It's hard to deny the ascent of Maryland Terrapins baseball over the past few years. Heading into 2014, the Terps have positioned themselves to take the next big step into the thick of ACC contenders.
One thing to note, Maryland baseball finished with a losing record in 23 of the past 29 seasons. However, they've put up back-to-back winning campaigns and double-digit ACC win totals for the first time since 1971-72. On the heels of four straight nationally recognized recruiting classes, this year's team could be one of the most talented in school history.
|Photo: Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun|
Although the majority of the 2013 contributors do return this year, John Szefc's Terrapins will have to weather the losses of some key players. Last year's ace, Jimmy Reed, was drafted in the sixth round by the St. Louis Cardinals. Reed went 6-4 as the Friday starter, posting a 2.34 ERA and out-dueling some of the nation's best arms.
Three-year starter Jordan Hagel also graduated last year. Hagel, who registered the highest OPS of any offensive player in 2013, leaves behind a vacancy in right field.
The Terps will also have to replace seven players who transferred out of the program. 3B KJ Hockaday (Tennessee Wesleyan), UT Greg Olenski (Delaware), OF Matt Bosse (SC-Aiken), 1B Tim Kiene (Tennessee Wesleyan), OF Kyle Moore, LHP Cam Hatch and C Alex Ramsay have all left College Park. With the exception of Moore, the transfers were recruited by previous head coach Eric Bakich, who resigned as Terps skipper after the 2012 season, leaving for the Michigan job.
Heading into the Terps' crucial opening series against No. 23 Florida, many of the Opening Day decisions have already been made:
CatcherStarter: Kevin Martir (So.)
Backup: Nick Cieri (Fr.)
|Photo: Charlie DeBoyace (Diamondback)|
The injury to freshman John Mazza and the departures of Alex Ramsay and Alex Yee leave the Terps incredibly short-handed behind the plate. Martir (pictured) will be in the everyday lineup after batting .279 in 50 games as a true freshman. His leadership skills continue to grow, and his bat will be relied upon heavily in 2014.
Cieri is an above average backup. Highly regarded coming out of high school in New Jersey, Cieri was drafted in 32nd round by the San Francisco Giants. He should spell Martir behind the plate at least once a week, and may get at bats as the designated hitter.
Infield1B: LaMonte Wade (So.)
2B: Brandon Lowe (R-Fr.)
SS: Blake Schmit (Sr.)
3B: Jose Cuas (So.)
Injured: 2B Kyle Convissar (Sr.), 1B Matt Oniffrey (Fr.)
Backups: Mike Rescigno (Fr.), Krysthian Leal (Jr.), Patrick Hisle (Fr.)
For the second straight preseason, the Terps have lost their second baseman. Last year, it was freshman Brandon Lowe, who tore his ACL on the final rep of practice before Opening Day. This year, Lowe is the beneficiary of another costly keystone injury. Senior leader Kyle Convissar tore a ligament in his foot and will miss at least four weeks to start the season. Convissar's injury opens the door for Lowe, who is said to be a defensive wizard.
Speaking of strong defense, former JUCO transfer Blake Schmit (pictured) returns to anchor shortstop. Schmit admirably replaced Brewers-farmhand Alfredo Rodriguez in 2013, batting .277 and routinely dazzling crowds with extraordinary defensive plays.
|Photo: Charlie DeBoyace (Diamondback)|
The departure of Hockaday opens the door for sophomore Jose Cuas. Cuas started 37 games in 2013, but struggled. One of the best pro prospects on the team, Cuas was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2012. His power, athleticism and potential is noticable, and Coach Szefc could not resist the temptation of giving him a shot.
Wade returns for his second season as the starting first baseman. Undersized for the position, the Maryland native led the team in RBIs (38) in 2013, and is strong defensively. Having played outfield for much of his career, moving Wade to right in 2014 was an option. If the corner outfielders struggle offensively, Rescigno could bump Wade to the outfield.
Leal, a transfer from Chipola College, and Hisle, a freshman from nearby Bethesda, both had good showings in the fall and could earn some time off the bench.
Oniffrey and Cieri can also play first, but Oniffrey will miss significant time after breaking his thumb.
With an unstable infield, expect players to shift around, and nine different players could eventually start if the first four don't pin down their opportunities.
OutfieldLF: Andrew Amaro (Jr.)
CF: Charlie White (R-Jr.)
RF: Anthony Papio (So.)
DH: Michael Montville (R-Jr.)
Backups: Tim Lewis (Jr.), Bradley Keith (Fr.)
With Hagel, Olenski and Bosse gone, many opportunities exist in the outfield.
Two-time New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year Michael Montville is still recovering from arm surgery, and will only be available to DH at the start of the season. If Montville is able to play the outfield this spring, it is likely he will replace Amaro in left. Montville is a career .237 hitter, but has as much power as anyone on the Maryland team.
White (pictured) is the biggest name on the Maryland squad. With a team-high .350 average and league-leading 39 stolen bases in 2013, White turned down a contract offer from the Yankees to return to College Park. He can absolutely fly, and is as good a defensive centerfielder as there is. College Sports Madness named him a preseason All-American, after finishing fourth in the nation in steals last year. An Illinois native, White could return to College Park for his fifth year of eligibility when the Terps move to the Big Ten next year.
Amaro won the final starting spot over Mike Rescigno, and will enjoy a starting role for the first time in his career. He too, can fly. Originally an infielder, he served the offense primarily as a pinch-runner the past two seasons.
Friday: RHP Jake Stinnett (Sr.)
