Last December, D1Baseball ranked Maryland as the second-best offense in the country, and for good reason. Looking back to 2022, Maryland baseball was one of the best home run-hitting teams in the nation, with two players in the top 25 nationally and ranking second in the nation with 137 homers. Maryland also ranked third in the nation in slugging percentage and 14th in weighted on base average (wOBA).
In the offseason, Maryland lost three players to the MLB, including Chris “Bubba” Alleyne, who led the Terps in multiple offensive categories and earned a First Team All-American nod. Troy Schreffler Jr. also left the Terps; he had a .978 OPS, 10 home runs and 57 RBIs last year. Maxwell Costes, who had a 1.016 OPS in 2022, also left the program, signing with the Baltimore Orioles.
“When you lose the player of the year, that’s always hard,” said head coach Rob Vaughn, referencing Alleyne. “I think Bubba had one of the best seasons I’ve ever seen in my life. Losing Troy Schreffler, who had a phenomenal year, an all-conference player, and Max, who hit a ton of homers, those aren’t easy guys to replace.”
Despite this, Maryland’s offense looks to pick off right where it left off, returning five players from last year that had above a .920 OPS and double-digit home runs with a minimum of 200 plate appearances.
Looking further into the stats shows how much the Terps' offense could be even better than last year. Weighted Runs Created (wRC+) takes the statistic “runs created” and adjusts that number to account for important external factors like park and league averages. On the wRC+ scale, 100 is average — below that number is below average and above it is above average.
Maryland had eight players in 2022 with a wRC+ over 120. It did lose three of those bats, but replaced them almost instantly, bringing in Matt Woods, the reigning Northeast Conference Player of the Year, from Bryant, Eddie Hacopian from Cypress College and Elijah Lambros from South Carolina.
Numbers also point to returning players getting better after last season. Bobby Zmarzlak had one of the nation's highest strikeout percentages — 30.5% — but also had one of the nation’s best home run-to-fly ball (HR/FB) rates, which shows promise in his ability to hit the long ball, with 15 last year and seven the year before that (with half the plate appearances).
Third baseman Nick Lorusso also showed upside, with a high line-drive percentage and below-average ground-ball percentage. Paired with above-average plate discipline, he could lead the team in RBIs this season, as he drove in 70 in 2022. Lorusso’s former Cape Cod League teammate Kevin Keister also returns after posting a 137 wRC+ last year, which he looks to improve upon as he positions himself to move up the lineup.
Woods stands out as a potential impact bat, with an OPS over 1.100 and a 157 wRC+ — well above the national average. He was described by D1Baseball’s Joe Healy as “straight out of central casting for the types of hitters Maryland seems to have by the truckload these days — stocky, strong, hits the ball a mile.”
The two sophomore transfers, Hacopian and Lambros, are both likely to start in their first years at Maryland. Hacopian is coming off over a strong season at Cypress College, where he posted an OPS over 1.000, while Lambros is more of a defensive asset. Also in the mix is sophomore Ian Petrutz, who is fighting for a starting spot after slashing .324/.444/.639 with nine home runs in 133 plate appearances; Petrutz was also named to the College Park All-Regional team for his performance in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
“We return a key nucleus of guys that don’t need those guys to be successful. We add guys like Matt Woods and Elijah Lambros, and we don’t need them to be Bubba or Scheffler, we just need them to come in and be themselves,” Vaughn said.
Hitting coach Matt Swope and assistant coach Anthony Papio have built a reputation of developing talent for the Terps, and look to do so with both transfers and veterans who are looking to take their games to the next level. The Terps also have three impact freshmen —Alex Irizarry, Devin Russell and Luke Zeisloft — who could all see at-bats this season and have seen action in the intrasquad scrimmages during the fall and winter.
Then there are the two headliners for the team: junior shortstop Matt Shaw and junior catcher Luke Shliger. Both Shaw and Shliger were voted Preseason All-Americans by D1Baseball.
Throughout the offseason, Shaw has received much praise from the media after an excellent season in the Cape Cod League. Shaw had an OPS over 1.000, five home runs and 19 RBIs for the Bourne Braves en route to a league championship. He was named MVP of the league.
