Three months ago John Szefc was being rewarded with a contract extension. Besides being well-deserved, it brought a measure of stability to a program that is on the ascent. D1Baseball has put Maryland into their top 35 programs nationally. Quite a change from just a few years ago.
Maryland baseball was on the radar this summer. Like Szefc's contract extension, most of what's transpired since June has indicated continued success at Shipley.
This past summer Maryland acquitted itself quite nicely. Mike Shawaryn was a prominent pitcher on the Team USA's National Collegiate Team, representing the U.S. against talent from Chinese Tapei, Cuba, and Canada that was on a par with top-tier minor league players. "The Unicorn" caught the eye of many of the beat writers following the team. An excellent article on Shawaryn's stint can be found on Maryland Baseball Network's web site.
The premier summer league is the Cape Cod Baseball League. This past summer only one Terrapin played there, but he made it count. Nic Ceri batted .319, made the all-star team, and was cited by D1baseball as a player to watch in 2016.
A number of Terrapins played in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League and made themselves known. Rising sophomore Taylor Bloom continued his late freshman season effectiveness by going 3-0 with a 1.76 ERA, accomplishing this while playing for the last place Gaithersburg Giants. Bloom accounted for a substantial part of the team's victories before being shut down for the summer. The right-hander struck out 38 batters while walking only two. One of his victories included a 16-K performance. Rising junior Mike Rescigno looked like he's staking a claim on being Maryland's closer in 2016. The former third baseman appeared in 15 games, boasting a 1.69 era. Incoming freshman Nick Dunn hit .321, good for fifth in the entire league. The second baseman's impressive play earned him a spot on the Cal Ripken All-League first team. Finally, incoming freshman Cameron Enck was an all-star for the KOA team in the Maryland Collegiate Baseball League, where he helped his team win the league title. Enck's era was a paltry 1.11.
Minor leaguers making major impact
Maryland had a team-record eight players drafted in 2015. Unfortunately, all-everything second baseman Brandon Lowe fractured a leg bone in the Super Regionals against Virginia and did not see action this summer. However, LaMonte Wade and Jose Cuas demonstrated why they helped lead the Terrapins to their second consecutive NCAA tournament. In his first professional season, Wade hit .302 with nine home runs, 44 rbis, and 12 stolen bases. This earned him a promotion from the Rookie League to A ball. Cuas started slow but ended up hitting in 10 straight games. Playing a variety of infield positions, Cuas batted .260 with 28 extra base hits and six stolen bases.
Zach Morris achieved the most so far of the 2015 class on the bump. The big lefthander sported a 5-1 record with a 2.15 era, striking out 35 batters in 29.1 innings pitched. He also notched two saves, and ended up the summer in A ball. Jake Drossner went 4-3 for Helena, with a 3.64 era. Of note is that Drossner issued just 19 walks in 47 innings.
Terrapin alum Blake Schmit hit .297 in an injury-filled summer that saw him eventually moved up to A ball. Jake Stinnett had a mixed season, going 7-6 with a 4.46 era. Jimmy Reed started 2015 strong, making it to AAA, before faltering a bit.
Given the number of scholarships (11.7) available and the competition for playing time, it is inevitable that a few players will elect to go elsewhere to play ball. This year was no exception, as a few Terrapin players will not be returning to the squad. Foremost is Willie Rios, a hard throwing southpaw with a ton of talent. His freshman season at Maryland got off to a slow start as he was injured early. During the 2015 season Rios pitched in nine games, five as a starter. The results were not up to expectations for the former 26th-round draft pick. Whatever was bothering him during the season seemed to have been worked out in summer ball, where he went 4-0 with a 1.80 era in the tough New England Collegiate Baseball League, earning a berth on the all-star team. The rising sophomore elected to transfer to Florida SouthWestern College, where he will be draft-eligible in 2016. This is not a novel situation: in 2014 Cal State Fullerton pitcher Phil Bickford did likewise and ended up being drafted high in 2015.
Last year showed that 2014 wasn't a fluke. Now that Szefc is firmly at the helm, a stability has been reached within the program. With Shawaryn, Cieri, Rescigno, Bloom, and others coming back, coupled with an exciting freshman class, 2016 could cement Maryland as a perennial NCAA participant.