On Monday the Maryland baseball team reported back to campus to begin individual work and strength and conditioning as the season opener at UCLA is just a month away.
The Terps, who wrapped up their winter conditioning program in early December and have been off since then, return all eight positional starters from 2011. Seven of Maryland's top 10 pitchers in terms of ERA return and overall 21 letterwinners are back.
A year ago Maryland welcomed in 22 newcomers that constituted a top-25 recruiting class and were relied upon to play immediately. That meant some growing pains early on, but with a year under their belts this group has fewer moving parts and knows what to expect out of a grueling ACC schedule.
Among the eight positional starters returning are Maryland's three best offensive performers from 2011: sophomore OF Charlie White (.304 batting avg.), senior 2B Ryan Holland (.282) and sophomore 1B Tim Kiene (.279). White projects as the starting center fielder this season and has great speed, stealing 17 bases on 18 attempts a year ago. Holland led the team with 30 RBIs, and Kiene hit a team-best .352 in ACC games, a mark that ranked sixth in the conference.
On the mound two weekend starters are back in David Carroll and Brady Kirkpatrick, and the rotation is expected to receive an upgrade with the return of fifth-year senior Brett Harman. After redshirting last season with an injury, Harman is on track to return and would bolster a staff that ranked 22nd nationally last season with 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings.
Harman was undoubtedly Maryland's top pitcher in 2010, accumulating a team-best 4.50 ERA as the Friday-night starter. He was 10th in the league with 91 strikeouts and issued just 25 walks in 86 innings, so his return to that 2010 form will be important to Maryland's success.
Kirkpatrick and Carroll, meanwhile, were steady in their debut seasons and are expected to be the first two legs of the weekend rotation at the beginning of the year. Kirkpatrick spent much of his freshman season pitching in relief before moving into the starting rotation for the last five weeks. Carroll, now a senior, was a weekend starter all year and had a 4.70 ERA that was best among the starters.
Maryland will also receive a boost from a 2011 recruiting class that received accolades from several publications, including Baseball America. Freshmen K.J. Hockaday (Joppa, Md., John Carroll HS) and Andrew Amaro (Bensalem, Pa., William Penn Charter) were both taken in the 2011 MLB Draft and chose Maryland over signing pro contracts. Those two are the most likely to see early playing time, with Hockaday entering preseason camp as the starting third baseman.
This Saturday the Terps will celebrate the start of the 2012 season with the Leadoff Banquet featuring Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter. Registration information can be found here.
Following that, they will have four weeks to
prepare for a trip west to face a top-25 team in UCLA. The home opener is
Friday, March 3 at 3 p.m. against Manhattan. Season ticket information can be
Stay tuned to umterps.com over the next few weeks as we'll roll out more in-depth, position-by-position previews.