Every which way but lo(o)se
The 2015 Maryland baseball team had a very auspicious opening weekend. It wasn't that the Terps won all three games. Certainly, Maryland was the favorite in each contest. It was the myriad ways in which the Terps won that was impressive.
In game one, the unthinkable occurred when the Hilltoppers climbed on Mike Shawaryn for two first inning runs. Although the Terps would cut the lead to one, WKU scored again in their half of the third inning, But that was all Shawaryn and freshman Brian Shaffer would allow the rest of the way. Using the long ball, Maryland ran off six unanswered runs to end up coasting to a 7 - 3 victory.
In game two, the Terps put up one of their patented big (B1G?) innings, posting a five spot in the second. Nick Cieri's bases-clearing double was the telltale blow that inning. However, Canisius is too game a team offensively to be kept down for long. The Golden Griffins clawed back to cut the lead to 5 - 4 after six innings. Just when it looked like the game would be a nail biter, Brandon Lowe homered for the second consecutive game and Nick Cieri went yard for two more runs to give him five RBIs in the game. Meanwhile Bobby Ruse turned in a stellar five innings of relief pitching and the Terps prevailed 8 - 4.
Old Dominion was a familiar opponent for the Terps in game three. It was eight months ago when the Monarchs' pitchers kept the Terps at bay for much of an NCAA Regional game, before coming apart at the seams in the ninth. Maryland would escape with the victory then, and would do so again Saturday night in a vaguely similar fashion. This time it wasn't ODU's pitching but the fielding that collapsed. The Terps played opportunistic ball to score four runs and erase a sixth-inning 2 - 1 deficit. In the process, Kevin Mooney got his 23rd save at Maryland, tying him for the Terps career lead in saves with MLB All-Star Brett Cecil.
A total team effort
The cliché "blue collar team" has often been used to describe the Terps style of play. If that means that the team plays hard every day, has belief in themselves, yet don't strive for individual laurels, then yes, this is a blue-collar team. However, there's another adjective that also fits the Terps: unified. This weekend's play exemplified that. Brandon Lowe hit two home runs, but also got on base 10 times in 15 plate appearances; Nick Cieri had three multiple hit games; Kevin Smith and Andrew Bechtold showed no signs of freshman jitters and came through with key at bats; LaMonte Wade and Anthony Papio had some timely hits and made impressive fielding plays; and the Terps committed zero errors in the three games. The Terrapin pitchers notched 33 strikeouts and allowed only 8 earned runs in three games. Although walks continued to haunt the staff, they only gave up nine extra base hits.
The Terps had an OPS (OBP + SLG) of .837 versus .690 for their opponents. That difference reflects the Terps' plate discipline and ability to get the big hit, as well as the pitching staff shutting down the opposition. If the Terps are indeed the "hunted" this season, then welcome to the jungle.