Month in Review: Top 5 Defensive Plays

Highlights galore.

The 10-5 Terps have officially wrapped up their first month of baseball in the 2019 season, and they did not go without making several SportsCenter Top Ten-caliber plays. From gracious leaping catches with the game on the line to pure domination on the pitcher’s mound, many of the Terrapins made great first impressions for themselves as the season progresses. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the top five plays from the Terps during the past month.

No. 5: Hunter Parson’s Ten-Strikeout Performance Leads Team to Shut-Out W

Terps ace Hunter Parsons reached a new career-high in strikeouts on March 8, as he punched out Stetson University’s Noah Dickerson in the seventh inning. The strikeout, which came of the swinging variety, was Parsons’ 10th of the game all while Parsons did a magnificent job at controlling the game. With only one walk and six hits allowed, he let up zero runs en route to a dominating 7-0 victory over Stetson.

No. 4: Justin Vought Prevents Winning Run from Scoring with a Diving Tag

The first of three jaw-dropping defensive plays the Terps made during their three-game swing at Louisiana Lafayette, catcher Justin Vought displayed his sharp instincts when an 11th-inning safety squeeze attempt by the Ragin’ Cajuns nearly brought in the game-winning run. By the time Vought had picked up the ball, which was bunted about five feet in front of home plate, the lead runner was already halfway home from third base. With only milliseconds left to make a decision, Vought threw his body straight at the sprinting Cajun — ball in hand — to apply the tag and send the game into the 12th inning.

No. 3: Michael Pineiro’s Diving Catch Eliminates Potential Extra-Base Hit

In the midst of the Terrapins dominating home series sweep against the Maine Black Bears, sophomore right fielder Michael Pineiro put his body on the line after ranging far to his left to prevent a bloop hit from falling near the foul line for what surely would have been more than a single for Maine catcher Ryan Turenne. With the Terrapins leading the Black Bears 6-4, this catch was even more crucial considering an extra-base hit would have brought two runners into scoring position while one out still remained in the inning. Pineiro’s stellar catch neutralized the threat and ended the Maine sixth while maintaining the lead.

No. 2: Randy Bednar Somersaults on Warning Track to Rob Extra-bases

The second SportsCenter Top Ten-caliber play to come out of the Louisiana Lafayette series came from sophomore Randy Bednar, who was manning right field for the first game of the series. Similar to Pineiro’s near-foul line layout, Bednar found himself ranging far to his left to make this play. However, this ball was hit further — right in front of the right-field wall to be exact — which forced Bednar onto the warning track where he made an incredible rolling catch to steal a potential run-scoring extra-base hit from Louisiana Lafayette’s catcher Handsome Monica.

No. 1: Chris Alleyne’s Jumping Catch with his Back Turned to Save the Game

Are you kidding me?!? In Chris Alleyne’s first season playing as an outfielder, he makes arguably one of the best catches of the season. With the game on the line — runners on first and second in the bottom of the 13th — Handsome Monica belted a Will Glock pitch deep to right-center for what easily would have been a walk-off hit,  had it not been for Alleyne’s insane athleticism and vision.

Alleyne was positioned in shallow center field and was narrowly able to track down the Monica blast as he approached the warning track. Then, with the help of his great athleticism, Alleyne leaped into the air grasping for the soaring baseball as he crashed straight into the wall. After a quick pause, the mind-blowing play became a reality. Alleyne had caught the ball, ending the Ragin’ Cajuns’ threat and sending the game into the 14th inning as the Terps hopes of winning lived on.

Maxwell Costes earns 2nd Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors

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Photo credit: Maryland Athletics

Maryland’s Maxwell Costes was named the Big Ten freshman of the week after helping lead the Terps to a 3-1 record, the conference announced Monday afternoon. This marks the second time Costes has earned this award, after he won it in conjunction with the conference’s player of the week earlier this season.

The cleanup hitter picked up six hits and seven RBIs this week, as the Terps beat Delaware at home before winning 2-of-3 on the road against Stetson.

After several weeks of clutch hitting with runners on base, Costes finally delivered home-run power. The freshman hit his first-career long ball last Tuesday against the Blue Hens, the finishing touch on a convincing win.

Then in Friday’s series-opener against Stetson, he crushed a go-ahead, no-doubter to left field in the sixth inning to break open what was a scoreless game. The Terps went on to win 7-0 — their largest shutout win since 2015.

The Baltimore native had his best performance in Maryland’s only loss of the weekend. Costes hit a two-run single in the first inning and later hit a bases-loaded double that scored all three runs to finish his night with a career-high five RBIs.

