Sweeping #11 NC State by a combined score of 22 - 6: Priceless
Depending on how the team fares the rest of the season, the three-game set against the Wolfpack this past weekend could be a tipping point for Maryland baseball. There were a number of humps that the Terps needed to get over and they've done it:
1. Taking a series against a top-tier ACC school. Maryland has come close in recent years. For example, last year against FSU we won the first game but lost each of the next two games by a run.
2. Winning a Sunday ACC game. Stinnett and Shawaryn have been potent this season, but the Terps needed to win a Sunday game to show that Maryland is a team, not just two (although excellent) pitchers.
3. Breaking the national rankings after playing 20+ games. In 2013 the Terps were ranked #30 in the CBN poll early in the year; that lasted a week. Ditto for 2012 when Maryland was ranked in the Coaches Poll for two weeks in February. Right now the Terps are ranked #25 in the Collegiate Baseball News Poll and #27 in the USA Today/Coaches poll. Amazingly, NC State is still ranked above us in the latter poll.
4. Last but not least, going above .500 in ACC play. The last time Maryland baseball finished the season with a winning record in the ACC was 1981; that was for a ten game ACC season. The Terps have a great shot at finishing above .500 in this our final year in the ACC. How sweet would that f'ing be?
Again, the full ramifications of this past weekend won't be known until the second week of May. But the team impresses a lot of people right now. The NC State crew that was here for the series remarked on how well Maryland played heads-up, opportunistic baseball. When Coach Szefc was asked if he was surprised by Maryland's sweep of the Wolfpack he said that "we've been pitching pretty consistently for a long time, playing pretty good defense, so I wouldn't say anything surprised me; I was happy that we were able to be more consistent across the board". In terms of the series' importance Coach Szefc said that "you want to win series and then you want to sweep a series, and we were able to take a pretty substantial step in the same weekend".
One player that continues to do the little things is right-fielder Anthony Papio. He shows great patience at the plate, is hitting .313, and has an OBP of .434. While I think his fielding was good last year, this year it's been even better. In regards to his fielding Papio said "I've gotten a lot more reps playing summer ball this off-season... I've been a little more comfortable out there this year". I'd say; he and Charlie White have run down almost everything hit their way.
Kevin "Enter Sandman" Mooney
If the series was a tipping point for Maryland baseball, then Mooney's performance on Saturday was the fulcrum. With the bases loaded in the top of the eight and one out the Terps were holding on to a 7 - 4 lead. Mooney ended up striking out Jake Armstrong and Nathan Hood, and that was the last whimper heard from the Wolfpack. Yesterday Mooney came in and other than a solo home run given up to Trea Turner, he locked the barn door on the series win. Getting saves in back-to-back games against the Wolfpack was quite a feat. Mooney said that he loves closing. "I think it's a lot of fun to come in a game especially when it's the middle of an inning and there are two or three guys on, one out, and you know it's got to be a strikeout or pop-up somewhere". On pitching in cold weather Mooney said that "You've really got to tune it out and just focus". With a blazing four-seam fastball and a wicked curve Mooney has cooled off a lot of opposing hitters.
Scouts, scouts, everywhere
There were tons of scouts on hand throughout the series. Jake Stinnett's stock in terms of the draft took a major leap up after his amazing performance Friday night. Perfect Game has a nice story on Stinnett (subscription required). But there were other Terps players that also caught the scouts' attention. Blake Schmitt told me that he's "heard a few things from a couple of teams".
Charlie White did not play Sunday as a result of a shoulder injury from a slide into second base on Saturday. He's day-to-day and should be ready for the Clemson series, if not earlier. Brandon Lowe is recovering from a pulled hamstring and is also day-to-day. LaMonte Wade has a sore shoulder that relegated him to DH status on Saturday and Sunday. He did not play on Friday which was the first game he missed in his collegiate career. Let's hope all of these injuries heal and that the Terps are at 100% strength for Clemson.
Weekly shout-out: Matt Bertram, Assistant Media Relations Director for UM baseball
Matt also shares media relations responsibilities for football. He has a demanding job but has always been courteous and accommodating. In addition to his myriad responsibilities Matt serves as official scorer for home games. If you wonder who updates GameTracker and StatsBroadcast, it's Matt. The press releases and game recaps on UMTerps: that's Matt. He's been nothing but helpful to Todd and myself. Maryland athletics is fortunate to have a professional like Matt on their staff.