Maryland's baseball team just concluded their three intra-squad games known as the Fall World Series. (An earlier article gave details into that annual event.) All three games were close, hard fought contests that displayed what the 2015 team should look like. While most of the starting line-up has been penciled in, there are still a few position battles being fought.
Losing Jake Stinnett to the MLB draft is not an easy void to fill. Fortunately, the Terps have a number of pitchers coming off of good years and/or summer ball play. Add to that a fine 2014 recruiting class and notable RS freshman coming aboard, and the pitching staff is scary strong. The Friday and Saturday starters will almost certainly be Freshman All-American Mike Shawaryn and Jake Drossner. Both threw five impressive innings in Thursday's game. To my knowledge, the Sunday starting spot is not finalized. Unlike last year when there was an almost season-long search for the Sunday starter, in 2015 Coach Szefc will have a number of solid options. Senior Bobby Ruse showed good command of his pitches on Friday, hurling five shut-out innings. Not to be outdone, Tayler Stiles threw five shutout innings himself yesterday, allowing only two hits, walking none, while striking out four. Stiles mixed his speeds well, keeping hitters off-balance. Then there's freshman RHP Brian Shaffer and junior Zach Morris added to the mix.
Kevin Mooney will seek to become Maryland's career leader in saves. But just like the Kansas City Royals the Terps have a deep bullpen. Alex Robinson was bringing 95 mph heat and got two saves in the Fall World Series, striking out almost two batters per innings. Backing them up will be RS freshman Andrew Green, converted infielder Mike Resicgno, another RS freshman in 6'8" Ryan Selmer, and junior Robert Galligan. Also likely to see action in 2015 are freshmen Jack Piekos, Taylor Bloom, and Willie Rios. One notable absentee in the Fall World Series was Jared Price: I don't know if he was injured or just not available.
There's almost an embarrassment of riches at the catching position. To accommodate all of this talent, some of these players will see time at first base or DH. Justin Morris and Nick Cieri both were sharp fielding that position. Kevin Martir will likely get much of the action behind home plate, but don't discount Morris, Cieri, or John Mazza. Matt Oniffrey provides another strong left-handed hitter at first base. It's possible that Resicgno will see time as a right-handed DH or pinch hitter.
Freshman All-American Brandon Lowe will start at second, backed up by Pat Hisle. There is an intense battle for starting shortstop between freshmen Andrew Bechtold and Kevin Smith. Both looked unusually poised for newcomers, playing perhaps the most difficult position in the infield. They are replacing Blake Schmit, who was drafted by the Minnesota Twins. Jose Cuas will start at third, backed up by Kevin Biondic. Cuas really hit the ball well this past weekend and I wouldn't be surprised if he leads the team once again in home runs and pushes Lowe for top batting average.
Anthony Papio will start in right field. He adds power to the line-up and is a strong fielder. Papio had the only home run this past weekend, although he came close to crunching another one that went off the top of the center field wall. LaMonte Wade shifts from first base to playing center field in 2015. While Wade played a superb first base in 2013 & 2014, he was originally recruited as an outfielder. He's replacing Charlie White, which is not an easy thing to do. I wouldn't be shocked if Wade hit over .300 this season. It will certainly be fun to watch Wade and his younger brother Jamal playing in the outfield together. Tim Lewis will probably start in left field, but I expect J. Wade to get ample PT. In yesterday's game the Wade brothers combined for six hits, four by Jamal and two by LaMonte. Other players likely to see action in the outfield are Kengo Kawahara, Zach Jancarski, David Jaklitsch, and Bradley Keith.
Maryland's 2015 team is deep, perhaps even more so than the 2014 squad. Good thing if that's the case, as the 2014 team set new levels of expectation for Maryland baseball.