Costes now leads Maryland with a .327 batting average, 15 RBIs and a .446 on-base percentage. His 17 hits — seven of which are for extra bases — are tied for the most with third baseman Taylor Wright. His RBI total leads the entire conference.

His older brother Marty, who played at Maryland and is now in the Houston Astros’ minor-league system, also won two Big Ten freshman of the week awards before going on to Big Ten All-freshman team honors.

Maryland (9-5) travels to Delaware for the second half of a home-and-home series on Wednesday, and then will host No. 18 East Carolina in College Park this weekend.

 

 

Chris Alleyne began the season on the bench. Now, he’s atop Maryland’s lineup.

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Photo credit: Maryland Athletics

Chris Alleyne often refers to himself as Maryland baseball’s “jack of all trades.” He has the ability to play multiple positions, reach base in various ways, and when he’s standing on first, use his speed to swipe second or score easily on a ball hit into the gap.

But the sophomore’s skillset started this season where it spent almost all of last year — on the bench. Despite transitioning from infield to center field in the offseason to help address a team need, he didn’t earn a start until the Terps’ third game. He hasn’t sat out since.

His role was clear. On defense: cover ground in center. As the nine-hole hitter: get on base for the top of the order. On the bases: wreak havoc in opposing pitchers’ minds. He wasn’t expected to lead Maryland to wins.

However, his 6-for-13 weekend against Stetson did just that. His first two career homers on Sunday guided Maryland to a series victory — a powerful performance beyond what head coach Rob Vaughn anticipated from the 5-foot-9 spark plug.

“[He] didn’t even start the first two games of the year,” Vaughn said, jokingly adding, “That shows you how dumb I am sometimes.”

In his freshman season, Alleyne mustered only two hits in 25 at-bats. On the bases, he even tripped in between third and home and was consequently tagged out as the game-winning run against James Madison (Maryland still won in 12 innings).

That’s all water under the bridge now, a distant blip already rectified only 14 games into a new season.

Alleyne is hitting .275 after his six-hit weekend against Stetson. He ranks first on the team in runs scored (12), second in home runs (2), and third in RBIs (7) and on-base percentage (.408). He’s also one of two Terps who doesn’t have more strikeouts than walks.

“Everyone’s going to struggle,” Alleyne said. “But there’s always a point where you’re going to see success if you can just stick with it.”

With regular leadoff hitter Caleb Walls entering Saturday on a 2-for-24 skid, Vaughn elected to switch things up midway through the series. He handed the role to Alleyne, who led off regularly at Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia.

While his hot bat was the highlight during Maryland’s two-win weekend, Alleyne had already become a mainstay of the lineup more for his speed and defensive abilities than his offense.

His incredible gap-to-gap range as a first-year outfielder became evident a week earlier against Louisiana Lafayette — especially in Maryland’s 14-inning marathon loss Saturday. In the 13th frame, he sprinted into deep right-center field and contorted his body to make an acrobatic, game-saving web gem, momentarily evading defeat.

The solid defense carried into this past weekend, when Stetson decided to test Alleyne’s arm. While the Terps lost on Saturday, Alleyne’s inning-ending, run-saving play maintained a two-run game. His throw moved catcher Justin Vought slightly up the third-base line, but not far enough to prevent a lunging tag at the plate.

“I love it out there,” Alleyne said. “It’s what [the team] needed. So as long as they need me out there, that’s what I’ll be doing.”

And then came Sunday, when Alleyne provided his team with much more offense than anyone thought he would provide. He drove in four runs and scored three times, playing a part in all but one of the team’s eight runs.

He reached base in all five trips to the plate: a leadoff double to start the game, a hit by pitch, his first-career homer, a walk and another two-run blast to seal the game. The first homer came from the right side of the plate against preseason All-American Mitchell Senger, and the other from the left side of the plate with the Terps clinging to a two-run lead.

“That home run he hit in the eighth there at the end to give us some breathing room … finally allowed us to squash [Stetson’s] momentum,” Vaughn said. “Even in our dugout, you could feel them coming a little bit and we were on our heels.”

Alleyne’s four-RBI afternoon was the difference in The Terps’ 8-4 win, which clinched a Maryland series victory over Stetson for the second consecutive year. It marked the Terps’ first road series victory since last April.

So, while “power” might not have been an established attribute in Alleyne’s self-proclaimed nickname, that’s exactly what Maryland needed from its jack of all trades for a big bounce-back weekend.

“I’m feeling good,” Alleyne said. “I’m not trying to do too much up there, just trying to allow my ability and my approach to take me where it wants to go.”

