By Megan Smedley
The first thing baseball head coach John Szefc and softball head coach Julie Wright mentioned in their start of the season press conferences was their schedule difficulty.
“Our schedule is insane and I like it that way.” said Wright, introducing herself to the Maryland press.
Maryland Baseball had one of their best years last season. They had a school record 42 wins, won their regional by defeating No.1 seeded UCLA, and competed in a super regional for the second straight year. Eight players were selected in the MLB Draft including second baseman Brandon Lowe, third baseman Jose Cuas, and catcher Kevin Martir. Losing so many strong players has many fans wondering what is going to happen this season, but head coach John Szefc assures this was all part of his plan.
“We lost eight guys to the Major League Draft last year, ten overall that were pretty good regular players/contributors for us,” said Szefc. “But we had a plan behind that with some new guys coming in. We had some really good younger players last year that did not play a lot as freshmen…so we had a plan behind the losses. To this point, the plan has worked well.”
Luckily for the team, All-American pitcher Mike Shawaryn elected to return for his junior year. Shawaryn holds the single-season Maryland records for wins and strikeouts as well as being the winningest pitcher in Maryland baseball history. His success last year led Shawaryn to pitch for the USA Collegiate National Team in the summer. Szefc calls Shawaryn the most consistent college baseball player that he has ever been around. Despite losing his catcher, Shawayrn is positive he will thrive with Justin Morris and Nick Cieri behind the plate.
“I think Kev did a great job of imparting his knowledge on to Cieri and Justin,” said Shawaryn. “For me Kev was probably one of the greatest catchers I’ve ever played with but the connection with Cieri and Morris it doesn’t really dip. I think we have just as much of a relationship between me and Kev, me and Nick, and me and Justin.”
Szefc is going to rely on fifth-year seniors Rob Galligan and Anthony Papio to take over the leadership role of the team and guide younger players through the season. Last season because of injury, there were constant changes to the lineup. This year Szefc hopes to have more of a distinct lineup and rotation. The weekend rotation is expected to be Shawaryn, Taylor Bloom and Brian Shaffer. Andrew Bechtold and Nick Dunn will take over at third base and second base. As for Shawaryn, he just wants to take it day by day, focusing on one game at a time, and hopefully make it to the last day in the college baseball season. That, being a trip to the College World Series.
The softball team is heading into their season in an all-too-familiar position. For the third time in three seasons, the team will begin the year under a new coaching staff. Head coach Julie Wright takes this in stride though, claiming this team has a new identity.
“You’re going to see a team that’s full of energy, that’s well-disciplined and has a very strong work ethic,” said Wright. “You’re going to see an exciting team to watch. We connect with the fans. We
have a good time playing the game. We enjoy each other. And when you have a team that plays relax and intense, you’re going to see good results.”
Senior shortstop Lindsey Schmeiser praised the new coaching staff saying they create a relaxed atmosphere.
“We’re here cause we love the game,” said Schmeiser. “It’s fun to feel that and have that again.”
A main focus for the team this year is having chemistry. Recently, the team took a retreat to really get to know each other better. They have weekly buddies, different players to hangout with every week, to build up that team chemistry. They want to know each well enough that they can understand each other on the field during games.
Following the loss of star pitcher Kaitlyn Schmeiser, the team will have to rely on Brenna Nation, Hannah Dewey and Madison Martin to complete their rotation. Christina Dillard is expected to take over behind the plate. For Lindsey, it will be different not having her sister Kaitlyn on the mound.
“I’m definitely going to miss playing with her but the thing is when you do have 19 other sisters that fills the role,” said Schmeiser. “Obviously it’s not quite the same but when you know everyone to your right and to your left as well as we do, that’s definitely your support system.”
The Maryland Softball season gets underway next Friday in Arizona as part of the Kajikawa Classic. First pitch for the Maryland Baseball season is Friday, February 19th at the University of Alabama.