Maryland releases revamped 2020 football schedule

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photos by Michael R. Smith/The Sports Pulse

WASHINGTON – In a newly released and revamped schedule, the University of Maryland football team will face five teams that finished last season in the AP Top 25 poll this upcoming season.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Big Ten Conference switched to a 10-game conference-only schedule to limit travel.

The Terrapins will open the season on the road against No. 15 Iowa on Sept. before coming back home to Maryland Stadium to take on Michigan on Sept. 12.

Following a home game against Rutgers, Maryland will travel to Evanston, Illinois, for the first time since joining the Big Ten Conference to play Northwestern on Sept. 26 before returning home to face No. 11 Wisconsin on Oct. 3.

After a bye week, Maryland will play two consecutive road games: against rivals No. 9 Penn State on Oct. 17 and Indiana on Oct. 24.

After hosting last season’s Big Ten Conference Champions No. 3 Ohio State on Oct. 31, the Terrapins will face No. 18 Michigan at Ann Arbor in their final road game on Nov. 7.

After the Terps second bye week, Maryland will close out its regular season against No. 10 Minnesota on Nov. 21.

College Park, MD: September 22, 2018: Maryland Terrapins wide receiver DJ Turner (1) on his way to the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown reception during an NCAA football game played at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium in College Park, MD. Photo by Michael R. Smith/The Sports Pulse

Maryland will follow guidance from the Prince George’s County Health Department and have no fans in attendance to start the season. According to a university fan guide, when fans return, the state’s masks order will be in effect, and mobile ticketing will be in full effect.

Kickoff times and broadcast information for each game will be released at a later date.

The Big Ten said the start dates for other fall sports, including cross country, field hockey, soccer and women’s volleyball have been postponed until Sept. 5. Those sports will also operate in a conference-only schedule.

Maryland women’s basketball lands 4-star recruit Reynolds for 2022 class

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Mila Reynolds, a four-star recruit ranked No. 41 in the class of 2022, announced her commitment to join the University of Maryland women’s basketball team.

Reynolds, a versatile guard on both ends of the floor, just completed a stellar sophomore season at Washington High School in Indiana, averaging about 20 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. She received All-Northern Indiana Conference first-team honors.

In a Twitter post, Reynolds thanked her family, coaches and teammates while providing the reasons she verbally committed to Maryland.

“My love for God, family, and ball have led me to the decision to commit to the University of Maryland to pursue opportunities beyond what I can imagine,” Reynolds said. “Thank you to Coach Brenda Frese and the UM women’s basketball staff! #GoTerps #FearTheTurtle”

The 6-foot-2 standout set a major milestone early in her career, which garnered the attention of elite programs such as Purdue, Maryland, West Virginia, Indiana, DePaul and Pittsburgh. As a freshman, Reynolds broke Skylar Diggins-Smith’s (a Washington alumna) single-game scoring record when she netted 46 points in a January 2019 game.

“Maryland has never wavered since they began recruiting her six months ago,” said Steve Reynolds Jr., Mila’s father and coach, in an interview with the South Bend Tribune. “They think like we do as a family, and that will make for an easy transition. There are great people at Maryland, and to get this opportunity for her to play at the highest level is a blessing.”

With the addition of Reynolds, Maryland picks up a multifaceted scorer who will likely fit perfectly in the team’s guard-focus style when the 2022-23 season comes around.

The news of Reynold’s commitment came after Maryland announced graduate transfer Katie Benzan, a sharpshooting combo guard, will be joining the team this upcoming season.

The addition of Benzan will provide more depth at guard as Maryland looks to continue their winning ways. This past campaign, the Terrapins won their fifth regular-season Big Ten Conference title, and in March, they won their fourth conference tournament championship.

CIAA announces the suspension of 2020 fall sports season

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy photo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — According to Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams, the conference will not have a scheduled football championship game in the fall for the first time since World War II. 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many collegiate athletic departments to reimagine how the upcoming sports season will look. A “thorough analysis” has led the CIAA’s board of directors, along with the conference’s Athletic Directors Association (ADA), to suspend fall sports competition due to ongoing health concerns. 

Though a few member schools are in states where the coronavirus case numbers are either steady or declining, most schools are located in regions where the numbers are rising. 

Over half of the conference’s athletic programs are in North Carolina, a state where the COVID-19 numbers have spiked over the past few weeks. 

This unfortunate reality has sparked the decision to suspend NCAA sports competition for fall sports, including football, volleyball, cross country, and indoor track for most member schools.

