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NCAA Baseball: Maryland's Road To The Charlottesville SuperRegional

Maryland has entered rarefied air for their baseball program. It's been 40+ years since Maryland played in the NCAA baseball tournament. They hadn't even made the ACC Tournament in nearly a decade. To get this far was probably beyond their wildest dreams. Nonetheless, here they are.

Maryland's appearance in the Charlottesville SuperRegional is unprecented for their baseball program.
Maryland's appearance in the Charlottesville SuperRegional is unprecented for their baseball program.
Kyle Laferriere-US PRESSWIRE

Maryland finished last season 30-25 and did not play in the postseason.  Finishing 11-19 in the ACC, they weren't even invited to the ACC Tournament, which only included 8 teams. Still, 30-25 wasn't bad for Maryland. It was just their 4th season over .500 in this millennium. The last time they were over .500 in the ACC was 1981. That was also the last time they had back-to-back seasons over .500 prior to the last two seasons. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance was 43 years ago. They haven't even made the ACC Tournament since 2005 and that was just the play-in game. The last time they entered an ACC Tournament with a seed higher than 8 was 1989.

So, they entered this season with reasonably high expectations, at least relative to their normal season expectations. The Terps basically returned their entire starting rotation, including senior Jake Stinnett. Stinnett was 6-5 last year with a 2.83 ERA and just 46 hits allowed in 63.2 innings. They also returned over half of their starting lineup, including senior SS Blake Schmidt, senior 2B Kyle Convissar and CF Charlie White. If you talk to baseball people, they'll tell you that baseball teams need to be strong up the middle. The most important positions on the field (other than pitcher) are catcher, second base, shortstop and center field. Combined with sophomore catcher Kevin Martir, who had excelled as a freshman in 2013, Maryland was off to a good start.

Throughout the first two and a half months of the season, Maryland basically beat the lesser teams on the schedule, especially at home, while generally taking one out of two against the better teams, especially on the road. They took a game in Gainesville, one in Tallahassee, took one at home against UNC and took one in Winston-Salem and one in Blacksburg. Meanwhile, they swept NCState at home, took 2 out of 3 against the Yellow Jackets at home, and generally beat up on lesser teams such as Navy and George Mason during the week. This isn't a bad way to go about things, but it isn't usually the resume of a Sweet 16 team.

Then, about a month ago, something changed. They got hot. They swept Notre Dame at home. They swept Pitt on the road. They beat West Virginia. The won 9 straight games to finish the regular season. They finished the season at 33-19 (15-14). They got the 6th seed. They stayed hot. They beat the Hoos 7-6 in their ACC Tournament opener. Then they beat FSU the next day. That's 11 wins in a row. They lost to UNC in a meaningless game, but had already clinched a spot in the Championship Game. They fell to Georgia Tech in the Championship game.

But still, they were hot and remained hot. They beat ODU in the first game of the Columbia (SC) regional. Then they beat South Carolina twice in a row. All told, they've won 14 out of their last 16 games. The odds of a roughly .600 team winning 11 in a row (or 14 out of 16) aren't great, but it happens. The question is whether this stretch is just a combination of a few hot streaks and some lucky breaks, or if it is a sign of a new level for the Terps as a team.

Because, heading into the series, there is little question about who is the better team. The Hoos have been better all season long, are deeper and more talented. But in a 3 game series, talent doesn't always win out. Hot teams win, and lucky teams win.