Fresh off its first-ever trip to the Super Regionals and its winningest season in school history, the Terrapins of University of Maryland look to compete again this year. John Szefc enters his third season as the head coach. In two seasons at Maryland, Szefc has totaled 70 wins, which is the most by any Maryland coach over that time period as skipper for the Terps.
In 2013, Szefc first season in College Park, repeatedly applied pressure with an offensive approach that highlighted speed on the bases and discipline at the plate. Maryland totaled 94 stolen bases; a mark that ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference led by outfielder Charlie White. White established a Maryland single-season record with 39 stolen bases, which led the ACC and tied for fourth nationally. The outfielder was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 21st round in 2014 and signed with Chicago’s north-side team.
In 2014, his second season at the helm, Szefc led the Terps to a 40-win season for the first time in program history and the program’s first-ever NCAA regional title. Along the way, Szefc led Maryland to advance to the ACC Tournament final for the first time since 1976 and earned its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 43 years. They swept through the Columbia Regional, beating Old Dominion and shocked the college baseball world by defeating South Carolina on their home turf to move on to their first trip to a Super Regional in team history.
Maryland gave juggernaut Virginia a run for their money in the Super Regionals, but failed to advance to continue their postseason success.
Maryland opens up the 2015 season with seven straight road games as they travel to South Carolina. The Terrapins face Western Kentucky February 13th, Old Dominion and Canisius on February 14th, and finally Coastal Carolina on Feburary 15th. This is all part of the Caravelle Resort Tournament in Myrtle Beach to kick off the year. The road trips ends the following weekend as Maryland heads to South Alabama for games against the host Jaguars on February 20th. They then face University of Central Florida on February 21st and Arkansas February 22nd at the same venue.
The Terrapins are ranked 14th nationally and are projected to win the Big Ten in their first season in the conference, according to the Big Ten Network. Maryland switched to the Big Ten after being apart of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for the past 61 years.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 11, 2015
Behind the dish, the Terrapins have a polished defender with a cannon of an arm in Kevin Martir. Last season, Martir slashed a .269/.359/.386 with four home runs and driving in 26 RBIs. Sophomore Nick Cieri and freshman Justin Morris are capable of holding their own as well. Morris, out of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 35th round in 2014. The catcher is predicted to move to first base to gain more playing time, but with red shirt freshman Matt Oniffrey over at first they will likely split playing duties.
Charlie White’s leadoff spot will be filled in by sophomore second baseman Brandon Lowe, who can stroke the ball from the left side of the plate, recognize pitches, and has the ability to hit to both sides of the field. Cieri, Jose Cuas, LaMonte Wade all look to contribute to this Maryland offense and are all proven line-drive hitters. Tim Lewis and Martir give the veteran presence in the line-up and clubhouse. Both hit for average and have a high on base percentage. Kevin Smith and freshman Andrew Bechtold will compete for the starting shortstop job.
Wade, has decent speed and will patrol centerfield for the Terps. He is looking to rebound from a down sophomore season hitting .247/.358/.335 hitting two homers with 25 RBIs. Lewis, a senior, will be the left fielder with junior Anthony Papio starting in right. Papio, has the most raw power in the lineup, but has the tendency to strikeout a ton.
On the mound, Maryland has a deep rotation with at least six quality starters in the mix. Mike Shawaryn, likely the ace for the staff, went 11-4 last year posted a respectable 3.12 ERA along with 72 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched. He pounds the strike zone with a fastball that hovers around 87-91 and three solid off-speed pitches. Senior Bobby Ruse and sophomore Tayler Stiles both have a great shot to win a starting job behind Shawaryn. Ruse saw his velocity increase hitting around 88-91 working with a change-up with dip and firm curveball. He also didn’t walk a single batter during the fall season. Stiles hits his 88-89 heater well and has substantially improved his slider along with his change-up.
The bullpen for Maryland is strong as well and built for the long haul. Closer Kevin Mooney has saved 22 games over the past two seasons. He has front-end stuff, with a fastball that reaches 94 mph with a curveball that has sharp downward break. Left-hander Alex Robinson tops out at 96 mph and has a filthy slider. He is the Terrapins most valuable arm in the ‘pen. Robinson participated in the New England Collegiate League last summer and was ranked the top prospect. He and Mooney will act as the one-two punch in the late innings. The bullpen will finish with juniors Zach Morris and Jared Price, who is looking for a strong season in 2015, who is coming back from a minor elbow procedure.
There is no shortness of toughness and the sky is the limit for this Terps squad. Maryland must look to replace the production of two of its top three hitters a year ago in Charlie White and shortstop Blake Schmit, who were lost in the 2014 draft. The rest of the lineup remains intact and with an excellent recruiting class the Terps are loaded. This group in college park now has the talent and the experience to get to Omaha and win a national title for the first time in program history.