersey coming out of high school, according to Perfect Game. He hit .306 from the left side for the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts of the CRCBL this summer.

6. If there’s a set midweek starter, it could be Mark DiLuia

The Terps used six different midweek starters in 2017, never really committing to one midweek option, and it looks like Maryland could do the same thing this season.

Coach Vaughn said he doesn’t want to get bogged down with pitchers’ roles, and instead just wants to focus on how he can win games and move on to the next.

However, if there is a midweek starter at the moment, it’s freshman right-hander Mark DiLuia, according to Vaughn. We could see DiLuia get the start on Feb. 21 at William & Mary — Maryland’s first midweek game of the season. DiLuia was the No. 38-ranked player in Illinois in the class of 2017, according to Perfect Game, and was taken in the 38th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers.