Preseason Countdown No. 19: Best moment of 2019

7

While the 2019 season didn’t end the way the Terps may have wanted, falling 10-4 to the Michigan Wolverines in the Big Ten Tournament, the game itself contained arguably the greatest moment of the season.

Senior infielder A.J Lee was among the team-leaders in a multitude of stats as his final year at Maryland came to a close, including batting average (1st, .317), on-base percentage (1st, .443), on-base percentage plus slugging (2nd, .940), and stolen bases (2nd, 10), and he had certainly been one of the strongest leaders in the Terps’ clubhouse.

When Maryland entered the ninth inning of the game, down 10-3, it was fairly certain that Lee would take his last plate appearance as a Terrapin. But when Lee stepped up to the plate for the final time, he made sure it counted.

The emotional home run wasn’t enough to push Maryland to a victory, but it was a sweet way to cap off an incredible 2019 season where he slashed .317/.443/.497 and slugged for seven home runs and 36 RBI.

Lee was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 34th round of the 2019 MLB Draft and spent his summer splitting time between the low-A Quad City River Bandits and short-season A Tri-City Valley Cats, where he slashed .211/.327/.354 with five home runs.

 

Preseason Countdown No. 20: Biggest home run of 2019

6

One of the most memorable moments of the Terps’ 2019 campaign came in their last series opener, a Thursday-night matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes, when senior shortstop A.J. Lee knocked a two-run walk-off homer out of the park and sent his bat flying before being engulfed by his teammates.

Maryland took the lead early, but struggled to maintain it in the top of the ninth as the Iowa offense mounted a four-run inning to tie the game at eight runs apiece.

Enter: A.J. Lee.

Heading into the ninth Lee was already 2-for-3 on the day with a pair of singles, an RBI, a stolen base and a sacrifice hit.

When Lee stepped to the plate, freshman Josh Maguire stood on second base thanks to his leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt from Benjamin Cowles.

Lee took the first pitch, a ball, then sent the second pitch he saw flying deep over the left-field wall.

Almost as soon as the ball had left Lee’s bat he watched it soar through the air before tossing his bat to the side and rounded the bases, yelling and skipping in excitement.

“I had a pretty good idea [it was going out],” Lee said. “But [the bat flip] was just out of pure excitement. I knew pretty much it was going to be gone.”

As Lee rounded first the Maryland dugout emptied, the energy and excitement palpable as is only the case with walk offs.

But Lee’s homer and the Terps’ subsequent win meant all the more after the struggles the team, and Lee, had been through over the course of the season.

“It’s really special for this team,” Lee said. “We’re been through a lot of adversity as a team, had ups and downs, good days and bad days. But at the end of the day, we’re all brothers and we’re out here trying to fight for a spot in the post season.”

Lee started the 2019 season 0-for-13, before an ankle injury at the beginning of March forced him to take an eight-game break to heal and regain focus. In his first at-bat back on March 15, Lee singled.

By the end of the season, Lee led the Terps with a .317 average and a .443 on-base percentage, plus 60 hits and 10 stolen bases.

“[It] made me appreciate things a lot more,” Lee said. “I just feel a lot more relaxed, a lot more comfortable out there, and [I’m] just having fun and playing the game.”

After his dominant season, Lee was selected by the Houston Astros in the 34th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, the second of two Maryland players drafted, after the Mets chose Hunter Parsons in the 19th round.

Preseason Countdown No. 21: Best 2019 offensive performance

5

The 2019 season featured many incredible performances for the Maryland Terrapins by an offense that may not have been consistent but displayed tons of upside nonetheless. However, none of those performances quite compare to a pair of midweek contests in late March versus the Elon Phoenix.

The first dominant showing by the Terps’ bats began in the second inning of Tuesday’s match on March 19. After two Maryland runners moved into scoring position, a passed ball by Elon’s catcher allowed Maryland sophomore Justin Vought to score from third base. Outfielder Caleb Walls added to the early onslaught by bashing a pitch to center field and sprinting around the bases for a two-run, inside-the-park home run to give Maryland an early 3-0 lead.

The Phoenix took a 4-3 lead in the fifth, after a few anemic innings from the Terps’ offense, but when the sixth inning came along Maryland quickly snatched the lead back on a pair of wild pitches. The Terps didn’t stop there, however.

In the seventh inning, A.J. Lee — who led the 2019 team with a .317 batting average — hammered a double to left-center field for another pair of runs and later crossed home on an RBI bunt single from Walls, giving Maryland an 8-4 lead with two frames to go.

The cherry on top came the following inning when both Lee and Walls went liftoff with a two-run home run and a solo home run, respectively. After blowing their early lead, the Terrapin offense had scored a total eight unanswered runs after the fifth inning to assert their offensive dominance as they took game one of the two-game midweek series, 11-4.

The following day the Terps did not waste any time piling on runs versus the Phoenix’s pitching. While Maryland’s own starter, junior Tuck Tucker, threw five one-hit innings, Elon’s starter didn’t even make it out of the first. Five Maryland runners scored in the first inning as the Terps batted around the lineup once.

Elon nearly escaped with no damage, but with two outs and the bases loaded the Phoenix allowed a pair of walks and a pair of singles to Sebastian Holte-Mancera and Walls before getting the final out leaving Maryland with a first-inning 5-0 lead.

The Terps did not bring as many fireworks in the second inning, but tacked on another run with an RBI groundout off the bat of Vought. The following inning junior Randy Bednar joined in on the fun with a two-run double crushed to left-center field and would later scored on an RBI single up the middle by third baseman Taylor Wright.

Unfortunately, the Terps were not able to score in every inning of the game, but they made sure not to stop just after three innings. While they were limited to zeros in the run column through the fourth and fifth innings, Maryland took advantage of a weak Elon bullpen by loading the bases on three walks in the sixth inning.

Tommy Gardiner cashed in on a single to right field for two runs, leaving runners on the corners. The final Terrapin run of the game scored simply, on a wild pitch, and thus Maryland had given itself a powerful 12-1 lead en route to an ultimate 12-4 victory.

Preseason Countdown No. 22: Best Series

4

The Terps swept only two series in their 2019 season: their home-opening Maine series, and their regular season-ending Iowa series.

Maryland’s victory over Iowa stands alone as the most significant series, and the best series, not only because of the level of confidence with which the Terps entered the three-game set, but also because with the series victory Maryland qualified for the Big Ten Tournament for the first time under head coach Rob Vaughn (the first time since 2017).

Thursday’s series opener set the tone of the late-season matchup, with senior A.J. Lee knocking the second pitch of his last at-bat of the night out of the park for a two-run home run, the Terps’ first walk-off of the season.

While Maryland came out on top in the end, the game had been as back-and-forth as the series to that point. The Terps took an early lead with two runs apiece in the first and third innings. By the end of the eighth, the Terps were leading 6-2.

But after Iowa tacked on four runs in the top of the ninth, Maryland needed to do something it had not accomplished all season. A.J. Lee rose to the occasion.

With the 8-6 win on Thursday, Maryland entered Friday’s game looking to clinch the series, a feat the Terps accomplished behind an outpouring of offensive power. The 8-4 win marked only the second time the Terps had clinched a Big Ten series that season.

Maryland’s offense stayed hot on Friday, powered by big hits from throughout the Terps’ lineup that backed an at-times faltering defense, giving early run support to starter Zach Thompson.

The Terps sent three home runs over the fence: a two-run home from Maxwell Costes in the first and a solo home run apiece from Randy Bednar and A.J. Lee in the fourth and eight innings, respectively. Add in Josh Maguire’s bases-clearing triple and it’s clear Maryland carried the momentum from Thursday’s walk-off into Friday’s match.

Entering Saturday’s series finale, the Terps had the chance to clinch their first Big Ten Tournament berth under Vaughn.

On Saturday, both Maryland’s offense and defense–including some at-times lackluster pitching–merged together for a 10-8 win over Iowa to secure the sweep and ensure the Terps’ ticket to Omaha.

Maryland players sprinted out of the dugout, engulfing closer John Murphy in the infield Saturday evening. The Terps had just clinched their first appearance in the Big Ten Tournament under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn.

Murphy, who entered in the ninth, recorded three straight outs to ensure Maryland’s 10-8 win over Iowa (30-22, 12-12), earning his 11th save of the year in the Terps’ final game of the regular season in College Park.

Iowa had tied the game for the third time in the top of the eighth with a grand slam from Tanner Wetrich. But, as they had the whole game, the Terps responded and a two-RBI double from Chris Alleyne put Maryland on top 10-8 and left Murphy with the task of holding off the Iowa bats.

Not only did Maryland show its strength on the mound and at the plate, but the series and its many comeback wins served as a metaphor for the Terps’ season as a whole.

The Terps flirted with the .500 mark the entirety of their 2019 campaign, finishing with a 29-29 record and a 12-12 in-conference record. With the Iowa sweep, Maryland proved to the conference, and to itself, that it was worthy of that coveted tournament spot.

Preseason Countdown No. 23: Best win

3

In his second season as head coach, Rob Vaughn and the Maryland Baseball team earned 29 wins, including wins against Minnesota, Indiana and future-Big Ten Tournament champions Ohio State.

But the best single-game win of 2019 came during the postseason, in the Terps’ first game of the Big Ten Tournament. Its first tournament appearance under Vaughn’s leadership, Maryland’s solid pitching staff and powerful offense came together to defeat Illinois in a 6-2 victory to advance to the winner’s bracket.

Here’s a repost of Maryland Baseball Network’s game recap from the big win:


 

By Paige Leckie | May 22, 2019
Maryland defeats Illinois in first game of Big Ten Tournament

In the Maryland’s first Big Ten tournament appearance under second-year head coach Rob Vaughn, the Terps continued their hot streak, defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 6-2 on Wednesday in Omaha, Nebraska, to move on to the winner’s bracket.

Maryland got on the board first, after loading the bases on a pair of walks and an infield single. A fielder’s choice from Randy Bednar drove in Chris Alleyne from third, giving the Terps a 1-0 lead in the second.

Terrapin runners reached base in all but the first inning, when Illinois starter Andy Fisher retired the Terps in order. Even so, the Terps struggled to plate runners and provide Parsons with a bigger lead with which to work, stranding a total of 12 on the day. The lack of extra run support from Maryland came back to haunt the Terps in the ninth inning, when Illinois started to mount a comeback.

Maryland ace Hunter Parsons set the tone early, tossing three consecutive 1-2-3 innings to start before the first Illinois runner reached base in the fourth. After the Fighting Illini’s first hit Parsons walked two with two outs to load the bases. But the right-hander induced a huge ground out to end the half and strand the bases loaded, maintaining the Terps’ 1-0 lead.

The Fighting Illini continued to pressure the Terps in the fifth and plated their first run of the day, when Grant Van Scoy beat the throw home after second baseman Ben Cowles bobbled the ball.

Though Illinois tied the game at one run apiece in the fifth, Parsons maintained his composure and took down the fighting Illini in order in both the sixth and seventh inning, giving the Terps a chance to pull ahead as the right-hander threw his 115th pitch on the day.

Following Parsons’ lead, the Maryland lineup came alive in the eighth. After Taylor Wright led off the inning with a single through the left side against the shift, freshman Maxwell Costes sent a two-run homer to left field. Then, two batters later, sophomore Justin Vought went deep with a two-run shot of his own, putting the Terps ahead 5-1 and providing Parsons much-needed run support.

Parsons threw 7 1/3 innings, allowing only one run on four hits and three walks and recording four strikeouts in his 123 pitches thrown. After the righty secured the first out of the eighth with a runner on first, Mark DiLuia entered to secure the final two outs of the half. The sophomore recorded a three-pitch called strikeout and induced a fly-out to end the inning and hold on to Maryland’s lead.

Behind DiLuia, the Terps tacked on another run on a drag bunt single from Alleyne in the ninth. Illinois tacked on a run in the ninth, but senior closer John Murphy recorded back-to-back strikeouts to secure Maryland’s first win of the conference tournament.

 

Preseason Countdown No. 24: 2019 Pitching MVP

2

When the Terps were in need of a leader, senior Hunter Parsons emerged time and time again. The team’s ace built off a dominant junior campaign to finish his career at Maryland with force.

Parsons, who ended his final season in College Park with a 3.45 ERA, had a rubber arm on the bump. In his 15 starts Parsons climbed past triple digits in pitches thrown all but three times.

Perhaps the most impressive stat of Parsons’ senior year was the 10 wins, the third-most in a single season in Maryland history. The total also pushed him to the top of the Big Ten standings in wins.

A strong finish to his junior season propelled Parsons to a even stronger start in 2019. After a no-decision in the season opener against Campbell, Parsons led Maryland to its second of five straight victories in the first game of a weekend series with Maine.

Parsons went eight strong innings, did not concede a run and allowed only four total baserunners on 99 pitches to earn his first win of the 2019 season.

