Maryland hosted a three-game set against North Carolina this past weekend. As I described in my series preview these two teams are similar in many ways: hitting not quite up to pre-season hopes, running at almost any chance, and getting solid pitching. I expected the games to be close, low run-scoring affairs. One of the three games turned out that way. What was unexpected was UNC going long ball against Jake Stinnett and a few mishaps in the field extending innings.
But the glass is 90% full, not 10% empty. The Terps took one from the #13 Tar Heels and played them toe-to-toe. For those who might say, "Well, we didn't win the series" I'll give you this statistic: Entering the series the Terps' RPI was 28. Now it's 18. In fact, after Saturday's win the team's RPI was momentarily a gaudy 10. You beat highly ranked teams once, maybe sneak in a two out of three somewhere, then destroy the bottom feeders, and you'll be playing post-season baseball.
Right now the team stands at 11-6 overall and 2 - 4 in ACC play. However Maryland has arguably played the two toughest ACC foes on their schedule this year. The Terrapins are in a good spot this early in the season.
A number of Terps had good series at the plate
Charlie White had a hit in all three games, going 4 for 13 with one walk, plus a super game-winning RBI. His single in the bottom of the ninth in game two came against a tough southpaw. White almost had his first home run earlier when he sent the Tar Heels' right fielder to the fence.
Anthony Papio broke out of a painful slump in game three by collecting three hits. For the series he was on base five times in nine at bats. One of his gutty at bats came in game two. In the ninth inning he stayed in there against Zach Rice and drew a one-out walk (it went as a HBP since ball four hit him). He stole second, giving the Terps' a runner in scoring position. That is the kind of thing which doesn't show up in the box score but is vital if Maryland is going to beat the top-tier ACC foes.
LaMonte Wade also had a productive series, going 3 for 11 and drawing three walks. Kyle Convissar was 2 for 10 but walked once and was HBP three times; his OBP for the series was .429. Convissar also just missed on a home run in game one, while in game three he was robbed of a hit on a great diving catch by Jordan Parks. Krysthian Leal filled in admirably for the injured Brandon Lowe. Leal was sharp in the field and went 2 for 9 with three walks at the plate.
Long and middle relief were great
Last week I mentioned that the Terps relievers needed to be more effective. This weekend they were that and so much more. In 14.1 innings of combined work Terrapin relief pitchers gave up just three earned runs (1.93 ERA). In game two Tayler Stiles came in and hurled 4.1 shut-out innings in relief of Mike Shawaryn. Zach Morris was as effective in game three, throwing four shut-out innings. That allowed the Terps to stay in striking distance of the Tar Heels in a game that Maryland almost won.
Areas for improvement
Our starters weren't as successful as in previous series. But that isn't concerning. Stinnett threw hard but left some balls up that Tar Heel hitters took advantage of. His "stuff" was still good enough to impress one of the scouts that were at the game. Shawaryn pitched so incredibly well in his four previous starts that it was easy to be spoiled and assume he'd never have a tough outing. In Sunday's game Kevin Mooney seemed a bit unsettled, particularly as the home plate umpire had a narrow strike zone. That said, if Mooney cleanly fields the grounder with two outs in the second inning, then the three Tar Heel runs in that inning wouldn't have occurred.
Both teams left tons of runners on base. In game one I felt that if the Terps had gotten a hit with the bases loaded in the sixth or seventh innings that the whole gestalt of that game would have changed. In game three a passed ball and three errors were the Terps' undoing. What also hurt the team in the final game was getting three consecutive runners thrown out trying to steal. All of the above are fixable. But teams like North Carolina and Florida State are so good that there's little room for mishaps.
Hannah Evans is a UMD freshman from Boston and a huge Terrapins sports fan. She's photographed the men's and women's soccer teams' home games and is now doing the same for the baseball team. The UMTerpsbaseballTwitter site has featured Hannah's works on multiple occasions. Hannah has been great in letting me use her pictures for some of the articles I write on Maryland baseball. You can tell it's one of her pictures (besides being listed in the credits) if it's a good photo; if it's mediocre then I took the shot. Check out Hannah's Twitter account @tothehevans07 . Thanks Hannah!