Maryland baseball: Sweeping the Irish has breathed life into the Terps' post-season chances

Brandon Lowe ranks third in the ACC with a .347 batting average - @mercator88

The Terps took care of business this past weekend by sweeping Notre Dame. Strong efforts by the pitching staff and Brandon Lowe's peskiness have pushed the Terps into post-season consideration.

From bad to good

Things started out dreadful for the Terps this past week. After getting swept by Boston College the weekend prior, the Terps dropped a mid-week game to JMU. The team's RPI dropped from 21 to 46 in the space of a week.  A chance at improving the team's RPI by defeating a good St. Joseph's team was washed away by the torrential storms the area endured. Thus while it was unsaid it was understood that Maryland had to sweep Notre Dame to get back in the post-season picture.

The Terps did exactly that, almost in textbook fashion. Notre Dame had fielding blunders cost them games in the past, which was exactly the case in Sunday's game. The Irish had a penchant for losing one-run games, which is what occurred yesterday. Notre Dame had relied on strong pitching, and their hurlers did hold the Terps to eight earned runs in three games. Finally, Notre Dame had been tepid offensively, and this also was borne out in the weekend's games. As a result the Terrapins are firmly in the mix for an ACC tournament berth, and can possibly play their way into the NCAA Regionals.

Plaudits

I'll start off with Jake Stinnett. The senior fought an intense pitchers' duel with Notre Dame's' Pat Connaughton. On a night where runs were dear, Stinnett made the two first inning Terrapin runs stand up by hurling a complete game shutout. He rang up 13 Notre Dame hitters, bringing his yearly total to an ACC-leading 107. His 13 strike outs matched the number of hits that Notre Dame got in the entire series. For his effort Stinnett garnered his fourth ACC Pitcher of the Week award of 2014.

Mike Shawaryn has been amazing. He gained his eighth victory of the season, which ties him for the lead in the ACC. It also ties him for the Maryland single season mark, which Shawaryn could claim sole title to with one more victory. And he's just a freshman!

Brandon Lowe has been an on-base machine. He currently leads the ACC with a .471 OB%. His batting average of .347 ranks third in the ACC. Combined with his slick defense and base running ability, some sort of post-season accolade is likely.

ACC Tournament outlook

A number of ACC schools played home non-conference games this weekend, meaning their conference season will end a week later than the Terps. So rather than give a win-loss standings, I've listed the schools by descending number of wins, with a column added for the number of conference games remaining.

Rank Team Wins Games Left
1 Miami 19 6
2 Virginia 18 6
3 Florida State 17 6
4 Duke 15 6
5 Georgia Tech 14 3
6 North Carolina 13 6
7 Clemson 12 6
8 Wake Forest 12 6
9 Maryland 12 3
10 Pitt 11 6
11 NC State 9 6
12 Boston College 9 3
13 Virginia Tech 8 3
14 Notre Dame 4 6

Maryland is presently the #9 seed, but only have three games remaining. In order to make the ACC tournament the Terps will probably need to take two of three from Pitt next week. (It gets a bit complicated as some teams in contention play each other.) What shouldn't be lost from the Terps' season is that their 12 wins in ACC play so far hasn't been done since 1970. Their current overall record of 28 wins is four behind the all-time high of 32 set in 2012, and the Terps have six games left to be played.

NCAA Tournament outlook

Two weeks ago the Terps were projected to be a number three seed in the Regionals. However after being swept by BC and then losing to JMU, the baseball team found themselves in a place familiar to Terrapin fans regardless of the sport: on the bubble. Sweeping Notre Dame actually resulted in our RPI dropping by a point. The main reason behind that is our SOS has dropped from 7 to 44. That's why I always maintain that it's better to lose to a top school than beat a patsy.

But there's plenty of opportunity to take advantage of. The Terps can absolutely play their way off of the bubble and into the NCAA Regionals by taking the series from Pitt (a sweep is not necessary) and beating either VCU this week or WVU next week. Anything above that would enhance their seeding.

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