“The decision is informed by the reality that several CIAA member schools are located in states experiencing dramatic increases in new COVID-19 cases,” says a CIAA release. 

“This recent rise in cases has led to a pause in phased reopening plans in many of these states, resulting in uncertainty as to whether students will return to campus this fall at several CIAA member institutions.”

“This was a difficult decision but remains consistent with our long-standing priority of always acting in the best interest of our student-athletes, coaches, and support staff,” McWilliams said. “While there will be no athletic competition in the fall, we will continue to support opportunities that enhance the experiences of our student-athletes, member institutions, and partners.”

Ben Baxter, assistant commissioner for strategic communications, hosted a virtual press conference with McWilliams, Virginia State University president and CIAA Board Chair Makola Abdullah and Clyde Doughty, Bowie State University vice president for athletics and CIAA ADA chair. During the discussion, leaders reflected on the conference’s decision to suspend fall sports, what a spring sports schedule would look like, and the financial impact of not holding a fall sports season.

“For the stability of the conference, the ADA has agreed to work as a single entity in addressing these challenges and not seek competitive or financial advantages at the expense of other member schools. All conference members will face institutional concerns with budget constraints, economic concerns, or school enrollment,” Doughty said.

“The ADA strongly believes it is important for the conference to stay unified in its approach to intercollegiate athletic participation, especially during COVID-19. Our No. 1 priority, which is non-negotiable, is to protect the safety and well-being of all participants: student-athletes, coaches, staff, administrators, and spectators.”

While the suspension of fall sports might have been disappointing to student-athletes, coaches, or alumni, scholarships will still be honored for fall sports athletes, says a conference statement. 

Moreover, CIAA leadership will explore the possibility of a revised schedule of competition – most likely a conference-only schedule – for football, volleyball, and men’s and women’s cross country during the spring of 2021.

“We’re following the lead of the science and the data, and we have plans in place for a schedule for football should we be able to play,” Doughty said, pointing out the likelihood of member programs having to reallocate funds as a result of the monetary losses from the football season in particular.

“If that comes to fruition, we will be able to play at least our conference games. We are looking to play our conference games in the spring, and we are making plans to do so if things get better medically.” 

CIAA leaders have essentially had weekly conversations with Division II colleagues, such as the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, to make a well-informed decision, McWilliams highlighted.

Correspondingly, the CIAA and SIAC, both of which are HBCU sports conferences primarily based in the South, have released a joint statement concerning fall sports postponement.

“As a conference that runs 14 championships, this makes it very difficult to have to continue to make decisions based on something we have any control of, and that’s COVID-19,” McWilliams said.

“But what I am certain [of] is the challenges that we have faced as a conference for years, different challenges, we’ve always sought opportunities to be better, do better and do what’s in the best interest of our conference, our member institutions and most importantly, our student-athletes.”

Six Howard Athletics Programs join NEC

By The Sports Pulse Staff

Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON – Howard University has accepted an invitation from the Northeast Conference’s (NEC) Council of Presidents and will join the NCAA Division I league as part of a six-sport associate member partnership.

The Bison will begin NEC competition during the 2020-21 season in men’s and women’s swimming. In 2021-22, Howard will join the conference in men’s and women’s soccer, women’s lacrosse, and golf.

During the upcoming season, Howard men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse will play in the Sun Belt and Atlantic (ASUN) conferences, respectively, while women’s soccer and women’s golf will compete independently.

Founded in 1867, Howard is a private, historically black university (HBCU) based in Washington, D.C.

“Howard University is pleased to become an associate member of the Northeast Conference. This move will significantly reduce the geographical footprint that our athletes must travel for games, which will have a positive impact on our travel expenses,” said President Wayne A. I. Frederick. 

“I’d like to thank our former conference homes for these particular sports, the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Sun Belt, ASUN, and the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association, for their previous support of our programs.”

The addition of Howard boosts NEC women’s swimming & diving membership to ten teams this coming year. Howard will join Bryant, LIU, Mount St. Mary’s, and St. Francis Brooklyn for the inaugural season of NEC men’s swimming and diving this winter. The Bison previously competed in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) in both sports.

NEC men’s and women’s soccer membership will stand at ten and eleven, respectively, with the Bison’s addition. The conference will feature a nine-team women’s lacrosse alignment, while women’s golf sponsorship rises to eight programs.

“The Northeast Conference is thrilled to develop this six-sport associate partnership with Howard University,” said NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris. 