The righty followed that performance against Maine with another dominant start two weeks later, when he recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts in seven innings against Stetson, breaking his record of nine K’s from the previous season, ironically against the same team. The senior matched his career-high with 10 more K’s in his next start, when he took the bump to face Creighton.

When it came to leading off the weekend for his team, Parsons showed up day in and out during his weekly Friday starts. In his 14 series-opener appearances had a record of 10-4 and three shutouts.

Parsons’ leadership on and off the mound helped lead the Terps to their first Big Ten Tournament appearance since 2017. In the first round he tossed 7 2/3 innings to take down third-seeded Illinois and advance to the winners bracket.

After his career in College Park ended in May, Parsons was awarded Third-Team All-Big Ten honors at the conclusion of the postseason.

But Parsons’ baseball career lived on as he was drafted by the New York Mets in the 19th round of the MLB Draft.

After signing with the Mets Parsons threw for the Brooklyn Cyclones, New York’s Short-A affiliate, for 18 2/3 innings in 11 appearances. He posted a 2.89 ERA and a 1-1 record in his first season as a professional ballplayer.

 

Preseason Countdown No. 25: 2019 Offensive MVP

1

After a dominant senior season at Maryland, shortstop A.J. Lee was drafted in the 34th round of the MLB Draft–a reward for his rebound from a slow start and early-season injury with the Terps.

Lee’s dominant senior season marked a comeback from his lackluster junior campaign, when he slashed .232/.375/.396. In 2019 Lee finished as the only player batting over .300, batting .317 with a .940 OPS and a team-high .443 on-base percentage, making him the Terps’ most valuable hitter.

The season didn’t start off well for Lee, however. Through the Terps’ first eight games, Lee hit .148 with a .314 on-base percentage and only two RBI.

But when an ankle injury on March 1 forced Lee to miss eight games, the senior refocused and came back stronger. In his first eight games back Lee batted .320 and reached base 50% of the time. He also tallied seven RBI in that stretch–more than three times as many as his first eight games.

While Lee’s power and approach at the plate may have re-emerged–his final stats a marked improvement from those of his junior campaign–his ability to get on base remained one of the shortstop’s assets.

As a senior, Lee led the team in walks for the second year in a row (29, tied with Taylor Wright and Randy Bednar) and worked 16 hit-by-pitches.

Lee also tallied more than three times as many RBI in 2019 as he had in 2018 (from 11 RBI to 36 RBI).

Included in that statistic is, arguably, the most memorable moment of Lee’s career: his two-run walk-off home run against Iowa in the Terps’ last series opener of 2019, their first walk off of the season and the best bat flip of the year.

“I had a pretty good idea [it was going out],” Lee said. “But [the bat flip] was just out of pure excitement. I knew pretty much it was going to be gone.”

“Regardless of what happens in the next two days,” head coach Rob Vaughn said, “that’s a moment that that young man’s never going to forget. [Lee] deserves it.”

His performance in 2019 earned Lee 2019 All-Big Ten Third Team honors. Lee also earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors after his dominance in the final week of the regular season, when he batted .588 in four games (10-for-17) with three home runs, two doubles and six RBI. He also worked two walks and stole two bases, crossing the plate eight times in those four Maryland victories.

After the Houston Astros drafted Lee in the 34th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, he spent time in both high-A and low-A, where he hit a combined five homers.

 

Pro Terps: Lowe named finalist for AL Rookie of the Year

Lowe

Former Maryland infielder and current Tampa Bay second baseman Brandon Lowe was named one of three finalists in the American League Rookie of the Year race by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Monday.

Lowe was named to the AL All-Star team earlier in the season, after being first recalled toward the end of the 2018 campaign.

Though he missed the All Star Game due to injury, which kept him sidelined from early July until late September, the rookie put up some stellar numbers for the Rays.

Over his 82 games and almost 300 at-bats, Lowe batted .270 and slugged .514 with 17 long balls and 17 doubled. He also notched 51 RBIs.

Lowe was drafted out of the University of Maryland by Tampa Bay in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He received numerous honors in his years as a Terp, including being named Baseball America and Perfect Game Freshman All-American and earning Second Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten honors.

The winners of all BBWAA awards will be announced on November 11.

Maryland releases 2020 schedule, which features Texas road trip

MBN Logo

The University of Maryland 2020 baseball schedule has finally dropped!

