Senior Jeff Wagner is taking a now-or-never approach to his final college baseball days, looking to squeeze out the most of every last at-bat he gets for the Maryland Terrapins.
So far, the season has brought its share of rewards and downfalls for the Liberty High grad.
Wagner, the team's captain who mostly plays shortstop and some at second, is enjoying his finest season offensively, hitting .308 as the leadoff man and leading the Terps in homers with seven and RBIs with 29.
Despite all that, the Terps are struggling in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference and have an overall record of 15-24 after yesterday's 13-5 victory over Virginia.
Wagner has battled through the tougher times. After a solid freshman season in 1992 when he hit .265, he was battling himself more than opposing pitchers the next two seasons as his production dropped. This year, he's found the remedy and hopes his teammates will follow his cue.
"I'm just more aggressive at the plate this year, looking for my pitch and working the count more," he said. "The last few years, I was hoping to get a hit instead of knowing I was going to get a hit. It got tough because you would go up to the plate with a lot of stuff on your mind and become your own worse enemy."
There has never been any doubts about Wagner's strong arm and good range on defense. His versatility over the past four seasons has been a valuable asset to manager Tom Bradley, who's used him at all the outfield positions and at third to go along with his time at short and second.
"He's just a real good athlete," Bradley said. "He has a major league arm and runs well. He goes to his backhand well and also is strong up the middle. The fact he can play anywhere in the infield is very appealing."
His versatility has kept him in the lineup and given him some different looks on the diamond.
"I like playing a lot of different positions and it hasn't bothered me [offensively] at all," Wagner said. "It really keeps the game interesting."
Wagner's hoping his versatility, combined with his strong arm and improved offensive production, could get him an opportunity to be drafted by the pros. He said finishing strong will be a big key.
He even made an appearance on the mound recently in a win against Georgetown. After going 3-for-5 with two homers, five RBIs and four runs scored, Wagner closed out the big win by pitching a flawless inning with two strikeouts.
"I finally got an inning after bugging the coach all year long," Wagner said. "I got them one-two-three. It was fun, something I hadn't done since my Liberty days."
Wagner would like to enjoy more games like that before his college career is through. Injuries to the pitching staff and inconsistent play have plagued the Terps all season and Wagner knows time is growing short.
"It's going to take a lot," Wagner said. "It'll take a total team effort with everyone pulling together. Being captain and a senior, I just feel it's my role to be a leader and work hard and if I do it everyone else will do it."