Howard is a full-time member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and will continue its membership with this conference change. Howard previously held associate membership in the Sun Belt in men’s soccer, the SWAC in women’s soccer, and the A-Sun in women’s lacrosse.

The 2020-21 campaign will mark Howard’s first season of competition in the sport of women’s golf. 

The program’s announcement made national headlines when Howard received a generous financial gift from six-time NBA All-Star and Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation co-founder, Stephen Curry, committed to supporting the establishment of the university’s first NCAA DI golf program for six years.

“This is a great opportunity for the student-athletes in these six programs,” said Howard Director of Athletics Kery Davis. “Our teams will have an opportunity to compete in a competitive conference while reducing their time away from the classroom. Thank you, Commissioner Noreen Morris and NEC Council of Presidents, we look forward to competing next year.”

Your Sports Fix – Cam Newton’s return, The Redskins Name Controversy and Makur Maker’s Howard University commitment

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Gonzaga star Caleb Williams announces college decision on Fourth of July

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./The Sports Pulse

WASHINGTON — Gonzaga College High School’s Caleb Williams, widely regarded as one of the nation’s top prospects in football, announced his commitment to the University of Oklahoma on Saturday evening.

The five-star quarterback, ranked No. 4 overall in the class of 2021 by 247Sports and No. 1 overall as a dual-threat quarterback by ESPN, had more than 20 offers, including Alabama, Maryland, Clemson, LSU and Florida State. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder made the announcement via Twitter and on a live broadcast of CBS Sports HQ.

“With the past three quarterbacks, I honestly felt like it was for me…with what Coach [Lincoln] Riley has been able to do, I kinda just want to learn and hopefully get to the next level,” Williams said in an interview with CBS Sports.

“I got a year [left] here [at Gonzaga], but I’m ready to go and gain the trust of my teammates, earn a starting spot and hopefully help them get to a national championship.”

Over the past few seasons, OU has emerged as a program that has produced high-caliber quarterbacks. Two of the last three Heisman Trophy winners – Baker Mayfield in 2017 and Kyler Murray in 2018 – played for the Sooners. Jalen Hurts, a recent second-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, was a Heisman runner-up in 2019.

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson had a few words of acknowledgment for Williams, the rising senior at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) football powerhouse in Northwest D.C.

“What’s up, Caleb? It’s all about making good choices. Welcome to the family, and I wish you nothing but the best. Boomer Sooner,” said Peterson, a former Oklahoma standout.

In addition to being named the MVP of the 2020 Elite 11 Finals for the nation’s top high school quarterbacks, Williams registered 1,770 passing yards for 19 passing touchdowns and 838 yards on the ground for 18 rushing touchdowns in the 2019 season. 

One of the unforgettable moments of Williams’ prolific career was a last-second heave into the end zone to win the 2018 WCAC title game over DeMatha as a sophomore.

Oklahoma has already landed 11 high-profile prospects, receiver Mario Williams, tight end Ethan Downs and cornerback Latrell McCutchin, as the Big 12 program prepares for the 2020 season.

The latest member of OU’s class of 2021 recruiting class, Williams has been esteemed as “the most talented quarterback prospect to come from the Mid-Atlantic region in a decade” and “projects as a multi-year impact starter at the Power Five level with the upside to first round if not top 10 pick in the NFL Draft” according to an assessment by 247Sports’ Charles Power.

Gonzaga head coach Randy Trivers weighed in on Williams making the jump to the next level.

“Caleb Williams is rare talent,” Trivers said. “His excellence is most prominent when a competitive challenge arises. Oklahoma is fortunate to get this Eagle to eventually wear the Sooner uniform.”

Five-Star basketball prospect Makur Maker commits to Howard

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – A five-star basketball player had never committed to a historically black college or university (HBCU). With one tweet, that all changed.

On Thursday, high school prospect Makur Maker tweeted his final four options in his college decision, with Howard University among the quartet, which also features UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis.

Less than 12 hours after listing his options, Maker had made up his mind, committing to play for the Bison.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, to Sudanese parents, and raised in Perth, Australia, Makur moved to the United States before his freshman year of high school. 

At 6-foot-11, Maker, who is the cousin of Detroit Pistons center Thon Maker, is ranked by 247 Sports as the 18th best high school player in his recruiting class and 16th by ESPN 100.

Maker’s journey to choosing Howard has been one filled with twists and turns.

Maker made a college visit to Howard in October for during the university’s homecoming but tweeted in November that he would take his talents back to Australia to play in the National Basketball League (NBL).

