During the Maryland baseball team's bus ride home from Knoxville, Tennessee, on Sunday, pitching coach Corey Muscara didn't let Hunter Parsons dwell on his disastrous first start of the season, when the right-hander allowed eight runs and was chased in the second inning.
Instead, Muscara asked Parsons if he wanted to pitch in relief against William & Mary on Wednesday.
Parsons jumped at the chance to move on from his nightmarish debut ahead of his expected weekend start against Army. He didn't allow a run in 1.1 innings during Maryland's 10-4 loss to the Tribe, a performance coach Rob Vaughn hopes will set the tone for the Fruitland native for the rest of the season.
"We talk all the time, man, we're all going to get punched in the mouth, we're all going to get knocked down," Vaughn said. "The best competitors, the best people, can take adversity and take failure and turn it into something positive by the way they respond. Hunter did a tremendous job [Wednesday], worked with great pace and threw the ball really well."
The Terps need Parsons to become a stable Sunday starter this season following extensive turnover on the mound. Reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Brian Shaffer was picked in the sixth round of the 2017 MLB Draft and eight relievers left the program, leaving an inexperienced bullpen to back up mainstay starters Taylor Bloom and Tyler Blohm.
After finishing a promising freshman year with a 3.50 ERA in 36 innings, Parsons took a step back as a sophomore. He didn't record a win, allowed more than two baserunners per inning and saw his ERA balloon to 12.05.
The five runs Tennessee scored off him in the first inning appeared to be an extension of last season. Parsons said he pitched timidly against the Volunteers but entered in relief Wednesday with a more direct approach to batters.
Parsons worked quickly against the Tribe, closing out the third inning with a groundout before retiring the side in order in the next frame. He was the only Terps pitcher to not allow a baserunner.
"He gets quick outs, and that's what we need from him," shortstop AJ Lee said. "We weren't too worried about his shaky first outing. We know what he can bring to the table and we know he's going to put on when we need him to."
Parsons attributed his change in fortunes to a different mindset. He watched film of his first outing of the season to learn from it, and rectified his mistakes, breeding confidence in his ability to hold down his position as a Sunday starter.
That aggressiveness helped him replace the disappointment he felt on the bus home from Tennessee with anticipation for his expected next start against Army this Sunday.
"He didn't feel good about it, but he handled it very maturely, like a man should," Vaughn said. "He bounced back … and was tremendous."