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Loyola outfielder Lardo chooses Maryland over Ivy League

Loyola outfielder A.J. Lardo visited Maryland nine months ago and then watched about 10 of his friends sign with the Terps while he went off to look at Harvard, Dartmouth and Columbia.

But Sunday night, Lardo a near-6-foot left fielder who bats and pitches right-handed and led the state in stolen bases last season with 34, gave his word to Maryland coach Eric Bakich that he will be a Terp after he graduates from Loyola next Spring.

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"Maryland was the first school I visited, and Coach Bakich was so enthusiastic," Lardo said. "He was hired to take Maryland's baseball program from the middle of the pack to the top of the ACC. It stuck in my mind. Maryland is an hour from home; it plays in the ACC, the best baseball conference in the country; and his philosophy is to recruit hard in Maryland.

"After visiting the Ivy League schools, at the end of the day, it just seemed like Maryland was the best fit for me."

It wasn't just baseball that drew Lardo. The Loyola senior has worked hard to maintain a 3.9 or 4.0 grade-point average each semester because he wants to pursue his education in business, engineering or a science, like biology.

"I study a lot," he said. "Academics are important to me. One of my friends signed, K.J. Hockaday from John Carroll. I grew up playing my whole life with him. He committed a year ago to Maryland, but I wanted to make sure it was right for me. ... After visiting the Ivys, I wasn't sure I was ready for the Ivy League. They're further from home, and they don't have the same vibe. I don't think I'm that type of person. Maryland is more laid-back."

Lardo said he will spend this year working on his arm strength and batting eye. While he hit about .430 last season, he said a lot of his hits came on his ability to beat out throws for infield hits.

"I've been striking out a lot, and I need to stop chasing bad pitches," he said. "But my speed is really important both in getting on base and stealing bases."

Besides Hockaday, Lardo will be joining Bobby Ruse of C. Milton Wright, Shane Campbell of Kenwood, Will Bouey of Sherwood, and Corey Britton of Atholton at Maryland.

The actual signing of commitment papers will be in November. Lardo could change his mind, but he says it is very unlikely.

"You're locked in unless you want a bad reputation," he said. "I gave my word, and I'm really excited. It's been a really stressful year, looking at the schools, making sure I chose the one that would be right for me academically and athletically.

"I can get a good education at Maryland, and I'm eager to help Coach Bakich build the program. I'm ready to go now; Ready to earn a starting position."

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