Local baseball teams are back in action, with Coppin State, Mount St. Mary’s, Navy and Towson having all gotten going. Maryland and UMBC start their seasons March 5. Here’s how the Division I teams in the Baltimore area stack up in 2021.
Head Coach: Sherman Reed
2020 Record: 3-10 overall, 0-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
After winning a school-record 24 games in 2019, the Eagles took a step back in 2020. This year, the program will be looking to get back to where it was in 2018 and 2019, when it won 20 games in back-to-back years for the first time and had winning seasons in MEAC play.
Redshirt junior outfielder Marcos Castillo was set to lead the offense after slashing a blistering .378/.491/.711 last season, but he is out for the year with a torn ACL. Other players that could step up offensively include redshirt senior catcher/first baseman Conner Walker (.233/.256/.283) and redshirt junior outfielder Justin Oakley (.214/.313/.405).
There may be more upside on the pitching side, with two freshmen among the team’s three starters. Redshirt freshman Tim Ruffino (4.15 ERA in 17.1 IP) flashed his potential last year, winning two MEAC Freshman of the Week awards. Fellow redshirt freshman Giovanni Canales (4.86 ERA in 16.2 IP) and redshirt senior Aaron Rea (5.29 ERA in 17 IP) are also in the starting rotation. Rea is on track to break the all-time program record for wins and innings pitched this year.
Redshirt junior Bradley Tuttle (4.91 ERA in 14.2 IP) and redshirt freshman Rashad Ruff (0.96 ERA in 9.1 IP) look to be reliable arms out of the bullpen.
The Eagles opened the season 0-4, with two losses to Navy and two losses to Lehigh.
Head Coach: Rob Vaughn
2020 Record: 10-5 overall, 0-0 in the Big Ten
Expectations are high in College Park, where the Terps are gunning for their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2017. It will be a challenging slate in 2021, as all 44 games will come in the Big Ten starting with Michigan State March 5-7.
“Our guys are excited,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “Shoot, you could tell our guys we were playing the Yankees for 56 games this year and they would be jacked up about it.”
The Terps could have a potentially potent offense, starting with a great foundation in junior Maxwell Costes (.432/.620/.750), who was named to the Golden Spikes Award Watch List. Costes should get good protection in the lineup from senior outfielders Chris Alleyne (.333/.413/.500) and Randy Bednar (.387/.459/.581). Junior Benjamin Cowles (.241/.364/.463) is a potential spark plug, and Vaughn believes sophomores Tucker Flint (.186/.462/.233) and Bobby Zmarzlak (.185/.405/.444) could take steps forward.
On the mound, redshirt sophomore Sean Burke will be looking to build off four excellent starts in 2020, when he had a 1.99 ERA in 22.2 innings. Senior right-hander Sean Fisher (5.66 ERA in 20.2 IP) is penciled in as the second weekend starter, and the Terps have two other strong options to turn to in sophomore right-hander Nick Dean (3.98 ERA in 20.1 IP) and freshman righty Jason Savacool. Perfect Game had Savacool rated as the No. 19 right-handed pitching prospect in the Class of 2020.
If a group of high-potential underclassmen gel with the upperclassmen core, it could be a special season for Maryland.
Mount St. Mary’s
Head Coach: Jeff Gergic
2020 Record: 2-10 overall, 0-0 in the Northeast Conference
It’s a new era at the Mount. Head coach Scott Thomson resigned Feb. 16 after 24 years at the helm, and assistant coach Jeff Gergic will serve as the interim head coach this season. Gergic had spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach on Thomson’s staff.
The cupboard isn’t completely bare for Gergic, but it could be an uphill battle for the Mountaineers to qualify for the NEC tournament for the first time since 2018. Third baseman Vaughn Parker II (.359/.410/.479) is back for a fifth year and was off to a blazing hot start last season. Parker should get help from senior Myles Nicholson (.275/.310/.400) and junior second baseman Ryan Fisher (.280/.320/.379) to anchor the lineup.
But a good lineup means nothing with good pitching to complement it, and Mount St. Mary’s needs to improve upon the ghastly 8.01 team ERA it had last season. Senior Michael Yetter (4.97 ERA in 12.2 IP) and junior Jordan Geber (5.25 ERA in 12 IP) were the Mountaineers’ most consistent starters last season, and sophomores Blake Beal (1.59 ERA in 5.2 IP) and Brett Midkiff (1.69 ERA in 5.1 IP) could be ready for bigger roles after showing some potential out of the bullpen last year.
Mount St. Mary’s was supposed to open its season with a three-game set at Davidson Feb. 19-21 before the series was canceled. Instead, it opened with a four-game set at Richmond Feb. 26-28. The Mount dropped all four games by a total of eight runs.
