As the Pitt Panthers baseball team is set to take on the Maryland Terrapins this weekend at Charles L. Cost Field, Testudo Times (SB Nation's excellent Maryland blog) baseball reporter Andrew Kramer and I answered each other's questions about each team. Here are his responses to my queries.
Brandon Lowe is a redshirt freshman, and is second in the ACC in hitting, while sophomore Jose Cuas leads the team in home runs. How much did fans see these performances from these underclassmen coming?
I don't think the fans saw this coming as much as the coaches did. Last season Lowe was out with a torn ACL and Cuas hit .182. Yet both were starters from day one in 2014. Lowe has been steady all year, getting on base almost 50% of the time, producing clutch hits, and showing remarkably good fielding for a freshman. Cuas started off slow but the coaches stuck with him. He's beginning to show why he was selected by Toronto in the 2012 MLB draft.
The front three for the Terrapins looks to be very strong, with Jake Stinnett, Mike Shawaryn, and Jake Drossner. What should Pitt fans expect to see from these three throwers this weekend?
Pitchers with live arms that show good command of their pitches. Jake Stinnett is a potential first-round MLB draft pick, with a fastball in the mid 90's, slider, and change. He can maintain his velocity deep into games as witnessed by his 141 pitch complete game win over Georgia Tech. Mike Shawaryn has shown incredible poise for a freshman. He may give up more hits than Stinnett, but finds ways of pitching out of jams. I don't know if there is a better freshman pitcher in the ACC. Jake Drossner came out of high school with a lot expected of him. He showed some signs of his talent last year, but really improved as a midweek starter this year. In fact, Drossner did so well that he was moved to the Sunday slot in the rotation. The southpaw has some serious heat, as shown by his striking out 51 batters in 48 innings.
John Szefc is currently in his second year as coach. Why did previous coach Erik Bakich leave, and what is the general consensus on the job Szefc has done?
This coaching story has an ironic twist. Erik Bakich was hired before the 2010 season and started to make Maryland baseball respectable. Things were looking up for the program when Bakich suddenly bolted for the Michigan job. It was a downgrade in terms of quality for him, but Bakich was offered four times the salary he was receiving at Maryland. Szefc came aboard and changed the way Maryland plays baseball. He likes to play small ball and that led to an exodus of power bats from the team after last season. The general consensus is that Szefc is building a very competitive program. Next year he'll get to square off against his predecessor as the Terps move to the B1G. Some of the players Bakich recruited (including Lowe, Drossner, etc...) will be playing against him.