Maryland opens its 2020 season with a three-game set on the road against College of Charleston Feb. 14. It marks the Terps’ second consecutive year starting the season somewhere in South Carolina. 

The Terps broke even in their 2019 campaign, finishing with a 29-29 record, a four-win improvement from the previous season.. In his second season at the helm, Rob Vaughn steered the Terps to their first Big Ten Tournament appearance since 2017. Maryland defeated Illinois in their first tournament game before losing to Ohio State and Michigan to close out the season.

Maryland kicks off its 2020 home slate with the Rhode Island Rams on Feb. 21. The weekend series will be the first meeting between the two programs, as the Terps look to defend Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium with another sweep in the home opener. 

The Terps continue their non-conference slate with a three-game set against Coastal Carolina, this time for a weekend series against the Chanticleers. Last year, Maryland started its season with the tournament hosted by Coastal Carolina. Maryland also played in the tournament in 2018.

A spring break trip to Texas highlights the Terps’ non-conference schedule. The road trip will include a weekend series at TCU beginning on March 13 and a midweek game at Sam Houston State on March 18. This will be Maryland’s first trip to the Lone Star State since 2011. 

The rest of Maryland’s slate includes weekend series against Bryant, and Binghamton, and midweek matchups against Villanova, Delaware, James Madison, VCU, West Virginia, William and Mary, Mount St. Mary’s and Towson.  Altogether, the Terps will face five teams that made the 2019 NCAA tournament, including TCU, who came within two games of a Super Regional appearance before being eliminated by Arkansas.

The Terps will begin Big Ten play at home against the Michigan State Spartans on March 20. Last season, the Terps finished 11-11 in conference play, enough to clinch the No. 6 slot for the Big Ten Tournament.

Maryland’s conference schedule also includes home series against Nebraska, Penn State and Minnesota, and road series against Rutgers, Iowa, Purdue and the 2019 Big Ten Tournament Champions Ohio State. The Terps will avoid the three teams that finished atop the Big Ten in regular season play last year: Indiana, Michigan and Illinois.

Make sure to stay up-to-date on all your Terps baseball news with MBN, where we’ll have broadcasts and game recaps for all 56 games of the 2020 season.

 

Pro Terps Update: 2019 MLB Postseason edition

MBN Logo

October baseball is here, and two former Terrapins shined in their postseason debuts. Tampa Bay Rays’ Brandon Lowe and Los Angeles Dodgers’ Adam Kolarek represented Maryland in the first round of the Major League Baseball playoffs.

Both Lowe and Kolarek were knocked out of their respective divisional series in the first round, each of which in a winner-take-all Game 5. Here’s how these former Terrapins fared on the national stage.

2B Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays

Lowe entered the postseason without a division title. The Rays earned the second Wild Card spot and traveled to Oakland for a one-game round matchup against the A’s. The rookie made the start at second base for Tampa Bay and totaled three at-bats in the win.

The Rays then traveled to Houston to face off against the top-ranked Astros for the five-game divisional set. Lowe started the first four games of the series, finishing with a postseason batting average of .250. 

In Game 3, the first game back home after Tampa Bay dropped the first two in Houston, Lowe tallied two hits–one of which flew over the left-field wall and made him the first Terrapin to homer in an MLB postseason since 1942. 

The former Terrapin did not see time in the final game of the series, which ultimately stopped the Rays’ season short. Lowe ended his first year in the MLB with a .270 average and 17 home runs. He currently sits in third place for the American League Rookie of the Year, according to CBS Sports. 

LHP Adam Kolarek, Los Angeles Dodgers

The southpaw joined the Dodgers’ stacked roster in July after being traded from the Tampa Bay Rays. Kolarek earned a spot in the bullpen and pitched his way to a National League West Division Title. 

Los Angeles entered the 2019 MLB playoffs as the No. 1 team in the National League and, after they on the Wild Card, faced the Washington Nationals for a five-game set. The second-year pitcher appeared in three of the five postseason games, totaling one inning pitched. 

The Dodgers used Kolarek as a specialty left-hander out of the bullpen against the Nationals’ Juan Soto, facing the youngster three times, all of which resulted in outs. Kolarek never went over 10 pitches in any of his outings, and struck out Soto twice. 

Kolarek finished his second year in the Majors with a 3.27 earned-run-average and 45 strikeouts. Since joining the Dodgers in July, the former Terrapin had an ERA of 0.77 to close out the season.