Shaw was also named Perfect Game USA’s Player of the Summer and performed well in the Terps’ two scrimmages against West Virginia and Virginia — he totaled four hits and one home run. Shaw could be the first Terp selected in the first round of the MLB draft since Brett Cecil in 2007. Shaw had 22 homers last year, and although he had a 127 wRC+, he had a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) below the national average, which could indicate bad luck. Regardless, Shaw is without a doubt one of the Terps’ top weapons and was ranked as the third-best collegiate shortstop by D1Baseball.
Shliger, statistically speaking, was the best hitter on the team last year, and although he slugged worse than Shaw and Alleyne, he had the highest batting average, on-base percentage, walk percentage, OPS and wRC+ on the team. Shliger also leads off for the Terps, and with very good plate discipline — a walk rate over 16% — and high offensive production, the captain is the perfect player to get the Terps going.
“I consider myself unique, I don’t think there are many catchers leading off, but I think that’s what’s cool about baseball. I take pride in setting up the offense for the hitters behind me,” Shilger said. “We had an electric lineup last year and we have an electric lineup this year. So I’m excited to represent that lineup and be that first person out of the box to set the tone. I have a lot of guys behind me that are coming in, and I think it puts a lot of pressure on the defense and the pitcher.”
Shliger took his success from last year into the Cape Cod League, where he was named an All-Star with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, at one point leading the league in on-base percentage. Shliger was also ranked the best catcher in the NCAA as well as a First Team Preseason All-American by D1Baseball. His unique stature as a leadoff catcher, as well as his ability as a contact hitter with good plate discipline, has shot his stock up on MLB draft boards, only adding more to fuel the fire.
One of Shliger’s biggest honors on his team is being able to wear the No. 3 jersey this year, which is designated for the captain of the team and was worn by Alleyne last year. But Vaughn made it clear that these Terps, more than anything, are a team with immense leadership and experience, which allows them to thrive.
“My job gets easier when it’s a player-led team,” Vaughn said. “Luke’s our captain, and he’s gonna wear No. 3 for us this year. But the beauty of this year is we have about five guys I can put No. 3, and that’s very rare. I have teams I coach where I don’t think anyone should wear three, you don’t feel like you have a captain, and this year I feel we have five or six guys that I’d have no problem tossing the reins to.”
All of this talent gets to play roughly half of their games at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, which is considered an offense-friendly venue due to having some of the smallest fences in college baseball. In one series last year, the Terps scored 20 runs against Michigan in a single game and 43 runs total in those three games. They also put up 23 runs against Long Island in the College Park Regional opener, which was one of the largest routs of the entire tournament.
Maryland’s schedule last year had most of its toughest games on the road, with series at Dallas Baptist, Baylor and Rutgers, and a game against East Carolina in Greenville. Because of that, along with other factors, Maryland’s offensive home and away splits were drastic.
Home vs. road splits
Last year, Maryland had an average home run-to-fly ball rate almost 8% higher at home than away, and an average wRC+ almost 50 points higher at home than away. Some players had very puzzling splits, like Lorusso, who had 127 plate appearances on the road with a .604 OPS, a 58 wRC+ and a 2.6% HR/FB rate, but had 135 plate appearances at home with a 1.528 OPS, a 225 wRC+ (the sixth-highest at home by any hitter in Division I) and a 33% HR/FB rate.
This year, it’s a very similar schedule to last, with most of the Terps’ toughest matchups coming on the road: four games vs. Ole Miss, a game against Vanderbilt and road series against USF and UCF. College Park could be a launch pad with these splits, with an average HR/FB rate of 25% between returning players, fences that are smaller than most in college baseball and only three home opponents that are in the top 100 in RPI from last year.
This year is the best chance in a long time that the Terps can make the College World Series, and that’s the goal for everyone involved. When asked about the Terps’ nonconference schedule, Shliger stated that he believes Maryland should expect to win series against tough opponents like Ole Miss and Vanderbilt rather than hoping for the best.
“We belong in those games. They’re a good team (Ole Miss), but it’s not something we shouldn’t be in,” Shliger said. “For this group, it’s a series we should win. It just compares us to teams we play in June and how we want to play in Omaha.”