Later that month, though, he pulled back on the commitment to play overseas.

In February, Maker had looked to possibly join his cousin at the NBA level after winning a petition with the league to gain eligibility for the 2020 Draft. He had missed a season of basketball because of an injury. Thus he had spent five years in high school.

By the end of April, Maker ranked 75th in ESPN’s Top 100 for his draft class and given the limitation in recent months since the outbreak of COVID-19, Maker has missed out on opportunities to impress NBA scouts and raise his draft stock, leading college basketball to be his best option.

As Maker made his decision to join the HBCU, Howard clearly stuck out among his four options. 

Kentucky and UCLA have historic basketball programs having each won 11 national championships, while Memphis is growing into a viable threat under head coach Penny Hardaway.

On the other hand, Howard is coming off a 4-29 record, where they won just one conference game under first-year head coach Kenneth Blakeney.

Despite their struggles, it is important to note that the team had lost more than 40 points per game worth of scoring to the transfer portal, as three players took their talents elsewhere following the 2018-19 season.

In attempts to bolster the program, Maker was one of the only star players to express interest in Howard. During the same period that Maker made his visit to Howard in October, five-star prospect Josh Christopher also toured the campus before ultimately committing to play at Arizona State University.

Although Christopher chose a Power Five program, the narrative around HBCU athletics has changed dramatically in recent months, even prior to Maker’s decision.

While Robert Covington and Kyle O’Quinn are the only active NBA players who attended HBCUs, the programs were long, the only option for many college athletes in the South. As schools desegregated, HBCUs eventually got pushed to the back burner as top athletes who opted for college programs with more resources and equipment.

Fueled in large part by the visits to Howard by Christopher and Maker, HBCUs have become part of the conversation for top basketball recruits. North Carolina Central made headlines in January for sending an offer to Bronny James. Highly touted high school athletes Trevor Keels and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield have picked up increased interest from HBCU programs.

More recently, high school prospect Mikey Williams tweeted hinting interest in HBCUs when he wrote, “Going to an HBCU wouldn’t be too bad…” 

He tweeted again on Thursday, further adding to the speculation.

Additionally, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul announced this week that he would team up with Roadside Entertainment to produce a docuseries on basketball programs at HBCUs.

With the growing interest in HBCUs, all eyes will be on Maker as he embarks on his new journey at Howard. Prior to playing a single game at the university, he has already contributed to the changing narrative around HBCU basketball.

American’s Elijah Murphy wins ESPY Award but relishes on continuing his mentorship work

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by Jay Mutchnik

WASHINGTON – American University student-athlete Elijah Murphy recently saw his face on television being honored during the ESPY Awards and was left in awe.

Together with Howard University student-athlete Niah Woods, Murphy was one of seven recipients of the 2020 Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award. The 157-pound wrestler said he did not know he was nominated until days before the show.

The moment his face flashed on the screen during the broadcast was “surreal,” but confirmed to Murphy that his work mentoring middle-school-aged children in the Washington, D.C. region meant that he was “doing something right.”

“[To] be in the same conversation as all those professional athletes and having people like Billie Jean King say your name and acknowledging the work that you’re putting in and saying that you’re an inspiration and that you give her confidence for the future alone, it really means a lot,” Murphy said.

The Northwestern High School alum was awarded for his work for The Grassroot Project, mentoring middle schoolers in Washington, D.C. in an array of topics, and will direct a grant to the organization to continue its outreach programs in the city.

The Grassroot Project partners with more than 50 D.C. public and charter schools to provide health education programs taught by NCAA student-athletes, which they call “non-traditional health educators.” The program chooses to work with student-athletes to build trusting relationships with the young students to discuss sensitive issues related to their health.

Topics include sexual, mental, and physical health, as well as nutrition. To break the ice, the “educators” are trained to start the conversation with interactive games before splitting into small group sessions.

While several of college friends were mentors, Murphy was unsure that his introverted personality would fit with the program’s objectives. His reservations on public speaking and being “goofy” around middle school students made him feel nervous and apprehensive initially.

“At the beginning, I didn’t see myself doing that because of the person I was, but I saw it as an opportunity for personal growth and also giving back and doing great community work,” Murphy said.

The Eagles athlete recalled the first few visits at a Washington, D.C. middle school where he was caught off-guard by their advanced knowledge levels on sexual health. Students already knew about antiretroviral drugs, the types of other medications needed to manage HIV, and the exchange of different bodily fluids can spread sexually transmitted diseases.

