After finishing with an even 29-29 record (12-12 Big Ten) and missing the 2019 NCAA Tournament, Maryland baseball is set for its first game of the new season Friday against Charleston Southern University.
The Terps are molding into a team that has a chance to compete with a strong Big Ten conference in 2020 with the return of some of their top players from last year.
“Nothing easily won is ever worth anything,” first baseman/designated hitter Maxwell Costes said. “I think we have a heck of a team here.”
Here’s how the Terps shape up for the upcoming 2020 season.
Key players lost
Offensively, head coach Rob Vaughn will have to replace the likes of shortstop AJ Lee and third baseman Taylor Wright.
Lee continued to be a leader for the Terps last season and was selected to the 2019 All-Big Ten third team for his play. The shortstop led Maryland with a .317 batting average and a .443 on-base percentage, which were both good enough to land in the top-15 in the Big Ten.
As a senior, Wright started in all 58 games and led the Big Ten in doubles with 20, which is the fourth-most in a single season in Maryland history. Wright was also named third team All-Big Ten after racking up 67 hits and batting with a .290 average.
Replacing both Lee and Wright is not an easy task for Vaughn, but the Terps have a serviceable recruiting class waiting in the wings.
Former starting pitcher Hunter Parsons is also another senior that departed after a stellar season on the mound. Parsons totaled a 10-3 record in 2019, with his 10 wins becoming the third-most in a single season in Maryland history.
Other role players for the Terps left the program through the transfer portal after the 2019 season. Relief pitcher Andrew Vail transferred to Missouri after posting a 2-1 record and a 2.70 ERA as a freshman at Maryland. Utility man Sebastian Holte-Mancera managed a .250 batting average in 13 starts as a junior before transferring to Minnesota State.
Infielder Kody Milton, pitcher Nick Turnbull and catcher Zach Doss also transferred out of the program.
Top players returning
Maryland’s worries on the field won’t stem from poor batting due to the firepower returning on the 2020 roster. Solid players returning for the Terps include junior outfielder Randy Bednar, junior catcher Justin Vought and Costes.
One of the most important pieces of the 2020 Maryland roster will be the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year in Costes. He hit for a .266 batting average and cruised his way to being named to the All-Big Ten First Team and an unanimous Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection in 2019.
“It’s always good when you have a hitter of Maxwell Costes’ caliber come back,” Vaughn said of the 2020 Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-American. “That guy’s grown as a player a lot in the last year, but I’m way more proud of him for his growth as a person off the field. Max is a great kid, works his tail off and he’s got to come in and go to work.”
Bednar will also be a key leader of this Maryland team in 2020 after starting in all of the Terp’s 58 games last season and being named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. The Bethesda, Maryland, native also notched two team-highs of 70 hits and 21 multi-hit games in 2019. Bednar batted with a .288 average and managed to accumulate 55 RBIs in 2019.
Another key piece returning for the Terps is Vought, who started in 53 games as the catcher. He recorded 10 home runs and 30 RBIs, while batting with a .222 average. The reliable catcher also hit a season-high 16-game reached base streak as a sophomore in 2019.
The Terps are welcoming the seventh ranked recruiting class in the nation — the highest ranking in school history — with loads of talented freshmen making the move to College Park.
Maryland’s highly touted recruiting class includes 14 true freshman and two junior college transfers. Three players in the class, left-handed pitched Ryan Ramsey and outfielders Tucker Flint and Bobby Zmarzlak were selected in the 2019 MLB Draft, with the first two going in the 36th round and Zmarzlak in the 40th.
“The freshman class has a ton of talent,” Bednar said. “There’s a bunch of guys who I believe will make an immediate impact on the team. We want them to be athletic, be themselves, and do their own thing.”
The Terps have seven of 14 freshmen players that are ranked on the Prep Baseball Report’s Overall Top 500. Pitcher Nick Dean (46) and Zmarzlak (73) slipped into the top-100, while Flint (167) and Sam Bello (170) made the cut as well.
Rounding out Maryland’s recruiting class are infielders Austin Chavis and Brenton Davis, who are both very serviceable junior college transfers. The duo should be able to fill some of the runs that left with the departures of Lee and Wright.
“This year I believe that we got all the talent, we don’t have to worry about that at all,” Bednar said. “It’s just going out there and controlling things. I think it should be a really exciting season because we have the capability of winning a Big Ten championship, we have the capability of going out there and playing for a regional. We have all those capabilities.”
After three-straight games outside College Park to start the 2020 campaign, the Terps open up their first home series of the season against Rhode Island at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
Big Ten play officially begins in late March for Maryland with its first few contests coming against Michigan State, which finished below Maryland in the Big Ten last season.
The Terps will then continue to compete with a few important sets of series in the Big Ten. Maryland will face the likes of Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State in April and Purdue, Ohio State and Minnesota in May.
“Even though we’re going to be going against stiffer competition, I’m going to ride with my guys until the end,” Costes said. “So, it’s more so being tested for us with such a young team, it’s going to be good for us.”
Maryland will certainly be put to the test when the regular season ends with both Ohio State and Minnesota, as both teams finished ahead of the Terps in the Big Ten standings in 2019.