The way that Maryland's season ended was initially disappointing. But when one looks back on the body of work, it is clear that the Terps are now firmly a top-tier NCAA program. The glass is 97% full, not 3% empty.
Maryland finished the year with a 42-24 record. The 42 wins set a record for the program. Here are more "first evers":
- Back-to-back 40 wins season
- Back-to-back years in which the Terps knocked off the #1 seed in their Regional round, thus also making it the first time that Maryland made the Super Regionals round in two consecutive years
- Back-to-back years ranked in the top 25 at the season's end (I'm assuming that's the case this year, but we'll have to wait and see)
- Having a Golden Spikes Award semi-finalist: Mike Shawaryn
- Playing national powerhouse Cal State Fullerton and winning the series, even getting very close to sweeping it
- John Szefc becoming the first head coach in Maryland's baseball program to have three consecutive season of 30+ wins. In fact, under Coach Szefc's tenure, Maryland has won 112 games already.
- The first time Maryland has finished with 18 more wins than losses
Maryland departed the ACC on June 30 of last year, meaning the Terps would be playing in the B1G Conference in 2015. Well, their debut B1G season had mixed results. Maryland was the near-unanimous choice to win the conference. While Illinois' crazy good season ended most any chance that the Terps would win the regular season title, they did finish in a three-way tie for third with a 14-10 record. Included in the 14 wins was a sweep of Minnesota in the opening B1G weekend, sweep of a tough Nebraska team, an on-the-road sweep of Purdue, and taking two of three against Ohio State in Columbus. But there were some rough moments. Playing in sub-freezing wind chills against Michigan, getting swept at home by Indiana, and dropping two of three to lowly Northwestern.
The team's low point came during the second game against non-conference foe Cal State Fullerton. On the second pitch of the game, Tayler Stiles was hit by a line drive flush in his face. The sophomore suffered fractured orbital bones and was lost for the season. It's not surprising that his absence coincided with the Terps going into a late-season funk. All the best to Tayler going forward, as he is scheduled to be back on the hill during Fall practice.
The Terps traveled to Minneapolis for the B1G Tournament as a #4 seed in a tough bracket. Maryland beat Michigan State in the opening game, stopped Illinois' 27 game winning streak in the second game, then prevailed in game three over NCAA Tournament-bound Indiana. Maryland had to beat former Maryland head coach Erik Bakich's squad in the B1G Championship game. Despite some mistakes, the Terps almost won, finally losing by 4-3 with the bases loaded in the ninth.
Maryland quickly found out on Selection Monday that they would be going to the NCAA Tournament. That was the good news. The bad news: Being in the same bracket as the national overall #1 seed UCLA and having to travel to Los Angeles. Only one national writer picked Maryland to advance to the Super Regional round, and many writers picked UCLA to win the CWS. The Terps would have none of that nonsense, defeating Ole Miss and then taking two of three from UCLA to win the L.A. Regional.
The Terps would have to travel once again to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers in the Super Regional round. Maryland had the lead going into the eighth inning in both games, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion and ending the season a bit short of Omaha.
Mike Shawaryn emerged as a top national pitcher, being named first-team All American, Golden Spikes award semi-finalist, unanimous first-team All-B1G, and invited to play on the USA Collegiate National Team this summer. "The Unicorn" broke his own record for most wins in a season by registering 13 victories. In the process he also surpassed the previous career record of 20 wins sets by John Rayne (1989-1992). In fact, Shawaryn's 24 wins over two seasons was tops in the nation for sophomores.
Kevin Mooney's 11 saves pushed him way past the career mark of 23 saves set by current MLB pitcher Brett Cecil: Mooney now holds Maryland's all-time saves record with a total of 33. The junior right hander has had back-to-back seasons with double digit saves, and would have had more but for a back injury that sidelined him for a few weeks early this season.
The team's Most Improved Player on the bump was Robert Galligan. After pitching infrequently during his first two years, Galligan became a major fixture in long relief. Red shirt freshman Ryan Selmer was solid throughout the year, and fellow freshman Brian Shaffer and Taylor Bloom showed great promise for the years ahead.
Maryland's bullpen was deep. In addition to Mooney, Selmer, and Galligan, there were quite a few other live arms. Alex Robinson (1.63 era, 3 saves) is projected to go high in this year's MLB draft. Zach Morris (2.61 era) and Bobby Ruse (4-1) helped establish Maryland's pen as an elite corp.
The Terps had three hitters finish the season above .300: Kevin Martir (.342, 7 hr, 45 rbi), Brandon Lowe (.331, 58 r, 9 hr, 56 rbi, 11 sb), and LaMonte Wade (.335, .453 obp). Lowe was a first team All-B1G. Jose Cuas led the team with 11 hr, and tied Lowe for the team lead in RBIs (56). In addition, he made several web gems plays at third base. Shortstop Kevin Smith showed great promise at the plate and in the field, continuing Maryland's streak of having superb players at that position. Smith hit .273 with 7 home runs and 55 runs scored. Anthony Papio improved his power numbers, collecting 24 extra base hits as compared to 11 in 2014. He and LaMonte Wade were stellar defensively in the outfield. Nick Cieri's season was halved by a hamate bone injury. Nevertheless, the sophomore hit .299 and had key hits in the post-season.
The team will most certainly lose a number of players to the MLB draft next week, as well as seniors Tim Lewis and Bobby Ruse. As happens every year in college baseball, there will most likely be a small number of players transferring to other schools. Before you start to feel bad for the Terps consider 2016's starting pitching: Shawaryn, Stiles, Shaffer, Bloom, as well as Selmer taking over Bobby Ruse's role. The bullpen has the aforementioned Galligan, Zach Morris, Mike Rescigno, Andrew Green, Willie Rios, and Jack Piekos.
The offense is harder to predict due to the potential of Maryland losing a number of players to the draft. At the very least, the Terps will have Papio, Smith, Cieri, Andrew Bechtold, Kevin Biondic, Kengo Kawahara, Zach Jancarski, Jamal Wade, and Justin Morris on the 2016 squad.
The incoming freshman class is a good one. I'll have more on these talented players in a future article. Most importantly, we at Testudo Times hope the very best for Bill Phillips' recovery. #BP15 was on everyone's mind this season.
The Terps have now established that they are a team with perennial post-season aspirations. Gone are the days when Bob "Turtle" Smith stadium had a crowd barely above 100. The stadium can be a crowded place these days, and why not, given how well the Terps have played the past few seasons.