The District of Columbia Department of Health reported 12,322 D.C. residents, or 1.8% of the population, were living with HIV in late 2019. The humbling experience of not having answers, taught to mentors during training, moved Murphy to be a better listener and speak in a conversational tone.

“I talk to them as equals,” Murphy said. “Because I know that when I was that age, I didn’t like people talking down to me as if they were better than me or just because they’re were older than me, so they’re my equals.”

Along with his status as an American University student-athlete and a native of the area, students began to gravitate towards him.

“Being a Black student-athlete from Prince George’s County, you can go into one of the middle schools and impart to someone just basically being someone who looks like them and who is doing something that they want to do, which could potentially be a D-I athlete, or it could be to go to a college,” Murphy said.

Admittedly, having students trust him to share their lives with him can take its toll on Murphy. The discipline instilled in him as a wrestler pushes him to strive for perfection and shoulder their experiences with multiple conversations.

His journey began at Northwestern, where he went 85-30 during his career, leading him to American. The sport’s push for excellence helped him “walk the walk” in becoming a better mentor for his students.

“I wouldn’t be at American University right now if it weren’t for wrestling,” “I would never have met my coach while I was in high school, which allowed me to have that access to American University and had that connection to be able to go to American or be a part of The Grassroot Project.”

Murphy recently received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and has begun working towards his master’s degree. He plans to return to the mat for the 2020-21 season as a redshirt senior wrestler while completing the course work for his advanced degree a year early.

Murphy also plans to continue his work with The Grassroot Project as a paid internship program, while helping the organization revisit the mental health curriculum. He hopes to add listening sessions that tackle topics like systematic racism stemming from the protests fueled by the death of George Floyd.

Had the pandemic not occurred, Murphy believes students would have used the program to discuss police brutality and its effects on mental health in their community. The desire to share one’s experiences inspired him to join together with University of Maryland wrestler and Fort Washington native Jahi Jones in a two-part Instagram discussion on race in America.

His overall goal is to spread the importance of mental health in the African American community, and Murphy believes it starts with his work on a mentor. 

When asked about his thoughts of being looked up to, Murphy said his position as a role model goes beyond than his personal exploits as an athlete and relishes the opportunity to continue that path going forward.

“It’s being able to help them in any way, shape, or form, and that’s extremely important to me, as a psychology major, as a human being, and as a Black man,” Murphy said. “That’s extremely valuable to me to help when help is needed or make any type of impact, and I can.”

Howard’s Woods wins 2020 Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award

By The Sports Pulse Staff

WASHINGTON – During the 2020 ESPY Awards (June 21), former tennis champion and social activist Billie Jean King announced this year’s Youth Leadership Award winners where Howard University’s rising junior Niah Woods (Cincinnati) took home the prestigious award.

The Cincinnati native was one of seven winners acknowledged for their dedication in their respective communities.

Along with the other award winners, Woods will receive either a one-time $10,000 college scholarship or direct a grant to an eligible nonprofit aligned with their work. Among the other recipients is American University’s Elijah Murphy, the son of HU Hall of Famer Deborah Murphy from the women’s track & field program.

“I am extremely blessed and highly favored to receive this award,” said Woods. “Being recognized by someone who has had such a great impact in the world of sports is unbelievable.”

The Grassroot Project (TPG) capitalizes on the excitement, relatability, and popularity of sports to provide much-needed health literacy and social empowerment programs to D.C. teens. The program invests in leadership training, cultural competency, and professional skills.

“The Grassroot Project has impacted my life for the better,” Woods continued. “To be surrounded by a group of people who want to make an impact on people’s lives is truly incredible. This organization has helped shape what I desire to be in my future, it has also given me another reason to smile every day.”

Woods joins her Bison family and other student-athletes and teens in the D.C. area to make The District a healthier city. After one semester, she was named head volunteer.

“We are so proud of Niah,” said Howard Director of Athletics Kery Davis. “She exemplifies what it means to be a student-athlete in competition and academically while giving back to the community. She has a bright future ahead of her.”

Woods is a two-sport student-athlete at The Mecca, serving as a member of the women’s basketball team and women’s track & field team. The psychology major with a double minor in chemistry and sociology chose HU because of its HBCU culture. After graduation, she plans to be a psychiatrist and have her own practice firm.

Recently, Woods was named to the 2020 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Commissioner’s All-Academic Team.

“I am learning every day like the kids that I am teaching,” Woods concluded. “The work is truly outstanding, and I am grateful to be a part of it.”

