The Maryland baseball team got their season off to a better start in 2014 than they did in 2014. Last season, they opened on the road at LSU and, after dropping the opener 1-0, they were crushed by the Tigers 5-1 and 14-3 in the two subsequent games. They left Louisiana with a good feeling about their number one starter, Jimmy Reed, but questions about the rest of the staff.
To start the 2014 season, the Terps again traveled to an SEC school taking on the Florida Gators in Gainesville. They again were shutout in their opener but got a solid performance from number one starter Jake Stinnett. The rest of the series played out a bit differently as Maryland bounced back to win the second game 9-7 while falling 8-5 in a schedule shortened game on Sunday.
I began my season preview looking at the Terps up the middle - catcher, pitching, shortstop, and center field. I'll do the same here.
Kevin Martir showed early signs that he will be a productive offensive catcher. He came out of the first three games and Maryland's second leading hitter at .385 and a team leading 4 RBI. He left some open questions on the defensive side, though making a costly error in the first game and failing to throw out the only runner who attempted to steal a base.
On the mound, Stinnett gave the Terps five solid innings in his first outing and freshman Mike Shawayrn looked exceptionally strong in his first college start giving up only one earned run in five and two-thirds innings to a team that pounded the Maryland staff for nineteen runs in three games. Excepting Kevin Mooney, who picked up a save in his only opportunity, the rest o he staff left Florida under the same cloud of doubt that hung over the staff last season.
At shortstop, Blake Schmit produced just about as expected. He batted .250, had two sacrifice bunts, stole a base and fielded flawlessly. Table setter Charlie White, who will be crucial to the Terps long term offensive success started the season slowly. He had only two hits and one walk for the weekend. White, who holds Maryland's single season stolen base record didn't attempt a steal. Another Terp who started slowly but of whom much is expected, LaMonte Wade, also got his season off to a rough start. Wade managed only three hits - all singles for the series.
However, a number of Terps stepped in. Brandon Lowe at second base showed why Coach Szefc was excited about him last season before his injury. Lowe batted .364 for the series, smacked a home run and drove in three. Maryland's other home run hitter this weekend, Anthony Papio, leads the Terps in batting average hitting .625 and he drew a team leading three walks. Papi was inconsistent as a freshman but this is certainly a spectacular start to his sophomore campaign. Andrew Amaro, who started in left field ahead of Kyle Convissar (who didn't play at all over the weekend) and acquitted himself well finishing the weekend with four hits in eleven at bats.
In all, the weekend was a respectable start for a team that's fitting some new pieces together. It showed both promise and left some areas open to questions. One promise comes from the top two pitchers and Kevin Mooney. The questions are for the remainder of the pitching staff. Offensively, we can draw hope from the Terrapins ability to score fourteen runs with very little production from two crucial players. In addition to wondering whether the players who stepped up in Florida can continue, third base appears to be a question mark in terms of offensive production with Maryland getting very little from Jose Cuas or Khrystian Leal.
Some of those questions are likely to become clearer this week as Maryland host a solid MAAC school, Rider, on Tuesday followed by a four game series against a 2013 CWS team from Bryant University.