College baseball season is coming to a close, and only one of Maryland’s four-year colleges remains in action.
Mount St. Mary’s University (21-31 overall, 15-13 conference) is back in the postseason for the first time in 10 years. In 2008, the Mountaineers went into the NEC Tournament as the fourth seed and came away with the school’s lone conference title. This season marks the Mount’s fourth postseason appearance in 29 seasons in the NEC.
With 356 career wins, head coach Scott Thomson looks to guide the Mountaineers to their second championship in program history. Thomson recently talked about his postseason expectations in a video with the Mount St. Mary’s athletic communications department.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to – one – just be in a Northeast Conference tournament,” Thomson said. “Every year it’s a goal of ours, and this year we were able to reach that.”
The Mount’s junior class has stepped up in a big way, helping secure the final spot in the NEC Tournament.
Juniors Patrick Causa, Alex Kriss (Calvert Hall) and Vaughn Parker II (Gov. Thomas Johnson in Frederick) have combined for 15 home runs and 104 RBIs.
A standout at shortstop, Causa, who is from Sinking Spring, Pa., finished third in the NEC with 46 RBIs.
“We’re really deep with our talent both on the mound and in the field and also at the plate,” Thomson said. “We’re excited for not just this year but years to come.”
On the mound, the Mountaineers have relied heavily on sophomore southpaw Trey McGough. The Johnstown, Pa., product has been pitching coach Ivor Hodgson’s workhorse all season, totaling 74 1/3 innings while striking out 62 batters.
“I can’t say enough about our pitching staff,” Hodgson said. “They’re a bunch of good guys. They have a really good work ethic – that’s something that we’ve been preaching all year. And now they’re starting to reap the benefits. We tell them to just go out there and compete and let the chips fall where they may, and it’s been working out so far.”
The Mount squares off against Bryant University at noon today. With the hopes of moving on in the four-team, double-elimination tournament, the Mountaineers will put their faith in each other.
“Obviously our biggest strength is our team chemistry,” Thomson said. “The guys do everything together. On the field, off the field, they’re always helping each other out, picking each other up. It’s just a solid team. We really don’t have MVPs this year. We just have a bunch of guys that have kind of carried us throughout the year at different times, and we’ve jumped on each other’s backs and we’re where we want to be.”
In the all-time series against Bryant, the Mount is 3-34. Bryant took four of the six games the teams played this season. Thomson intentionally scheduled an end-of-the-year, four game series against Florida State University in order to prepare for tougher opponents during postseason play. The Mount dropped all four games to the Seminoles by a combined score of 52-4.
“It’s not an easy draw,” Thomson said. “Obviously Coach Owens and the Bryant Bulldogs – they have a great program. We’ve proven that we can play with them this year, so it’s going to be a great test for our guys.”
Here’s a look at the rest of the four-year Maryland colleges that wrapped up their seasons in the past week with postseason losses.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
UMBC (22-29 overall, 12-11 conference) looked to repeat as conference champions when the America East tournament got underway Wednesday. It marked UMBC’s fourth straight America East tournament appearance and fifth in program history.
In the first game, the University at Albany jumped out to a 6-0 lead before the Retrievers could get on the board. UMBC chipped away, but could only cut the deficit to two before the Great Danes pulled away for good, 8-5.
That loss forced the Retrievers into the loser’s bracket game on Wednesday evening. Once again, UMBC fell behind early. The University of Maine put up four runs in the first and three runs in the second to leave the Retrievers in a 7-0 hole. UMBC failed to overcome the Black Bears’ hot start, ending the Retrievers season with a 9-4 loss.
Heading into next season, UMBC will be without senior catcher Zack Bright, who led the Retrievers with 33 RBIs.
However, UMBC will return its young freshman core, including infielder Joey Goodwin. In 35 games, Goodwin totaled 43 hits with a team-leading .358 batting average.
U.S. Naval Academy
Navy (38-16 overall, 18-7 conference) saw its hopes of a Patriot League title slip away at the hands of the U.S. Military Academy (Army).
After being postponed for two days, Navy and Army played Sunday at Max Bishop Stadium. Senior outfielder Logan Knowles hit a two-run homer to tie the first game in the fifth inning, but Army scored six unanswered runs before Navy could get three back in the ninth. Navy fell 8-to-5 in the series opener.
