The last time Meade baseball coach Elliott Harvey talked to his former pupil, the University of Maryland's Chris Botulinski, "Chris thought he wasn't going to make their traveling team," Harvey said.
Just 13 games into the season, however, Botulinski was in South Carolina, pitching in a 10-9 victory over ninth-ranked and previously unbeaten Clemson.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound right-hander, who got the victory after only 1 1/3 innings of work, helped the Terrapins to their first road win over Clemson in 31 games dating to 1968.
"It didn't hit me until late that night, what I had just done," said Botulinski, who as a Meade senior slugged .442 and went just 4-4 on the mound. "My first outing for Maryland was against Liberty (University) and I pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings. I've been pretty surprised at what I've been able to do here so far."
The loss dropped Clemson to 17-1 and improved Botulinski's record to 2-0 with a 3.12 ERA. After splitting games this week with Georgia Tech, Maryland is 7-11-1 overall and 4-7 in theAtlantic Coach Conference.
"Chris has done exceptionally well fora freshman. He's actually doing better than some of the upperclassmen," said Maryland coach Tom Bradley.
Harvey said, "He was in command in high school. But the higher the level, there's less you can getaway with."
Botulinski has developed five pitches, including an 80-mph split-finger fastball, a 72-mph curve and a sneaky change-up. But Bradley says the pitcher still hasn't maximized his potential.
"One of his best attributes is his size," said Bradley. "But he's gotta get stronger. Someone his size should be throwing a lot harder than he is."
Harvey said, "He liked to extend his leg out in his windup, but I think that takes away from his power. If he just brought itstraight up to his chest, I think he could add a few more miles per hour to his pitch and get a better push off of the mound."
Bradleylikened Botulinski to a scavenger in his effort against Clemson, saying "he kind of 'vultured' that one."
The Terrapins trailed, 6-5, with two men on when the 19-year-old freshman entered the game in thesixth inning. Maryland was behind, 8-5, after both runners scored, but the runs were charged to starter Tim O'Neill.
Although he walked three and gave up a hit, Botulinski had a strikeout and kept the Tigers scoreless while the Terrapins rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh. He was yanked in favor of Charles Devereux with one out in the bottom of the seventh and Terrapins leading, 10-8.
It wasn't until later that he realized he had earned the win.
"When I came out of the game, I was sitting in the dugout thinking about who I had just pitched against," said Botulinski, a former second-team All-County player. "Coach put me into a high-pressure situation and I came through. It gives me a lot of confidence."
At Meade, Botulinski was the No. 2 starter behind Lance Taylor, who is now in the startingrotation at Ohio Wesleyan.
In high school, Botulinski excelled more as a first baseman than a pitcher. He had a 4.7 ERA, but produced four doubles, two triples, two home runs and 14 RBI, and scored 11 runs.
"Mechanically, I think he just hadn't reached his potential. He needed to throw a lot harder and his leg-kick needed (modifying)," said sixth-year coach Harvey, whose Mustangs narrowly missed the Class 4A playoffs with an 11-7 record last season.
Botulinski made major improvements playing American Legion summer league ball for Linthicum-Ferndale.
He was a member of the South All-Stars in the inaugural American Legion Southern Region Maryland All-Star game at Joe Cannon Stadium in late July, and later was selected to play for the state all-stars in Hagerstown and for Team Maryland in a tournament in Oklahoma.
Botulinski had narrowed his college choices to Georgetown and Navy until being approached by Maryland assistant coach Kelly Kulina after the tournament.
"Since they already had a first baseman,they were recruiting me as a pitcher. And with the (scholarship) money they were offering me, along with financial aid, school doesn't cost that much," said Botulinski, who received a partial scholarship.
As far as Bradley is concerned, he's gotten his money's worth.
"Improving his drive toward the plate may take a year," Bradley said. "But at this rate, who knows? Maybe he'll be starting shortly."
Botulinski said, "I've been put on a weight program and I'm pretty happy with my progress. Hopefully through hard work, maybe I can get drafted by the end of my sophomore or junior year."