ACC Baseball Preview: Maryland

Leading up to the college baseball season, we will preview each of the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball teams.  You can view all of our team previews to date here.  Today’s preview features the Maryland Terrapins.

You may remember from our Duke preview that their new head coach, Chris Pollard, was named one of the top ten coaches under the age of 40 by Baseball America.  Another coach on that list, Erik Bakich, Bakich assumed head coaching duties at College Park after  working as an assitant at both Clemson and Vanderbilt.  During the past three seasons, Maryland under Bakich improved from a 17-39 squad in 2010 to 32-24 in 2012.

However, Bakich is now gone, resigning from Maryland in June to assume the same position for the Michigan Wolverines.  Replacing him will be John Szefc.  Szefc’s last job was hitting coach at Kansas State in 2011, a team that reached the NCAA Regional.  HIs last head coaching gig was at Marist College, where he led that team to four conference championships and three NCAA regional appearances.  Following a young, successful coach at a school changing conferences will be a challenge for Szefc, but Terrapin fans hope he is the man for the job.

There’s also the challenge of going to a school that traditionally has struggled in baseball.  The Terrapins’ last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 1971.  1981 was the last time Maryland posted a winning record in conference play.  Infielder John McCurdy was the team’s last All-American in 2002, and only outfielder Derek Hacopian (1992) has joined him as an All-American since 1972.

The Terrapins were ninth in the ACC in batting average last season, but they return seven starters from last year’s lineup.  While they might be losing some speed on the basepaths with the departure of Alfredo Rodriguez and Korey Wacker (31 stolen bases between the two), Jordan Hagel, KJ Hockaday, and Tim Kiene will lead a Terps offense that should be improved in 2013.

Hagel, a senior outfielder, is the Terrapins’ best all-around hitter.  Last season, Hagel led Maryland in doubles (20), on-base percentage (.403), and slugging percentage (.478).  The 20 doubles also placed him eighth in the ACC.  He also stole 15 bases on 19 attempts.

Hockaday shined as a freshman in 2012, starting at third base and as the designated hitter.  His .305 batting average was good for 19th in the conference, and he was second on the team in RBI (27) and third in slugging percentage (.404).  Hockaday was drafted in the 14th round by the Baltimore Orioles in 2011, making him the best pro prospect on the team.

Junior first-baseman Tim Kiene led the team in home runs (6) despite only playing 41 games, missing time with a shoulder injury in March and concussion-like symptoms in April.  Kiene reached base safely in 16 straight games to close the season.  The Terrapins were ninth in the ACC in home runs, so they will look for more pop from Kiene and others this season.

While hitting struggled for Maryland last season, their arms were strong across the board.  They only struck out 396 batters (10th in the ACC), but posted a 3.21 ERA (3rd) and a .246 opposing batting average (4th).  They also allowed only 17 home runs to lead the conference. That is no small feat when the Terrapins play their home contests at Shipley Field, with the fence 380 feet from home plate at dead center and 320/325 down the lines.

The pitching staff loses Brett Harman, who returned from Tommy John surgery to be one of the conference’s best starting pitchers.  His 3.04 ERA was 15th amongst hurlers in the ACC, and he was 13th in strikeouts with 71.  Also gone will be Sander Beck and David Carroll, who started a combined 22 games and posted ERAs of 2.87 and 4.04, respectively.  Nonetheless, the Terrapins will return two capable arms to anchor the rotation in Jimmy Reed and Brady Kirkpatrick

Senior Reed was the team’s closer before moving into the weekend rotation last season.  As a relief pitcher, Reed recorded eight saves, fifth-best in the ACC. In his first start, Reed pitched eight shutout innings against NC State.  He finished 2012 with a 2.70 ERA (ninth in the ACC) and a .226 opposing batting average (eighth in the ACC).

Kirkpatrick started nine games for the Terrapins in 2012.  The junior right-hander posted a 3.04 ERA and a 3-4 record.  Kirkpatrick’s .223 opposing batting average was lower than Reed’s, but he did not pitch enough innings to qualify for league leader status.

The pitching staff could also be bolstered by two freshmen who earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors as high school seniors in 2012.  Right-hander Kevin Mooney recorded 114 strikeouts and a 0.30 ERA in 64 innings to lead North Harford (Md.) High School to Maryland’s 3A state finals, earning Maryland’s Gatorade Player of the Year.  For New York, left-hander Alex Robinson posted a 0.41 ERA and struck out 109 strikeouts in 51 innings for Holy Trinity High School.

Szefc inherits an experienced roster for 2013.  However, it will be up to him to continue the momentum built by Bakich and make the Terrapins a competitive team.


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