Saturday: RHP Mike Shawaryn (Fr.)
Sunday: LHP Jake Drossner (So.)
Mid-Week: LHP Zach Morris (R-So.)
Mid-Week: LHP Alex Robinson (So.)
Closer: RHP Kevin Mooney (So.)
Set-Up: LHP Ben Brewster (Sr.)
Set-Up: RHP Jared Price (So.)
Set-Up: LHP Tayler Stiles (Fr.)
Other Arms: RHP Brandon Casas (So.), RHP Bobby Ruse (Jr.), RHP Mike Rescigno (Fr.), LHP LaMonte Wade (So.), RHP Chase Brewis (Fr.), LHP Robert Galligan (So.), LHP Jamie Pashuck (Jr.), RHP Andrew Green (Fr.), RHP Ryan Selmer (RHP)
Injured: RHP Brady Kirkpatrick (Sr.)
The story here is Shawaryn (pictured). The true-freshman has leap-frogged the entire staff and parked himself comfortably in the weekend rotation. At 6-4, 210, the New Jersey prep star is the full package, having turned down a contract offer from the Kansas City Royals.
Stinnett turned down the Pirates to anchor the Maryland rotation, and will lead a formidable 1-2 punch. Stinnett and Shawaryn have a chance to be very high picks in future MLB drafts.
|Photo: Ron Cortes (philly.com)|
After a lackluster 2013, Drossner proved himself in the Cape Cod League, posting a 1.46 ERA against the nation's best college hitters.
Robinson made 13 starts for the Terps as a freshman, but has struggled with control and won't pitch on the weekend to start the year.
Morris, a former weekend starter for Cincinnati, becomes eligible after sitting out last year.
Price will start against Florida on Sunday, but will likely spend much of the season in the bullpen.
Mooney, Brewster and Price will headline one of the best bullpens in the ACC. Returning as the closer after a dominant freshman year in 2013, Mooney saved nine games, posted a 2.18 ERA and allowed just 30 hits in 41 innings a year ago. He is one of two ACC closers to be named to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List.
Brewster emerged as an unorthodoxed, yet effective reliever late in 2013. His deceptive motion and blistering heater will earn him a much larger role in 2014.
Price is the hardest thrower on the team, having touched 96 consistently in the offseason. If he can improve his command from last year, he can be unhittable.
Stiles is a true freshman who pitched well against D-I talent in the Ripken League this summer.
Casas and Ruse will also shoulder some of the bullpen load. Casas had a strong freshman year in 2013 and Ruse went 4-0 with a 3.93 ERA out of the pen.
Brewis, Wade and Rescigno have also shown potential this winter.
Preseason SuperlativesTeam MVP: CF Charlie White
Best Pitcher: RHP Jake Stinnett
Freshman of the Year: RHP Mike Shawaryn
Best Pure Hitter: Kevin Martir
Best Power Hitter: Michael Montville
Most Speed: Charlie White (Amaro for Honorable Mention)
Best Infielder: Blake Schmit
Best Outfielder: Charlie White
Best Arm: Kevin Martir
Most Athletic: Jose Cuas
Biggest Fastball: Jared Price
Best Command: Kevin Mooney
ScheduleACC Home Series:
No. 17 North Carolina (Mar. 14-16)
No. 5 NC State (Mar. 21-23)
No. 13 Clemson (Mar. 28-30)
Georgia Tech (Apr. 18-20)
Notre Dame (May 2-4)
ACC Road Series:
at No. 6 Florida State (Mar. 7-9)
at Wake Forest (Apr. 4-6)
at Virginia Tech (Apr. 11-13)
at Boston College (Apr. 25-27)
at Pittsburgh (May 9-11)
Florida (Feb. 14-16 in Gainesville)
Rider (Feb. 18 at home)
Bryant (Feb 21-24; 4 games)
James Madison (Feb. 25 at JMU, Apr. 29 at home)
UMass (Feb. 28-Mar. 2; 4 games)
VCU (Mar. 4 in Richmond, Apr. 1 at home)
Delaware (Mar. 11 at home, Mar. 18 at UD)
UMBC (Mar. 19)
George Mason (Mar. 25 in Fairfax, Apr. 8 at home)
Towson (Apr. 15, May 7; both games at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen)
Navy (Apr. 16 at home)
West Virginia (Apr. 22 at WVU, May 13 at home)
Game to WatchFriday, March 21 vs. NC State (7pm.)
Projected No. 1 pick Carlos Rodon will take on Stinnett in College Park. The Wolfpack's shortstop Trea Turner also figures to be a top-5 selection.
Without a doubt, the pitching staff is the strength of the team, with the offense being the question for the Terps. Their defense up-the-middle is as good as it gets, with White, Schmit, Lowe and Martir all qualifying as elite.
Conference BreakdownBaseball America ranked six ACC teams in their top-25 poll:
5. NC State
6. Florida State
17. North Carolina
Georgia Tech is ranked in different polls. Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and defending-ACC champ Virginia Tech received votes, which should motivate Maryland players.
Season OutlookA reasonable goal for the Terps is a .500 ACC record, which should put them in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.
Unlike previous years, Maryland has bulked up their non-conference schedule, especially early on. The Terps open their season at No. 20 Florida and return home to play Bryant the following weekend, a team that went 45-18-1 last year.
They avoid two in-conference foes in top-ranked Virginia and No. 16 Miami. Their ACC schedule gets easier as the season progresses, as their first four series are against ranked opponents, with their final six coming against unranked teams.