Maryland baseball center fielder Zach Jancarski was in bed, exhausted after the Terps’ 17-2 win over Rutgers on Saturday, ticked off that his phone kept buzzing as he tried to fall asleep.
When he checked his phone, he saw a slew of congratulatory texts from friends and family members commending a ninth-inning catch that helped seal the 15-run game and earned the No. 2 spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10.
Jancarski’s range and ability with the glove has become a staple piece of Maryland’s outfield. Saturday’s display was his second on ESPN this season.
But early in his college career, before the over-the-shoulder dive toward the wall in right-center field became more standard than stand-out, Jancarski relied upon his speed to make up for imprecise routes to balls. Jancarski’s play in his final weekend at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium highlighted his development in center field and reminded coach Rob Vaughn of Jancarski’s growth in four years as a Terp.
“Credit to [assistant coaches Matt Swope and Anthony Papio] developing me into not just a reckless animal out there,” Jancarski said. “Having precise routes to the ball, that makes or breaks every play. My speed and athleticism kind of take over, but if I don’t take that good route, sometimes you’re not going to get to the ball.”
— Maryland Baseball (@TerpsBaseball) May 13, 2018
In Maryland’s series opener Friday, Jancarski charged shortstop Dan DiGeorgio line drive and made a diving catch for the second out in the ninth inning, preventing what would have been a run-scoring hit. He stood and pounded his chest, excited over his latest web gem.
— Maryland Baseball (@TerpsBaseball) May 12, 2018
Against Delaware on March 13, Jancarski raced into the left-center field gap for a catch that was also featured on SportsCenter.
“That’s something I’ve taken pride in myself since I was a little kid,” Jancarski said. “Just taking runs off the board and taking hits away from guys.”
Papio, a former Terps outfielder who now coaches first base and outfielders, has helped Jancarski refine his defensive ability, and Jancarski has given advice to his teammates and implores them to be more aggressive toward balls.
Right before left fielder Will Watson’s game-saving catch April 1 with bases loaded in the ninth, Jancarski told Watson that Northwestern designated hitter Connor Lind often pulls the ball, so Watson needed to be on his toes. The sliding grab secured a crucial Big Ten win.
While Jancarski’s bat hasn’t been as consistent as his glove, his average rose to .277 after his 5-for-10 weekend. The East Norriton, Pennsylvania, native is one of seven seniors who have been instrumental in Maryland’s late push toward conference tournament contention.
Jancarski’s two highlight-reel dives helped set up the Terps for a deciding final series against Indiana.
“I know that’s kind of like a crazy catch,” Watson said, “but I’ve seen him do that in numerous, numerous times.”
Prior to the series finale, Jancarski and Vaughn shared a prolonged hug during the Senior Day proceedings. Jancarski wiped his eyes during the encounter. He said he didn’t fully realize until that moment he was about to play his final game in College Park.
The first-year coach then walked into left field, wiping his own eyes, remembering about six years ago when he first called Jancarski to introduce himself as the Terps’ new hitting coach.
Since then, Jancarski has developed into a leader in the outfield, and his two SportsCenter Top-10 plays will serve as a memento to his time patrolling center field.
“I’ll never forget that kid,” Vaughn said. “He’s going to go down as one of my favorite players of all time.”