Jul 3, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; General view of baseballs before a game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
As Coach John Szefc wrapped up his first season as Maryland baseball’s manager, the Terps fought hard in a very competitive ACC and finished fourth in the Atlantic division with an 11-19 conference record and 30-25 overall. Although it looks like another mediocre year for Maryland, it’s obvious that Szefc has this team headed in the right direction after analyzing this team a little further.
Maryland returns the majority of their lineup and retains a superb pitching staff, despite losing senior Jimmy Reed who was drafted in the sixth round by the St. Louis Cardinals. Although the Terps await the decisions from rising senior Jake Stinnett and junior Charlie White, the Terps should feel confident that they will have the talent to contend with the top teams in the ACC for their final season in the ACC.
While the Terps performed well last year, they still fell short in many close games. As Anthony Papio believes, last year’s struggles will only make them stronger this year.
“We had a ton of freshman see significant playing time this past year, and for the most part they were pretty successful,” said Papio earlier this year. “I think that going into next year our team will have the experience factor that a lot of us didn’t have last season, and that should make a huge difference.”
And it should. As we saw with basketball, youth is great for the future, but there are growing pains that come along with it. With a season under their belts, Terp fans should be optimistic about the upcoming season, as past experience should play a larger role.
Even having a full offseason of strength and training, Terp fans may wonder if this team has what it takes to take off-the-field success into domination in the ACC. Sophomore outfielder Papio believes that consistency will be the key to right the ship. He added that there were many games, “especially in the conference where only [pitching or hitting] showed up.” Easier said than done, sure, but it takes the younger guys some time to adapt to the college speed. The young guns will only improve, and the juniors and seniors will be able to lead by example with their veteran poise and on-field success. There’s an abundance of reasons the Terps will improve on their 30-win season from a year ago, and natural growth is just one of them.
After a full season for Szefc to adapt to the new coaching job, he will be able to better understand the players and help instruct them on what to improve on. Papio stated that the team has been delegated to teams within the Collegiate Wood Bat League this summer, where Szefc assigned each player to locations across the country to hone their skills. Papio plays in Sanford, Maine for the summer and seemed happy about his results thus far, and is looking to repeat that success with the Terrapins in their final season in the ACC.
“We had a ton of freshman see significant playing time this past year, and for the most part they were pretty successful. I think that going into next year our team will have the experience factor that a lot of us didn’t have last season, and that should make a huge difference.”
There is no denying Maryland baseball has generated buzz this past year, and with a full season under their belts, I look for Maryland to fly under the radar and silence the critics.