It was chilly and windy. The game could not be played at Bob "Turtle" Smith stadium because of field conditions (the field is being renovated). In other words, the conditions were perfect for Maryland baseball.
The Fall World Series, a three-game intra-squad game held annually took place over the past few days. While a few games do not allow for much more beyond speculation, they do provide a first glimpse at the new faces on the team. With eight players from the 2015 team turning pro, and a few players leaving due to various reasons, the look and feel of the 2016 team is decidedly different from the team that went to the NCAA Super Regionals for the second consecutive year.
I'll start with what hasn't changed. Mike Shawaryn will be the team's ace, Anthony Papio provides a solid bat and glove in right field, Kevin Smith continues Maryland's penchant for turning out stellar shortstops, Nick Cieri and Justin Morris will be catching, DH-ing and playing first, and Robert Galligan along with Ryan Selmer are key members of the pitching staff. However, that's where the similarities between the 2015 and 2016 team end.
In the nick of time
Shipley Field is undergoing major renovations currently, foremost among which is the laying down of turf in the outfield. And come next spring there will be some new players patrolling the new field. Madison Nickens, a transfer from LSU-Eunice, will be seeing a lot of action in center field. He's got big shoes to fill, as he's replacing LaMonte Wade, who in turn replaced Charlie White. Freshman Nick Browne and Marty Costes will be battling sophomores Kengo Kawahara and Zach Jancarski for playing time in left. It's also possible that Nick Dunn (more about him in a bit) will get some action in left field.
Andrew Bechtold, a promising redshirt freshman whose first season was cut short by injury, will take over at third base. Freshman All-American Kevin Smith hopes to demonstrate why he's the B1G's best shortstop. At first base, Kevin Biondic will see a lot of action, as will JuCo transfer Brandon Smith (who put up gaudy numbers this past season at Harford CC). Which brings us to second base and replacing the large (figuratively) shoes of Brandon Lowe. Freshman Nick Dunn, coming off a monster summer season in the Cal Ripken League, is the likely starter. Dunn provides a solid bat, and he might be the Terrapins' most promising freshman. If Dunn is shifted to left field then freshman A. J. Lee will start at second base. Backing up the above will be Patrick Hisle and freshman Peyton Sorrels.
The biggest question on offense is where the home runs will come from. Lowe, Cuas, Martir, and Wade accounted for 60% of the team's home runs in 2015. Papio, Kevin Smith, J. Wade, and Cieri will lead the way, but expect some long ball from Morris and several of the newcomers.
On the bump
Maryland was able to parade a number of southpaws to the mound last year. However, Zach Morris, Drossner, and Robinson were drafted, Willie Rios transferred, and freshman Billy Phillips is battling cancer. (For more on Billy and how to help defray his medical costs, see here.) Add to that the ongoing recovery of Tayler Stiles, and the number of left arms available right now is small. Robert Galligan is the new Bobby Ruse, able to pitch long relief, short relief, or start. Galligan is a senior, and along with RHP Ryan Selmer will probably lead the pitchers in number of appearances. That leaves freshman Andrew Miller and Zach Guth as the only lefties remaining. I had the opportunity to see Miller start on Saturday, and he was impressive.
The right side of the mound is anchored by junior ace Mike Shawaryn, undoubtedly the Friday night starter. Expect to see scouts in the stands every time he starts, as Shawaryn is projected to go high in the 2016 draft. Taylor Bloom finished 2015 strongly and then had a lights-out summer league season. He's another weekend starter, and it will be interesting to see his progress throughout the year. Unfortunately, Brian Shaffer is still recovering from elbow/forearm soreness. Waiting for their chance are freshman Hunter Parsons, Cameron Enck, John Murphy, and Truman Thomas. Ryan Selmer's freshman year was a successful one, and he'll be counted on heavily next spring in numerous pitching roles. Andrew Green and Jared Price could provide support in the middle innings, with Mike Rescigno taking on the closer role. Rescigno, who came to Maryland as a third baseman, switched over to pitcher last year with good results. He was another Terrapin that had a solid summer league effort.
I was impressed by the newcomers to the program. That shouldn't come as a surprise, given the No. 22 ranking nationally for this class, as well as the fact that Coach Szefc and his staff always seem to bring really good talent to College Park. There might be less home runs in 2016, particularly with the fences at Shipley being moved back, but the potential is there for firepower at the plate. The huge question mark revolves around whether or not Stiles and Shaffer will be healthy come next February. If so, then Maryland could equal or surpass last year's record number of wins. However, if these players' recoveries extend into the 2016 season, then the freshman arms will need to assert themselves in order for Maryland to make a team-record third straight NCAA appearance.