Maryland had lost every series to FSU since the latter entered the ACC. I was hoping against hope that the Terps could wrangle two of three from the ‘Noles in the team's final year in the conference. It didn't happen. But for the most part Maryland went toe-to-toe on the road against one of the country's best teams. This continued a trend that saw Maryland win one game against FSU in each of the last two years. Most impressively, the Terps have now taken three of their last seven games against FSU , with two of the losses by a single run. If Maryland can win 40% of their games against top-10 teams and take care of business elsewhere, a top 25 spot in the polls would be a lock.
Which is on the verge of becoming real. In the latest Coaches' Poll we nudged up from #48 to #46. Our RPI is #27 (see below).
Give credit to FSU
I was extremely impressed by the "Noles. They are a complete team. RaysnNoles from Tomahawk Nation might just be right when he stated that FSU has the best weekend rotation in the country. All three of the starters this past weekend will be playing professional baseball. Combined all of the Seminoles pitchers (starters and relievers) held the Terps to 8 runs, 17 hits, and 2 walks; 38 Maryland batters fanned. In particular Mike Compton was a model of consistency. Although he doesn't have a blazing fastball, his back-door slider and sinker kept Maryland hitters off-balance.
FSU gets on base. They're not a home run hitting club, but anytime you have an OBP of .424 it really doesn't matter: you're going to score runs. Their batters showed great patience at the plate and didn't chase too many pitches out of the zone.
I saw some tangible positives from the Terps this weekend
Let's (excuse the pun) start with Michael Shawaryn. The freshman showed a calm demeanor and put in his fourth straight impressive effort. Two of those wins came against Florida and Florida State in their raucous ballparks. Alex Robinson continues to throw well and Kevin Mooney was lights out in his only appearance.
Don't let the 15 - 3 score in the first game fool you. The Terps had the lead mid-way through that game. While Jake Stinnett didn't have his typically exceptional command, he put in a gutty performance that would have earned him the victory against most teams. Afterwards Stinnett received high praise from FSU's well-respected coach Mike Martin.
The baseball team in general got high marks from Martin (see the nice piece by Tomahawk Nation).
It's good to see Kyle Convissar hitting the ball with authority. Over his career he's demonstrated numerous times that he's a clutch hitter. I wouldn't be shocked if once again his batting average is first or second on the team. LaMonte Wade is also starting to heat up. Earlier in the year he hit hard shots that unfortunately were right to fielders. In the series against FSU he had hits in every game, even though he was robbed by a liner that Charlie Leibrandt's glove miraculously found.
There's work left to be done
Brady Kirkpatrick's season-ending injury has already taken a toll. It thrust Jared Price into the Sunday slot where he's had control problems. The talent is certainly there, but maybe it's expecting a bit too much from Price at this point in his career to be a weekend starter. Second, the middle inning relief pitching has got to improve. Too many batters have gotten on base via the free pass or HBP. I'm stating the obvious but relief pitchers have to come in and throw strikes. The "big inning" hurt the Terps in three of our four losses this year.
I'm expecting Charlie White to break out any time now with a four hit game. He's too good a hitter to be batting below .200. Hell, he's too good a hitter to be below .300. Maryland needs him to ignite things: when he gets on base good things happen.
Here's why you schedule tough opponents
The Terps won one of three against FSU and the team's RPI went from the low 50's to 27. That's because the RPI heavily weights a team's SOS. It's actually more beneficial to a team's RPI to lose a game at FSU than win a game at home against UMass. Scheduling a tough opening series and playing in the competitive ACC might not maximize Maryland's win percentage, but it will most certainly give them the best chance to make the NCAA tournament.
When I can't attend or watch a game I'll listen to WMUC's broadcast. Year in and year out their call of the game is heads above that of other teams. Over the past year I've heard broadcasters from Puke, Clemson, Florida, and Florida State: they could all take a lesson from WMUC.