2013 Season Leadoff: Pitchers & Catchers
Feb. 8, 2013
As Maryland closes in on its 2013 season opener at No. 10 LSU on Friday, Feb. 15, we'll preview this year's squad in three installments over the next week. The pitchers and catchers highlight today's preview.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Entering last season, there was one attribute that stood out for the Maryland pitching staff: experience. In 2013, the staff looks quite different with senior Jimmy Reed and junior Brady Kirkpatrick the only returning players with starting experience.
The Terps return six pitchers who combined to pitch 145-1/3 innings, only 30 percent of the total innings pitched in 2012. Consequently, the Terps will turn to an inexperienced, but talented young core to provide added pitching depth.
The Terps' 2012 recruiting haul included six freshmen and one junior college transfer, lefty Chase Tokunaga. Many of the new faces are in the mix for the final three starting spots including freshmen Jake Drossner, Kevin Mooney and Alex Robinson.
In relief, with the departure of Korey Wacker and Reed's move to the starting rotation, junior Jake Stinnett is the frontrunner to serve as Maryland's closer. But the bridge from the starter to Stinnett is a different matter.
Amongst this group, one thing is certain: there are a lot of options for head coach John Szefc, which will allow him to play matchups.
"It's a young staff, but it's a talented young staff," said Szefc. "Jimmy [Belanger] has done a good job of bringing those guys along slowly and carefully. We will run a lot of guys in and out and put them in positions where they are going to have success."
After Reed and Kirkpatrick, the coaching staff will have to choose amongst a handful of freshmen pitchers for the final three spots in the rotation with the leading candidates being Drossner, Mooney and Robinson.
After beginning the 2012 season as the Terps' closer, Reed moved into the starting rotation against NC State on April 6 and finished the season with a team-best 2.70 ERA, which ranked ninth in the ACC. In 60 innings pitched, Reed struck out 52 batters while only surrendering 16 walks and held opponents to a .226 batting average, the eighth-best mark in the conference.
The native of Gaithersburg, Md., came out of the gates strong and went at least eight innings in each of his first three starts. In his first career start against the Wolfpack, Reed threw eight scoreless innings and held the 17th-ranked Pack to just two hits while striking out eight. With some starting experience under his belt, Reed is ready to build upon his successful junior season.
"Jimmy is a little more established at this point," said Szefc. "The fact that he was successful as a starter and a reliever last year is important. He also had a really good summer in the Cape Cod League."
Kirkpatrick began last season in the weekend rotation and opened with a no-decision at No. 14 UCLA after going 5-1/3 innings and surrendering one unearned run on six hits while striking out four batters. The 6-foot-2 right hander followed that performance up with 7-1/3 scoreless innings against Western Carolina to earn his first win of the season.
After an inconsistent March, Kirkpatrick transitioned into the midweek rotation. But after enjoying what might be his most successful fall semester, both academically and athletically, Kirkpatrick may emerge as one of the best pitchers on the staff.
"Brady would probably tell you that he had a turning point type of fall," said Szefc. "He became a pitcher that has good command of the zone and had a great overall semester. I think matching Brady up with [Jimmy] Belanger really helped. I think he needed a fresh prospective, a fresh voice. He takes a lot of pride in being one of the older, more experienced guys on the staff."
Behind Reed and Kirkpatrick a talented trio of newcomers seems positioned to seize the final spots in the five-man rotation.
Drossner, a 6-foot-3 left hander, was a third team Rawlings All-American coming out of Council Rock North High School in Richboro, Pa. Drossner helped led the Indians to a 2011 district title and was ranked the No. 3 prospect in the state of Pennsylvania by Perfect Game USA.
Mooney, the ESPN/Gatorade Player of the Year in Maryland and Baltimore Sun Player of the Year, was ranked the top pitcher and second-best player in Maryland by Perfect Game USA. Mooney helped lead North Harford High School to the state finals as a senior and completed his career with a 24-8 record with a 1.35 ERA and 301 strikeouts.
Robinson, a 6-foot-3 power lefty, was ranked by Perfect Game USA as the third-best player in New York and threw four no-hitters in his high school career including a 19 strike-out performance. Robinson was named ESPN/Gatorade New York Player of the Year.
Given the pitching staff's overall inexperience, Szefc understands there may be some rough spots, but feels very confident about the group's ability overall.
"They got a lot of experience in the fall," said Szefc. "Most of the guys are healthy at this point. We feel pretty good about where things are with those guys."
Pashuck and Stinnett represent the only two returnees with significant experience in the bullpen. The two combined for 31-1/3 innings last season and made 20 appearances.
Stinnett appears to be in line to serve as the Terps closer. Last season, he struck out 13 batters in 13-1/3 innings and finished with a 3.38 ERA. Stinnett has power stuff and hits the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball.
"Jake had a really good fall, coming off a very good summer," said Szefc. "He has had a good preseason so far. It's just a matter of him coming in and commanding the zone and throwing strikes. He's got good enough stuff as long as he works in the zone and puts enough pressure on the offense."
The Terps have some options in middle relief. The squad has a solid group of lefties in Brewster, Tokunaga and Wade along with a good group of righties in Casas and Price. The coaching staff may also utilize Mooney in relief if he does not solidify a spot in the starting rotation.
Cleary is the most experienced of the three. The Midlothian, Va., native appeared in 46 games last season and started in 37 of them. He led the team with a .319 batting average and hit .415 in ACC action. Cleary, one of the best defensive catchers in the conference, threw out 16 of 31 runners attempting to steal and committed just five errors behind the plate.
Ramsay makes his return this spring after missing all of the 2012 season with an injury. He'll provide a strong left-handed bat in the lineup. As a freshman in 2011, Ramsay hit .273 in 31 games including 18 starts.Martir joins the squad after an impressive high school career at Grand Street Campus in which he helped lead the school to the 2012 PSAL A title in New York City.