April 17, 2008
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun, Used with permission
COLLEGE PARK, MD — Curtis Lazar fouled off one pitch then lined a sharp single up the middle in the ninth on a full-count Sunday for the University of Maryland.
The pinch-hit came much too late for the Terps, who lost 11-4 to the University of Virginia as the Cavaliers swept a three-game series from Maryland this past weekend in ACC play.
But the showdown between the two rivals put two players from Stafford County in the spotlight as first-year players in one of the top college baseball leagues in the country.
Lazar, the left-handed hitting freshman first baseman for the Terps played at Mountain View High School. Jarrett Parker, a freshman who starts in center field for Virginia, is a product of Colonial Forge High School.
“It has’t been easy,” Lazar said of adjusting to Division I college baseball. “I struggled at first. You have to be patient. You have to be ready for what (the pitchers) give you.”
Lazar’s hit on Sunday raised his average this season to .375, with ine hits in 24 at bats with six RBIs in limited action. Lazar played n 13 of the first 37 games and made five starts.
Parker started 32 of the first 38 games for Virginia, who improved o 27-9 overall and 9-7 in the ACC with Sunday’s win. Parker was itting .311 (32 for 103) in games through Saturday with four doubles, hree triples, 11 RBIs and eight steals in eight tries.
“It is a big adjustment (to the ACC). It is a lot more failure” at the plate, said Parker, who hit .470 with 12 homers as a senior at Colonial Forge. “You have to get used to it. You have to shake off and do well the next time.”
Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor, whose team was ranked No. 24 in the nation last week, said he knew Parker had a chance to start as a freshman when he came to campus last fall.
“He can really play center field and consistently battles every day,” O’Connor said after Sunday’s game, as a light rain began to fall in College Park. “He is very athletic. He can run in the outfield. I knew right away this kid had a good chance to play for us every day.”
Parker, who also bats left-handed, holds 14 school records at Colonial Forge, including homers (21), runs (67) and RBIs in a season with 32. He was first team all-Commonwealth District, all-Northwest Region and All-Area in 2007 and was a second-team all-State performer.
He played in the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate League last year for the Herndon Braves and was fifth in the league with an average of .311. He started in the league all-star game and was rated among the best prospects in the league by Baseball America.
In the Cavaliers last ACC series they were swept on the road at Florida State in early April. Virginia lost the last two games of the series by identical 3-2 scores in 10 innings to a team ranked No. 2 in the country last week.
Both Parker and Lazar had family members attend the weekend series at Maryland.
“It feels great. We needed a sweep,” said Parker, whose team hosts Wake Forest this weekend in another ACC series.
One of his Cavalier teammates is junior pitcher Jacob Thompson, expected to be a top pick in the Major League draft in early June.
“It is awesome to see one of the top pitchers in the nation,” Parker said.
Parker, the son of Gregory and Deborah Parker, earned academic honors at Colonial Forge and graduated with distinguised honors. He said the transition to college academics is also challenging.
“It is definitely tough. There is not a lot of down time,” he said.
Lazar and Parker faced each other as juniors and seniors in high school and were teammates in the Commonwealth Games prior to their senior seasons. Lazar was a captain as a junior and senior at Mountain View and gained academic honors all four years. He graduated Suma Cum Laude and was a member of the National Honor Society. He is the son of William and Teresa Lazar and is studying pre-med.
“It is definitely not the easiest major,” he said after Sunday’s game.
Lazar lettered four years at Mountain View and played mostly first base and the outfield. He was also recruited by Navy, Elon, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Campbell.
So why did he pick Maryland?
“For a chance to play in the ACC,” he said.
The Terps fell to 20-17 overall and 5-13 in the ACC with Sunday’s loss to Virginia. Maryland is slated to host Georgia Tech this weekend in a three-game series.
“It definitely hurt to get swept out of here,” he said of the Virginia series. “We are still in a position to make the ACC tournament” to be held May 21-25 in Jacksonville.