Maryland experimented on defense so it could use its hottest hitter vs. Delaware

As head coach Rob Vaughn watched backup catcher Sebastian Holte-Mancera’s success at the plate last weekend against Louisiana, he pondered how to regularly feature the hot-hitting junior college transfer in the lineup.

There was no simple answer, despite the junior’s 5-for-11 start to his Maryland career.

The Terps had an everyday catcher in sophomore Justin Vought. Three superior defensive outfielders filled Holte-Mancera’s secondary positions. Freshman Maxwell Costes had been the designated hitter in every game, and his .300 batting average and team-leading eight RBIs were too productive to withdraw from the lineup.

But a midweek matchup against a winless Delaware team let Maryland experiment to include its hottest hitter in the lineup. Costes played first base for the first time since middle school, allowing Holte-Mancera to assume the DH role and produce his third-multi hit performance in five appearances.

“I feel pretty comfortable because I’ve been prepping myself before the game very well,” Holte-Mancera said. “Doing mobility and a lot of stuff, allowing myself to be ready to succeed whenever I come in.”

Before Tuesday, Holte-Mancera had only played in unexpected situations. But now with the lefty batting .538 in 13 at-bats this season, the Terps could increase his workload by keeping Costes in the infield.

The Minnesota native started twice at catcher during the opening weekend, but only because Vought entered concussion protocol after the season-opener and missed the rest of the series. Holte-Mancera filled the offensive void, however, going 3-for-7 in Vought’s brief absence.

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Photo credit: Maryland Athletics

He didn’t play again for more than two weeks, as Vought quickly recovered in time for the next series. But Holte-Mancera didn’t think much of his lack of action, and continued to work hard at practice while patiently waiting for another chance.

“He works hard, man,” Vought said. “He’s out here every day grinding.” 

When the Terps played 14 innings in the first half of a doubleheader against Louisiana, Vaughn turned to Holte-Mancera so Vought didn’t have to catch 23 innings in one day.

And again, Holte-Mancera made the most of a golden opportunity, recording his second consecutive multi-hit game and forcing the coaching staff to consider an option to get him in the lineup consistently.

“We tell guys all the time if you want to get in the lineup, do something to change,” Vaughn said. “If you’re not in the lineup right now, do something to change it. Give us a reason to do it.”

Five hits in three games was all the justification Vaughn needed when he took a defensive chance to keep Holte-Mancera in the lineup. And it paid off.

After only scoring eight runs in three games against Louisiana, Maryland produced a season-high 11 runs and 13 hits against Delaware with Holte-Mancera and Costes both in the lineup.

In the sixth inning, Holte-Mancera mashed his first-career Terrapin homer. Two innings later, Costes muscled a line drive over the left-field wall for his first collegiate blast — the final touch on an 11-6 victory.

Defensively, Costes successfully fielded the only two balls hit his way and didn’t commit an error in the nine other putouts he was a part of. For Holte-Mancera’s sake, Costes didn’t do anything that would warrant quickly ditching the thought of a second trial run at first base.

“It’s just nice to know we have an option if we need another left-handed bat in the order,” Vaughn said. “We can throw Maxwell over there and he can hold his own.”

With first basemen Michael Pineiro and Kody Milton still adjusting early in the season — both hitting below .200 — the Costes option at first gives Vaughn and the coaching staff an enjoyable sense of flexibility.

Even though it’s uncertain whether the same lineup will be used when Maryland battles 2018 NCAA Super Regional participant Stetson this weekend, the Terps don’t seem to care which combination of players take the field. 

“Everybody’s going to do their role. Everybody’s going to contribute,” Vought said. “No matter who’s in the lineup for us, we’re confident with the guys we roll out there.”

Two first-year starters had breakout weekends vs. Maine

Maryland designated hitter Maxwell Costes’ visit to second base was short-lived in the first inning Sunday against Maine.

Just one pitch after the freshman’s two-run, bases-loaded double, Costes leisurely jogged home as the ball flew off first baseman Michael Pineiro’s bat and over the right-field fence. In consecutive swings, a tie game turned into a 5-0 Terps lead.

Neither Costes nor Pineiro touched the field last season — the latter watching the entirety of his first year in College Park from the dugout and the former still at The Gilman School in Baltimore.

But the young duo drove in seven of the team’s nine runs in the series finale against Maine, each breaking out in the Terps’ three-game sweep over the Black Bears.

“All we want is quality at-bats,” Costes said. “Get up there, do your job and do whatever you can to get on base.” 

And so far this season, with the Terps now on a four-game winning streak following an 0-2 start, the pair of first-year starters are doing just that.