Head Coach: Paul Kostacopoulos
2020 Record: 14-1 overall, 0-0 in the Patriot League
The Midshipmen got off to a 14-1 start before 2020 was cut short, their best start in a season since 1961. Despite losing four seniors who were multi-year starters, expectations are still high, as the team is favored to win the Patriot League once again.
There are significant losses on offense, but Navy returns every pitcher from last season. Charlie Connolly replaced Noah Song as the ace of the staff last year and finished a shortened 2020 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts. He is the Friday night starter again this season tossed five scoreless innings against George Mason Feb. 27.
“I think all of us recognize that we were off to such a hot start and we’re frustrated when it got cut short,” Connolly said. “I think we’re ready to pick right back up where we left off and get off to a hot start again.”
Senior right-hander Tommy Goodridge is expected to take another spot in the weekend rotation and had a 2.25 ERA in four starts last year. Kostacopoulos also sees 6-foot-5 freshman righty Matthew Shirah as a pitcher with a lot of potential. Senior Trey Braithwaite, who had a 0.71 ERA in 12.2 innings, will lead a stable of arms out of the bullpen.
At the plate, junior first baseman Zach Stevens (.419/.526/.935) and sophomore catcher/outfielder Alex Smith (.368/.457/.526) should be strong contributors after breaking out last year. Kostacopoulos is expecting a strong year from junior catcher Christian Policelli (.222/.303/.407), and the coach added that transfers Kody Milton (Maryland, Severna Park) and Logan Keller will round out the offensive core.
Navy opened the season 4-0, with two wins against Coppin State and another two against George Mason. Navy Athletics announced Feb. 28 that all sports at the Naval Academy except for men’s basketball would be paused for a minimum of 10 days.
Head Coach: Matt Tyner
2020 Record: 7-8 overall, 0-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association
2020 was a trying year for Towson, and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Head coach Matt Tyner’s wife, Laura, who had been battling cancer, passed away Feb. 10, four days before the Tigers were scheduled to open their 2020 season against Old Dominion.
Tyner went on a leave of absence, and pitching coach Miles Miller took over as the interim coach. With Miller leading the way, Towson finished 7-8, a huge improvement over 2019 when it didn’t win its seventh game until game No. 34.
Now, Tyner is back and ready to take another step forward.
“The future looks good, it really does,” Tyner said. “But we still have to go out and perform.”
The Tigers only lost two starters in the field from last year and still have a relatively young roster, albeit one that doesn’t lack experience. Sophomore outfielder Javon Fields (.293/.310/.400) is once again a preseason All-CAA selection, and redshirt freshman outfielder Matt Arceo (.395/.442/.490) is a spark plug who can contribute both at the plate and in the field. Catcher Burke Camper (.314/.373/.393) was solid as a freshman, and Tyner thinks infielder Noah Cabrera (.154/.192/.196) can have a breakthrough season at the plate.
On the mound, Josh Seils (5.03 ERA in 19.2 IP) will once again be the leader of the staff. Tyner said Seils had some conversations with teams about going pro but opted to return to school. Nick Ramanjulu (3.22 ERA in 22.1 IP) was impressive last year as the No. 2 starter, but he struggled with back issues throughout the fall and his status for the early part of the season is unclear.
The goal for the Tigers is to make the CAA tournament, which they haven’t done since 2013, when they won it and secured the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Despite the optimism, Towson’s 2021 got off to a rough start, getting swept by Western Carolina in a four game series Feb. 19-21. The Tigers were outscored, 47-10. Towson then won one of three games against Winthrop Feb. 27-28.
Head Coach: Liam Bowen
2020 Record: 3-10 overall, 0-0 in the America East
The Retrievers are hoping Liam Bowen’s second year will be better than his first, as they went just 3-10 last year and were outscored, 89-50.
UMBC lost three starters from what was an unproductive offense last year; the Retrievers slashed just .227/.302/.320 as a team. Seniors Dmitri Floyd (.343/.566/.457) and Christian Torres (.271/.357/.542) will look to carry the load, and senior Ryan Brown (.200/.236/.340) and sophomore Dylan Wilkinson (.205/.256/.205) will look to improve and give the lineup more threats.
UMBC also struggled on the mound; it posted a 6.45 ERA and walked 84 batters as a team last year. The Retrievers return all four starting pitchers from last year, with senior Joe Nestel (5.51 ERA in 16.1 IP) and junior Reid Celeta (4.11 ERA in 15.1 IP) at the top of the starting rotation. UMBC also has some good arms in the bullpen in senior lefty Keegan Leffler (1.17 ERA in 7.2 IP) and junior righty Cooper Adams (2.84 ERA in 6.1 IP).
The Retrievers open their season against Delaware State March 6-7.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Coppin State Athletics, Maryland Athletics, David Sinclair, Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics, John Bowers