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Sports Humanitarian Awards, normally separate from the ESPY Awards, were combined as part of one virtual celebration on the night.

The show was broadcasted on television nationwide throughout the U.S., hosted by WNBA Champion and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, Olympic Gold Medalist and OL Reign wing Megan Rapinoe and Super Bowl Champion and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

About the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award

The highly competitive nomination process for the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award selects and rewards young people for their leadership and commitment to improve their communities through sport. The selected nominees must: demonstrate how they are using the power of sport as a catalyst for change within their local school or community; be passionate and committed to empowering the community in which he/she/they live; deliver social impact showcasing how his/her/their community has been positively impacted; embody confidence and enthusiasm as a leader and have strong moral character; and personify exemplary leadership qualities on and off the field/court.

About the Grassroot Project

The Grassroot Project (TGP) is a 501(3)(c) non-profit organization that uses the power of sport to advance health equity for DC youth and their communities through NCAA athlete-driven health programs. These programs focus on topics surrounding sexual health, nutrition, and mental health in a three-year pipeline for middle school students facilitated by volunteers from American University, Georgetown University, Howard University, and George Washington University.

Nationals and Orioles draft for the future, CRCBL represented well

By Harry Lichtman/The Sports Pulse Contributing Writer

Photo by Michael Smith/The Sports Pulse

ROCKVILLE – While the 2020 MLB season has yet to be played due to the owners and players failing to find a solution on schedule length and amount of pay received, the annual MLB Draft took place on June 10 and 11.

The MLB Draft is usually 40 rounds, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s draft was shortened to five rounds, with 160 total players drafted.

While the Detroit Tigers had the first overall pick and selected Arizona State infielder Spencer Torkelson, we will mainly focus on the Washington Nationals, the Baltimore Orioles, and Cal Ripken League alums taken in the draft.

The Nationals are coming off an improbable World Series championship run after starting the season with a 19-31 record. They entered the draft with the 22nd overall pick in the first round.

With that pick, Washington selected Cade Cavalli, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Oklahoma. This became the fifth consecutive season where the Nats selected a pitcher in the first round, after Dane Dunning (2019), Mason Denaburg (2018), Seth Romero (2017), and Dane Dunning (2016).

According to MASN Nationals insider Mark Zuckerman, Cavalli is a big right-hander at 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds, can reach the upper 90s, and has some injury history.

In the second round, Washington chose another right-handed pitcher, Cole Henry, from LSU. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Henry expects to sign with the Nationals rather than return to Baton Rouge.

The 71st overall pick was a compensation pick for losing Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels, as Washington drafted shortstop Sammy Infante, a Florida high school player who committed to Miami (FL).

The Nationals’ next few picks were UCLA right-hander Holden Powell in the third round, Oklahoma catcher Brady Lindsly in the fourth round, and San Jacinto Junior College left-hander Mitchell Parker in the fifth and final round.

The Orioles have been very underwhelming unit the past few seasons, especially after losing over 100 games in 2018 and 2019.

That being said, it also means Baltimore has made very early first-round selections recently, as the team took Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman with the first overall pick in the 2019 draft.

This year, the Orioles had the second pick and drafted Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad.

As a true freshman for the Razorbacks, Kjerstad batted .332 with 30 extra-base hits, 14 home runs, and 58 RBIs, and helped lead his school to the 2018 College World Series final.

At the end of Day One, Baltimore had the 30th pick and took Jordan Westburg, a shortstop from Mississippi State.

On Day Two, the O’s selected Tulane outfielder Hudson Haskin, Ole Miss shortstop Anthony Servideo, Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS (FL) third baseman Coby Mayo, and Dowling Catholic HS (IA) right-hander Carter Baumler.

Finally, six Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (CRCBL) players from the last few years were selected for the 2020 MLB Draft.

Orioles draft picks Westburg and Servideo both have Cal Ripken League experience, as Westburg played for the Gaithersburg Giants in 2017, while Servideo spent his time with the Baltimore Redbirds in 2018.

Two other Giants alums taken in the draft were LSU outfielder Daniel Cabrera and Louisiana shortstop Hayden Cantrelle. Cabrera was selected by the Detroit Tigers in Round B, while the Milwaukee Brewers took Cantrelle in the fifth round.

Two Bethesda Big Train alums were also drafted: East Carolina outfielder and 2018 CRL MVP Alec Burleson Virginia Tech catcher Carson Taylor. SMC California standout Gio Diaz was recently signed to the Nationals.

Burleson was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals with their compensation pick (No. 70 overall), and Taylor was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round.