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Maryland And Virginia Play This Weekend For A Ticket To Omaha

md ball

Big baseball series going down in Charlottesville this weekend. NCAA Super Regionals, best of 3, winner goes to Omaha. A border war as Maryland says sayonara to the ACC. Catch these games on ESPN2 on Saturday (Noon), Sunday (Noon), and Monday (4 PM if necessary).

First off though, I want to say a bit about the NCAA baseball tournament. It’s truly one of the most underrated events in sports. It’s not as sexy as March Madness because the bracket system is a bit more convoluted, but it brings the heat every year. The kids play with a lot more guts at the NCAA level,  and wear every inside pitch they can. They slide hard into every base, lay out for every fly ball, and wear their emotions on their sleeves. And the switch to BBCOR bats a few years back has changed the game completely. Pitching, defense, and manufacturing is the name of the game again, as it should be. It provides us as fans with a lot more tight games, as evidenced by that 22-inning marathon between TCU and Sam Houston State last weekend. This year’s tournament is especially wide open as 5 of the top 8 seeds failed to advance to Super Regionals.

 

Anyway, the Terps come in at 39-21, a modest record for a team playing in their first ever Super Regionals. But they’re scorching hot. Won 14 of 16 since the beginning of May, including a sweep at Regionals in South Carolina. The Cavaliers come in at 47-13, and are playing in their 4th Super Regional in 5 years. They started off the year as the consensus #1 in the nation, and held that position for 9 of the 15 weeks of the regular season. They fizzled a bit down the stretch, including a 7-6 loss to the Terps in the ACC Tournament. Fortunately for them, they bounced back in their regional, sweeping the competition to the tune of 22 runs scored against 3 runs allowed.

 

Naturally, the Hoos are the favorite here. Their pitching staff is up there with any in the country. Nathan Kirby (6-1, 1.36 ERA) and Artie Lewicki (6-1, 1.72 ERA) lead the staff, with flame-throwing Nick Howard (50 K’s in 29.1 IP) at the back of the bullpen. The Terps’ pitching staff is right up there with those guys, as all three of their starters have an ERA under 2.81. Senior Jake Stinnett and freshman Mike Shawaryn have been untouchable of late, and Kevin Mooney and Bobby Ruse’s stache have been holding it down in the pen.

 

Because of these great staffs, this series is all about opportunity. It’s a matter of who can scratch and claw out that run when the leadoff guy gets aboard. Maryland may have hit 4 bombs last time these teams met, but don’t expect it to happen again. They’ve got a lineup full of OBP guys who put the ball in play. Charlie White is a great table-setter at the top of the order, and lead the ACC in SB’s the past two years. He’s gonna need to wreak some havoc on the basepaths if the Terps want a chance. The Cavs bring a little more pop to the table, but are still prone to play small ball. Mike Papi and Derek Fisher are the big bats to look out for, with Papi leading the way with 11 HR’s and 51 RBI’s.

 

All in all, this should be a great series. Tight, close fought battles. May be cliché, but it’s gonna come down to who makes the least mistakes. Both teams do a great job of making the opposition pay, so any team’s first miscue may be their last. As for my pick, objectivity is key here on the Stool, so this is a tough one. The stache can’t fail me now though. TERPS IN TWO.

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PS: shoutout to 1B LaMonte Wade for hooking me up with a ticket. I’ll be there tailgating bright and early Saturday so if you’re going, give me a holler one time.