Maryland baseball: ACC Tournament preview (updated)

Maryland's head coach John Szefc - @mercator88

The Terps head down to Greensboro this week to play in the ACC tournament for the first time since 2005. They're in a tough bracket, but they've been playing so well lately that they've got a chance to make a final, definitive statement in the ACC.

It’s the University of Maryland’s last ACC tournament (ACCT) in any sport. Who would have thought that it would be baseball taking center stage as our swan song? After all, Maryland’s baseball team had not made the ACCT for eight straight years. The team’s coach is only in his second season as Maryland’s skipper, and a number of players exited the program after last season. But the Terps pulled off a memorable 2014 and find themselves smack dab in the middle of tournament action.

During today's ACC Tournament Coaches' Teleconference I asked Coach Szefc about the reason for the Terps' turnaround after the BC series. He remarked that "Older guys demanded that things were going to change... they wanted to continue playing." Szefc was particularly positive about Jake Stinnett's leadership and added that he is "A very mature guy who will be a very good professional." Coach Szefc responded to a question about the Terps' eight-day layoff by saying that the Terps played two intra-squad games at Maryland in the meantime.

Tournament seeding

The final records and seeds for the 41st ACCT are shown in the table below.

Seed

School

Won – Lost

Win %

1
Miami
24 – 6
.800
2
Virginia
22 – 8
.733
3
Florida State
21 – 9
.700
4
Duke
16 – 14
.533
5
Clemson
15 - 14
.517
6
Maryland
15 – 14
.517
7
North Carolina
15 – 15
.500
8
Wake Forest
15 – 15
.500
9
Georgia Tech
14 – 16
.467
10
NC State
13 - 17
.433

DNQ

Pitt

11 – 19

.367

DNQ

Boston College

10 – 20

.333

DNQ

Notre Dame

9 – 21

.300

DNQ

Virginia Tech

9 – 21

.300

Schools are ranked in descending order of conference win percentage. In the past few years the ACCT tournament consisted of two "pools" of four teams each, with the winner of each pool facing off in a one-game championship match. Since the number of teams qualifying for the ACCT was expanded this year to include 10 teams, a slight change in format from previous years was necessary. Seed #7 plays seed #10 in a "play-in" game, as does seed #8 vs. seed #9. The winner from each of those games joins the six top seeds to form two pools of four teams each.

From the ACC: "Under the pool-play format, each team will play one game against each of the other three opponents in its pool Wednesday through Saturday (May 21-24). The two teams with the best records within their respective pools will advance to the title game on Sunday, May 25, with the winner earning the ACC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament."

One other change is that instant replay will be utilized on a limited basis. FSU coach Mike Martin said that they'll be used in "boundary calls".

Here are the two pools (number in parentheses is a team’s overall RPI):

Pool A
Pool B
#1 Miami (11)
#2 Virginia (1)
#4 Duke (80)
#3 Florida State (3)
#5 Clemson (51)
#6 Maryland (28)
Winner of #8 Wake Forest (70) vs. #9 Georgia Tech (41): GA Tech won play-in game 5 - 3
Winner of #7 North Carolina (44) vs. #10 NC State (54): UNC wins play-in game 4 - 3

It’s obvious that the Terps are in the much tougher of the two pools. They would have been in Pool A if BC hadn’t blown a five-run ninth inning lead to Clemson on Saturday. But perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. While playing in Pool A would have offered Maryland its best chance to get to the championship game, being in Pool B will be better for the team's RPI and SoS.

How and when to watch

For those of you who can make it to the games, they’re being held at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, NC, home of the minor league Greensboro Grasshoppers.

TV: If you can’t get to the games they will be televised on the Regional Sports Network (if your carrier provides these channels) and streamed over ESPN3. For Verizon/Comcast I believe that Comcast Sports Net Mid-Atlantic will carry the games. The championship game will be televised on ESPN2.

Radio: All 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. games will be broadcast via satellite radio on Sirius 220/XM 190. The night games and Sunday’s championship game will available on SiriusXM 91.

Maryland’s schedule

Thursday May 22nd 11:00 AM Virginia

Friday May 23rd 11:00 AM Florida State

Saturday May 24th 3:00 PM North Carolina

Both Maryland and Virginia don’t play on Wednesday. As each team will presumably send out its ace for their first game, the expected pitching match-up will be Jake Stinnett (6 – 6, 2.53) vs. Sophomore LHP Nathan Kirby (8 – 1, 1.58 ERA). Kirby just happens to have the best ERA in the ACC and ranks second in opponents’ BA. Virginia also has the ACC leader in saves, Nick Howard with 17. Howard has struck out 48 batters in only 26.2 innings. First baseman OF/1B Mike Papi (.299 BA, 10 HR, 47 RBI) is considered to go high in the MLB draft next month.

The Friday game will most likely pit Mike Shawaryn (9 – 3, 2.93 ERA) vs. FSU’s RHP Michael Compton (7-1, 3.08 ERA). The Terps faced Compton earlier this season and the sophomore dominated, shutting out Maryland in a two-hit complete game performance. Shawaryn registered his first ACC win this year by going 7.1 innings and limiting the Seminoles to one run on five hits.

Saturday’s game we’ll see Jake Drossner (4 – 1, 2.18 ERA) vs. most likely RHP Trent Thornton (7 - 3, 1.94 ERA) for the Tar Heels. Ealier this year Thornton hurled seven shut out innings against the Terps in a 7 - 0 victory for UNC.

The schedule for all games is shown here.

If any of you have an account on Twitter, please go to the @UMTerpsBaseball site and tweet your best wishes for the team. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

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