Note: This article focuses on Maryland's 2015 Out of Conference (OOC) schedule. A full preview of Maryland 2015 schedule will be posted prior to the start of the season.
In 2014 Maryland baseball made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 43 years, in part due to a strong RPI. Playing in the ACC will do that, especially if a team wins. The Terps certainly did that, culminating in an exciting run in the ACC Tournament. Now the ACC is history and Maryland will face new challenges playing in the B1G in 2015.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is that the B1G isn't a power conference in college baseball; Maryland's RPI will take a hit even if they do well in B1G conference play. (I explained why this is so in an earlier column.) Thus the non-conference schedule takes on more importance in 2015 than in previous years. Coach Szefc and his staff have responded by putting together a savory menu of OOC opponents, highlighted by a three-game series against NCAA baseball giant Cal State Fullerton at Shipley Field.
The Terps play their first seven games away from Shipley Field. First up are tournaments at Myrtle Beach, SC and Mobile, AL. Notable opponents include Old Dominion, who Maryland barely defeated in the NCAA Regionals this past June; University of Central Florida (RPI of 50); and SEC contender Arkansas, who lost in the NCAA Regionals and ended up ranked #32.
Maryland opens its home schedule with a game against VCU, followed by a series against Appalachian State. In recent years VCU has not been an easy opponent and were ranked early last season. The next weekend the Terps travel to Wilmington, NC to face UNC-Wilmington in a three-game set. Thus the Terps will play 10 of their first 15 games on the road. After a mid-week game versus Richmond, the Terps entertain the Princeton Tigers, then travel to Elon, NC to play Elon in two mid-week games. Two days later the B1G season begins.
The Terps have a few interesting mid-week games. West Virginia was a tough team in 2014 that melted down towards the end of the season. They split a pair of games with the Terps this past year and will face Maryland at Shipley in April. Liberty (RPI = 39), a 2014 NCAA tournament participant plays a home-and-home set against the Terps. The Flames usually sport a very competitive team.
The apogee of Maryland's 2015 OOC schedule is a three-game series against the Cal State Fullerton Titans on April 17-19. These games will be played at Shipley Field. For those who don't follow college baseball regularly, Cal State Fullerton's baseball legacy is akin to that of LSU in football. The Titans have won four national championships, the most recent being in 2004. This past year was considered a down year for the the Titans, even though they went to the NCAA tournament and ended up ranked #29. While Maryland has played top-notch OOC teams in recent years, the Terps almost always were the visitors. It's a tribute to the strong program put in place by Coach Szefc that a team like Cal State Fullerton is willing to travel to College Park.
I'm a bit disappointed that mid-week games against Virginia and NC State didn't make it onto the schedule. I had heard that there was some discussion going in that regards, and was hoping that a rivalry would develop with those ACC foes.
Finally, it should be noted that the B1G schedule-makers were kind to the Terrapins (unlike previous ACC schedulers) in that Indiana and Nebraska both play at Shipley this year. Those teams finished first and second, respectively in 2014 B1G play.