Maryland Terrapins Baseball: 2024 Preview
Terps lost the architect of their team, Rob Vaughn, to a new coaching job, but the Terps are loaded and ready to battle again in a very tough Big Ten.
Recap of the 2023 season.
The Terps battled through adversity, hit homeruns like nobody’s business, led in scoring in the NCAA, and were a team to watch.
Last year, Maryland took home the Big Ten title with a 42-21 mark only to get stymied in the national seedings for the NCAA tournament despite being ranked in the top 15 at the end of the tourney, which should’ve landed them a national seed. Well, all the Terrapins could do was wait and then… the dread.
The Terrapins were placed up against the toughest team in the tournament, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Northeastern Huskies, and George Mason Patriots which angered Rob Vaughn saying, “That’s how much the NCAA doesn’t like us. Our team hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament all that much and yet, they placed us in a bracket against the toughest, if not the most complete team in NCAA baseball.” But he wasn’t discouraged as he knew that the Terps were loaded with firepower thanks to Matt Shaw (.343, 24 HR, 68 RBI) and future first round pick and Nick “Karate Kid” Lorusso (.379, 26 HR, 105 RBI). The Terps were #1 in the nation in homeruns, runs, and set an NCAA record in batting average.
In their first game, the Terrapins dispatched the Northeastern Huskies to the tune of 7-2 to advance up against Wake Forest, who had beaten George Mason later in the day. So the winner here in this game would be a win away from advancing to the super regionals. The forecast in Winston-Salem was glum throughout as massive storms and incredible rainfall came throughout the day. The Terps and Demon Deacons were resigned to the fact that they were probably going to play tomorrow. That was not to be as the NCAA told the Terps and Demon Deacons that it was showtime and it was time to play ball at 10:45pm despite a shoddy field and a very wet outfield which caused a lot of problems for the Terrapin defense.
Maryland would go on to lose 21 – 5 to Wake Forest in a 3 hour and 21 minute game. The time was 2:29am which raised the ire of coaches and players (Wake Forest players as well), that games they had to play, should be moved to Monday. One Wake Forest player, who spoke anonymously said, “Honestly, it is very unfair to the Terps to have a quick turnaround like that. This game could’ve waited. Although it’s the outcome we wanted, personally, I don’t think it’s right.” The NCAA pushed the 12pm start to 2pm which angered Rob Vaughn to no end saying that his team was exhausted and should get a day to recover. However it was not so as George Mason eliminated the Terps, 11-10, at 2pm the same day.
George Mason Patriots coach Shawn Camp, despite the win, spoke up in the Terrapins defense, “I think the NCAA did the Terrapins and Deacons was a big disservice to the game. You finish at nearly 2:30am, the players are exhausted, they just want to go to bed and rest, and you make them play the same day 12 hours later? That’s… not just wrong… that’s cruel.”
This was all part of the NCAA’s plan as they did Maryland dirty in 2023, as the men and women’s basketball teams played in regionals with the top seed of their respective tournaments and then baseball, despite the Big Ten title, was stuck in the national 1 seed’s bracket. This led some local newspapers to say: “What did the Terrapins do to deserve this?” and “Who did the Terps hurt?” Most local newspapers were also angry at the extremely late start time leading to one newspaper to say: “This isn’t the west coast!”
Fast Forward to the 2024 season
With Rob Vaughn bolting to the University of Alabama, it didn’t take long for the Terrapins to find their new coach in Matt Swope. Swope has been with Maryland since 2013 when he began as a Director of Operations for the baseball team. He was also a former player from 1999-2002 as an outfielder. He rose through the ranks to Assistant Coach, Associate Head Coach, and now the new bench boss. Swope has a degree in criminal justice and criminology.
The Terrapins return Jacob Orr, Kevin Keister, amongst others. The Terps will welcome Eddie Hacopian, brother to Chris Hacopian, from Cypress College.
1. The Terps will enter the new season with 22 consecutive Big Ten series victories
2. Self-described as the team that “love their vegetables” as the average weight of the team sits at 190lb (thinnest in the NCAA)
3. Finished with the No. 39 best recruiting class and No. 2 in the Big Ten picking up a top 100 recruit.
4. Last 3 seasons (2021, 2022, 2023):
120-51 overall mark (.701), 62-17 (.784) home mark and 58-34 (.630) away from Shipley, 63-28 (.692) in Big Ten play
5. Picked up 16 transfers in the portal including four big ten players and a former top 10 recruit.
6. In this 54 game season, the Terps Will play an NCAA low of 20 home games this season and will travel the most out of all the teams in the nation with 34 away games. The Terps will also have no long homestands of more than 4 games.
7. The Terps will play more 1-game “off series” games than any other team in college baseball with 6 1-off’s.
Despite having a Big Ten title, a 42-21 mark, the Terrapins were left out of the Top 25 Baseball America Rankings, they will play no ranked teams to begin the season.
The Terrapins will kick off their Big Ten title defense with 6 road games, traveling to Statesboro to face Georgia Southern, and then to Corpus Christi to the Kleberg State Bank Classic where they will face Texas A&M-CC, Pittsburgh, and future Big Ten entrant, Washington. Maryland’s first home game will be on February 27th versus Georgetown, for whom the Terrapins have had very little success against. Then they will travel to Richmond, Virginia to take on the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams. Maryland’s first full home series will open on March 1 vs. the Bryant Bulldogs then a 1-game pact vs. rival Delaware.
Maryland will travel to the University of Portland for the first time in team history to face off against the Portland Pilots in Portland, Oregon.
Maryland’s first Big Ten matchup will be against Michigan State for a 3-game slate.
The Big Ten tournament will begin on May 21, running to May 26.
What can we expect from the Terrapins baseball team this season:
The Terrapins added firepower despite losing key pieces, though they did keep some key pieces, maintained some of their defensive gems, and even got some good pitching. I’m expecting the Terrapins to have a very strong season for Matt Swope, who is an Earl Weaver type manager who will frequent the use of platoon. He is very creative with his line-ups and it showed during the Fall Ball games.
I’m expecting at least 45 wins this season and finally, the Terrapins will activate their turtle powers to head to the College World Series for the first time in their baseball program finally winning in the Super Regionals. They’ve come so close and yet so far. But this is an extraordinarily exciting team that may have their best chance to become a college power for awhile. The window is still open but hopefully the NCAA does not do the Terps dirty again.