Maryland pitcher Jake Stinnett became the highest-drafted Terps player since 2007 when the Chicago Cubs selected him with the 45th overall pick in the second round in baseball's first-year player draft Thursday.
Stinnett began his career at Maryland as a third baseman, but he saw his playing time limited as a sophomore and moved to pitching full-time as a junior. He joined the team's starting rotation last season, and vaulted his way into consideration for a high draft pick with a strong senior season for the Terps.
He leaped onto the radar March 1 with a no-hitter against Massachusetts and continued his dominant senior season when he struck out a career-high 14 against North Carolina State on March 21.
The right-hander, whose fastball sits in the mid-90s and is complemented by an 82-84 mph slider and a developing changeup, is 7-6 with a 2.65 ERA in 112 innings.
Stinnett, who was picked in the 29th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in last year's draft before choosing to return to Maryland, led the Atlantic Coast Conference in strikeouts (130), complete games (four), and innings pitched (112), and he was a second-team All-ACC pick. His 130 strikeouts are a school record, and rank third in the nation.
Maryland hasn't had a player selected that early since pitcher Brett Cecil was selected 38th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007.
Stinnett, the team's Friday starter, will likely take the ball in the first game of this weekend's best-of-three series against Virginia in the NCAA super regional. Stinnett picked up an ACC tournament win over Virginia two weeks ago, when he struck out 10 in eight innings. He also pitched eight innings in the Terps' 4-3 win over Old Dominion on Friday in the Columbia, S.C., regional.
Maryland coach John Szefc said earlier this week that he wasn't worried about Stinnett losing focus on the NCAA super regional, where he will likely face Virginia's star left-hander Nathan Kirby.
"He'll handle that," Szefc said. "He's a real mature guy. He's been through a lot this year. I'll congratulate him when he gets drafted because he's put a lot of work into it, and he's going to earn what he gets when he gets called out on Thursday, but I think he's come a long way. I think this is really important to him, especially as he finishes up his college career."
Szefc knows Stinnett will do what he needs to prepare for Virginia on Saturday.
"I like that our guys get those opportunities, because they deserve it, and they earn that, but we're going to just try to focus more on what we've got to do on Saturday with him," Szefc said. "I know he will, too. I think he'll enjoy Thursday, and at some point, kind of put it behind him and get himself refocused on Saturday."