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Maryland baseball looking to reach its potential under Rob Vaughn

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State of the Program continues with a team that made three NCAA Tournaments this decade and hopes to build toward another.

Maryland Athletics

The Maryland sports offseason is here, and it was a wild year for Terrapin athletics. There were national championships in men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse, and a trip to the title game in field hockey. Maryland athletes won some of the highest honors in their sports. But there were also some lows, both on and off the field.

This summer, we’re going in-depth on every Maryland varsity program, taking a glimpse at where it’s been and where it’s going. We’ve broken down 12 teams thus far, and today, it’s time for lucky No. 13. Let’s take a look at Maryland baseball

Maryland baseball

Established: 1893
All-time record: 1,792-1,696-34 (.510)
Best season: 2015 (42-24, 14-10 Big Ten, NCAA Super Regionals)
Last 5 years: 163-133, 63-56 Big Ten
The coach: Rob Vaughn (entering third season)
Spring 2019: 29-29, 12-12 Big Ten

Where it’s been

In its long history that has lasted over 120 years, the Terps have made the NCAA Tournament just six times. Three of those times came in the 1960s and ‘70s under the leadership of Elton “Jack” Jackson, who coached for a whopping 30 years.

But following a postseason bid in 1971, it took Maryland over 40 seasons and five different coaches to find a way back into the big dance. After a turnaround under Erik Bakich, John Szefc took over and posted five consecutive winning records, making NCAAs in just his second season.

The following year, the Terps were back in the NCAA Tournament, and they returned quickly in 2015 and 2017. That included a pair of NCAA Super Regional Appearances, and the program seemed to be on the upswing. But Szefc changed all that when he bolted to Virginia Tech in the summer of 2017, and the program suddenly had to find new leadership.

Where it’s going

Vaughn is now in charge of the Terrapins, and first two seasons have come with varying levels of success. The team has posted a 53-59 record since the start of the 2018 season, and that includes a 21-26 mark within the Big Ten conference. This past year, Maryland was able to put itself in the mix for a conference tournament appearance, eventually earning a trip to Omaha with a final push late in the season.

The Terps were carried offensively in part by senior shortstop AJ Lee, and senior starting pitcher Hunter Parsons was a workhorse on the mound and led the team to a ton of wins. However, both of those leaders are gone, having been drafted by the Houston Astros and New York Mets, respectively. Two more seniors in Taylor Wright and John Murphy have moved on as well, graduating in May and now leaving a few more holes for future Terps to try to fill.

But reinforcements are on the way. According to Perfect Game, the Terps possess the No. 32 recruiting class in the nation, which is comprised of 11 high school commits and two top-100 players. Combine that with a large number of starters returning, and Maryland could potentially be even better in 2020.

Names to know

It all starts with Maxwell Costes, the brother of current Astros prospect Marty Costes. It was a season to remember for the rookie, who earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors after a year where he put together a .266/.397/.547 slash with 15 home runs in 58 games. Alongside Lee, he carried the offense while holding his own at first base.

He’ll be joined in the lineup by outfielder Randy Bednar, coming off a strong sophomore season in 2019. Power-hitting catcher Justin Vought will be back behind the dish once again, hoping to rein in the pitching staff which is now without its ace. Chris Alleyne had an up-and-down season as a sophomore this past year, but he could make a leap both at the plate and in the field.

With Parsons gone, Maryland will have to find a way to replace his production, both in terms of effectiveness as well as overall workload. Zach Thompson was the No. 2 starter last year, and while he racked up 83.1 innings pitched, his 5.08 ERA left a lot to be desired. Freshman Trevor LaBonte had a very inconsistent year on the bump, and he’ll hope to improve on his 5.98 ERA.

The mission

In just Year Two of the Rob Vaughn era, Maryland was able to post a .500 overall record — as well as an even Big Ten mark — and earn a spot in the conference tournament. There are a number of positions to fill in 2020 with the loss of four seniors, and a couple of players have left by way of transfer as well. But the Terps should be in the mix for another Big Ten tournament appearance and potentially an NCAA Tournament bid. If they continue to build on last season, and the young core led by Costes can fully come together and jell, the future may be bright in College Park.