About a quarter of the way through last season, though, head coach Rob Vaughn met with Pineiro, who hadn’t played in a game yet. That wasn’t going to change anytime soon. The coaching staff didn’t envision Pineiro receiving significant playing time in 2018, so he took a redshirt year to save eligibility as he further developed his skills.

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Photo credit: Maryland Athletics

After that conservation, Vaughn said, the rest of Pineiro’s year could’ve gone one of two ways.

“You [could] see a guy that kind of shuts it down for the rest of the year, and that guy usually doesn’t get any better and doesn’t turn into a player,” Vaughn said. “Or, you see what Mike did.”

The California native closely studied former Terrapin first baseman Kevin Biondic, who occupied Pineiro’s position in the infield. But when Biondic graduated and signed a minor-league deal with the Boston Red Sox after last season, that spot opened up.

Pineiro took what he learned in his season off and applied it to 37 games with the Kelowna Falcons in the West Coast League. When he returned to College Park in the fall he continued to improve, and thus earned an opportunity to start when the 2019 season began two weeks ago.

But he struggled to start strong during the Brittain Resorts Invitational, going 1-for-10 with four strikeouts in the opening weekend. Against Maine, however, he showed a dramatic turnaround with five hits, four RBIs and his first-career home run.

As much as Pineiro would’ve liked to play as a true freshman, his redshirt season prepared him for the large role he’s seeing in the middle of Maryland’s lineup.

“You can’t look back and look at it as a negative thing,” he said. “I look at it as a learning experience for me as a baseball player and as a person. I thought it was really good for me.”

While a year watching Maryland baseball from the bench preceded Pineiro’s first year as a starter, Costes spent three seasons watching from the stands before he got his chance. He cheered on the Terps while his older brother Marty was one of the team’s stars for the last three years.

Marty was drafted by the Houston Astros last June and forwent his senior year, which added to the lofty expectations for his younger brother — regardless of whether or not Maxwell has felt the weight of his brother’s achievements.

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Photo credit: Maryland Athletics

But when Maxwell rocketed a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth on Sunday, he accomplished a Maryland feat last completed by Marty — recording four RBIs in a game as a freshman.

“Maxwell doesn’t get phased by a lot. That’s what I like about him,” Vaughn said. “You talk to all of our pitchers in the fall and those guys consistently said he’s the guy they least liked to face.” 

Costes went 4-for-9 with six RBIs against Maine last weekend, earning Big Ten Player and Freshman of the week honors.  He now has hits in five of Maryland’s six games this season, and in the game he didn’t get one, he still reached base three times.

Coming off a illustrious high school career, it can be difficult for young players to avoid getting caught up in statistics and individual results. For Costes, though, he’s much more concerned with playing his role, which he credits to his work with hitting coach Matt Swope.

“Being a freshman, hitting fifth, I’m stepping into a big spot,” Costes said. “My plan at the plate is to just have quality at-bats and find ways to get on base.”

That large role hasn’t been too lofty for a freshman like Costes, who leads the team in batting average (.350), doubles (3) and RBIs (7) six games into his college career. And while Pineiro has been asked to split time between the outfield and infielder, that role hasn’t been too much for him, either.

“When you start making it a science project, you’re not too good,” Vaughn said. “But when you go out and trust yourself and go compete, you got a chance to be pretty good.”

Maxwell Costes named Big Ten Player and Freshman of the week

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Photo credit: UMTerps.com

Maryland baseball designated hitter Maxwell Costes earned Big Ten freshman and player of the week honors after the Terps’ sweep against Maine, the conference announced Monday afternoon. This marks Costes’ first two weekly awards of his college career.

Batting fifth in the lineup all weekend, the Baltimore native went 4-for-9 with three doubles and six RBIs against the Black Bears. He also drew one walk and was hit three times. In the series finale on Sunday, Costes’ four RBIs were the most by a Maryland freshman since his brother, Marty, accomplished the same feat in 2016.

Marty Costes won two Big Ten freshman of the week awards and, at the end of the season, earned a spot on the conference’s All-freshman team. His nine homers led all freshman in the conference. He never won a Big Ten player of the week award in three seasons with Maryland.

Even though Maxwell hasn’t hit a homer through two weekends, he’s started and reached base in all six games, while also securing a hit in five of them. He still reached base three times in his only game without a hit this season.

Twice over the weekend, Costes hit a two-run double in the bottom of the first to give Maryland a 2-0 lead. On Sunday, with the Terps leading 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, his two-run single provided insurance for the eventual 9-6 win.

Costes currently leads the Terps with a .350 batting average, three doubles and seven RBIs.