With a championship on the line, Navy and Army went back-and-forth on Monday afternoon. Navy tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth inning, only to have Army answer with a run of its own in the bottom half of the frame. This theme continued in the following two innings. A two-run sixth inning gave Navy its first lead of the series – that is until Army responded with a three-run seventh for the lead and the championship.
It seemed fitting that the Patriot League title came down to Army-Navy. The teams had been on a collision course since the end of March, when Camden Yards played host to an epic doubleheader that featured a freak snow squall. Army swept both games in Baltimore, but Navy got its revenge at Fenway Park in Boston, when junior Noah Song hurled a complete-game shutout. No matter the sport, Army-Navy is always more fun when both teams are at their best.
University of Maryland
Maryland’s season came to an end following three straight losses to Indiana University. The Terps (24-30 overall, 9-14 conference) finished ninth in the Big Ten, one spot short of a conference tournament berth.
Although first-year head coach Rob Vaughn saw his team conclude the season in disappointing fashion, the future looks bright for Maryland baseball.
Junior second baseman Nick Dunn and senior first baseman/right-handed pitcher Kevin Biondic earned All-Big Ten honors.
Dunn was named the first team second baseman after a sensational offensive campaign. He led Maryland in average (.330), slugging percentage (.561), on-base percentage (.419), home runs (10), doubles (17), hits (70), runs (39) and RBIs (39). Dunn’s 23 multi-hit games and 11 multi-RBI games led the team as well.
Biondic earned second team honors. If there were a Ryan Flaherty Award for utility excellence, Biondic would’ve won in a landslide. The senior jack-of-all-trades hit .279 with six home runs, four triples and 11 doubles, while racking up 27 RBIs and 32 runs scored.
On the mound, Biondic finished with a 2-1 record and 2.59 ERA in 24 1/3 innings pitched. With the help of a knuckleball, Biondic struck out 27 and opponents hit just .198 against him.
At first base, Biondic delivered highlight after highlight. He made only one error while making 463 putouts.
Salisbury (34-12 overall, 15-3 conference) maneuvered the Capital Athletic Conference tournament with ease.
During the tournament, the Sea Gulls won all five of their games, driving home a total of 49 runs while surrendering only seven. They earned three shutout wins and, at no point during the series, did they trail.
A 10-4 win over Penn State University, Harrisburg, gave Salisbury its 15th CAC championship.
With the win, Salisbury earned the CAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division 3 tournament. It marked the Sea Gulls’ 24th appearance and 19th straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
In Auburn, N.Y., Salisbury defeated St. Joseph’s College, 3-2, in Game 1 of the NCAA regionals. Senior infielder Simon Palenchar delivered a walkoff single in the 10th inning to keep the Sea Gulls in the winners’ bracket.
The following day, Salisbury came out on the wrong end of a pitchers’ duel, losing 1-0 to the University of Southern Maine (which is coached by Ryan Flaherty’s father, incidentally).
Baldwin Wallace University defeated Salisbury 14-3 to end the Sea Gulls’ season.
Returning the majority of its core, including star third baseman Jack Barry, Salisbury will be in the hunt for another championship in 2019.
Coppin State University
Coppin’s historic season came to an end in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The Eagles (21-23-1 overall, 18-4 conference) fell 8-3 in 10 innings versus Bethune-Cookman University in the semifinals of the MEAC Tournament. Coppin’s 18 conference wins far surpassed its previous high of 13.
Although the Eagles fell short of winning a title, 2018 marked Coppin’s winningest season in 22 years. Headed by second team All-MEAC selection Jahmon Taylor, the Eagles pitching staff recorded a 5.51 ERA and 274 strikeouts, both of which are new school-records.
Head Coach Sherman Reed is optimistic that this successful season is a sign of things to come.
“This season was a turning point for our baseball program as the guys really came of age,” Reed said in a press release. “It’s not because of the many records that were broken, but the shift in mindset. From Day One of the fall practice season, we knew that we had a very talented team. They trusted the programs and processes the coaches put in place and they never stopped believing in their abilities.
“With a great nucleus of returning players, along with a spectacular 2018 recruiting class, the future is bright for Coppin State University Baseball.”