As a freshman last season, Maryland baseball’s Randy Bednar was one of the most aggressive hitters on the team. In 43 games, the outfielder took just 12 walks.
So when Bednar earned three free passes in the Terps’ season opener against Campbell two weeks ago, it caught coach Rob Vaughn’s eye.
“I was laughing with him after the game,” Vaughn said. “I said, ‘Randy, how many of those sliders you swing at last year?’ He said, ‘Every single one of them.’”
After a trying freshman season forced him to alter his approach, Bednar has been Maryland’s best hitter in the early going. Now more relaxed at the plate, he leads the team in a host of offensive categories, anchoring the lineup from the No. 2 spot.
“He’s put the work in, he’s prepared, he’s got a great plan at the plate, he’s going to go do his thing,” Vaughn said. “So far, to this point, it’s really worked out for him.”
During a team meeting at Coastal Carolina, Bednar stood up in front of his teammates to read a two-page speech about his shift in mindset from a season ago.
He preached the importance of staying calm on the field. Whereas he used to obsess over results, he’s since learned to appreciate the process and focus on working to get better as a sophomore.
“I kind of had to take a step back and re-evaluate myself,” he said. “When I came onto the field [this season], I just kinda played with a freedom, with no fear of failure.”
Seven games in, Bednar’s new mindset is paying off for him. The right fielder has improved his average from .208 to .370, and he’s slugging .667, nearly 300 points higher than a year ago.
Bednar has also been far more disciplined at the plate. He’s tied for the team lead in walks with seven, and he has just three strikeouts after striking out 46 times last season.
Vaughn has slotted Bednar second because of the challenges he poses to starting pitchers. That placement aligns with the lineup optimization Vaughn is increasingly trying to use, heeding the advice he’s received from an analytics expert.
“The prototypical lineup, you put kind of a guy in the two hole that can bunt and can do some different things, and that’s just not really what I wanted,” Vaughn said. “I want to put our best guy there, [and] I feel like Randy’s our scariest hitter.”
Freshman designated hitter Maxwell Costes, who’s hit fourth or lower in each game this year, takes note of the pitcher’s approach to the hitters in front of him. With Bednar reaching base at a .500 clip thus far, Costes has frequently found himself trying to emulate his success.
Costes has also benefited from Bednar speaking about his flawed approach freshman year. Now, he’s seen firsthand what relaxing can do for a player.
“His biggest advice to me has been to take everything slow,” Costes said. “He says that all the puzzle pieces are going to fall into place eventually.”
For Bednar, those pieces have already fallen into place, helping to pace the Terps to a 5-2 record. While they look to extend their five-game win streak on the road against Louisiana-Lafayette, Bednar will look to keep up his torrid start.
Throughout the year, Vaughn has used the mantra “chop wood, carry water” — which is written on top of his practice plan — to emphasize to his team the importance of remaining successful by doing the things that have brought them that success before.
For Bednar, that means leaning on the mindset he adopted after the struggles of his first season in College Park.
“His mindset is polar opposite,” Vaughn said. “He’s just having a lot more fun around the yard, and I think that shift in perspective has allowed kind of his ability and his hard work to really start to show.”