Maryland baseball outfielder Madison Nickens flashed his power in the team's series against Penn State last weekend. The first-year Terp combined to go five-for-13 at the plate, scoring three runs and driving in another three runners to counter his one strikeout.
The performance was the latest in a season during which he's maintained the fourth-best batting average (.280) of the Terps' starters. Nickens is tied for a team-high eight home runs with about a month left in the regular season.
The junior's production has come on the heels of his arrival in College Park as a junior-college transfer from Louisiana State University at Eunice, where he was a standout contributor for two seasons. In his Maryland tenure so far, Nickens has provided leadership, in addition to pop from the leadoff spot in the lineup, his coach and teammates have noticed. They said they hope that impact continues Wednesday night in the squad's game against Towson in Aberdeen.
Nickens' contributions helped the Terps earn a 2-1 series victory over the Nittany Lions at State College, Pennsylvania. He blasted a home run in the ninth inning of the series opener to tack on an insurance run for pitcher Mike Shawaryn's win.
"He had a great weekend," coach John Szefc said. "He came up with some big hits in big times for us."
Szefc said one of his favorite things about Nickens is his consistency because the outfielder keeps the same demeanor regardless of the outcome of his at-bats.
"You just know exactly what you're getting every day from him, and it's great," Szefc said "He's been such a valuable addition."
And with Nickens slotted as the team's leadoff batter for most of the season, the Terps have come to rely on the Gonzales, Louisiana, native to set an aggressive tone for the rest of the lineup.
"If he's doing well at the one spot or near the top, it's great for us," Shawaryn said. "He's our spark plug."
Before joining Szefc's program, Nickens won the NJCAA Division II National Championships in his second year with LSU Eunice.
That previous experience has helped the Terps, too. Sometimes the players talk to Nickens about his success with the Bengals. Shawaryn said he noticed Nickens' leadership qualities emerge when he arrived last fall.
"He brings this toughness and grit — he's a similar player to all of us already here," Shawaryn said. "He brings a winning experience. I mean, he's won a title. Now we have this taste of winning."
The Terps want to add to their recent string of victories — they've prevailed in five of their last seven games — as they enter their midweek contest with the Tigers, who haven't beaten the Terps since 2011. They'll again look to Nickens to help lead that charge.
"He's able to mentally move through bad at-bats because he's so mature," Szefc said. "He's a leader in the clubhouse, even after just a few months here."