The Maryland baseball team's improbable NCAA tournament run ended in disappointment Monday when Virginia jumped to an early lead and never let up in an 11-2 drubbing in the deciding third game of the NCAA super regional.
“There’s only eight teams that can go to Omaha (Neb. for the College World Series), and I’d say these guys had about as special a season as they possibly could have had,” Maryland coach John Szefc said. “Unfortunately, we got matched up against an absolute monster in the super regional at their place.”
That monster was a Virginia squad whose explosive offense threatened in Maryland’s Game 1 win Saturday, broke out to take Game 2 Sunday, and never relented in a 13-hit barrage Monday that ended Maryland’s season.
“I think we fell a little bit short of our goals, but in the end we made great strides as a baseball program and as a team,” said Terrapins senior Jake Stinnett, who earned the win in Game 1. “It says a lot about our team. No one expected us to get this far in the first place.”
It became clear early that Game 3 in Charlottesville was as far as Maryland would get.
In the first inning, the Terps spoiled a two-on, one-out opportunity with a Jose Cuas double play before Virginia went to work against Bel Air native Bobby Ruse.
Derek Fisher singled with two men on to score the Cavaliers' first run with two outs, and Kenny Towns smacked a two-run triple off the left-field wall to put Maryland in a 3-0 hole early.
“You obviously want to get off to a good start and get on the board first, and we almost did in the first inning,” Szefc said. “In a game like this, where they’re at their place, you really have to get ahead of them. … We weren’t able to do that.”
Virginia added three more runs in the third, highlighted by a two-run blooper to left by Towns. Towns finished the night with a team-leading three hits and four RBIs. Ruse gave way to left-hander Tayler Stiles after Towns’ single, and Stiles allowed an inherited runner to score before he induced an inning-ending double play.
Ruse (7-3), who made his fourth start of the season Monday, allowed six runs on six hits in 2 1/3 innings to take the loss.
Junior outfielder Charlie White and senior shortstop Blake Schmit led the Terps with two hits apiece, but Maryland never truly threatened against Virginia starter Josh Sborz.
Sborz, making his first start since May 9, struck out nine and allowed four hits in a career-high seven innings.
“He’s as good an arm as we’ve seen all year, and we ran into him on the wrong night,” Szefc said.
Maryland scored its only runs in the eighth, after Austin Young took over for Sborz. LaMonte Wade and Jose Cuas each singled and scored on a double down the left field line off the bat of Schmit.
Schmit’s double caused the Cavaliers to summon closer Nick Howard, who snuffed out the threat with a one-pitch groundout from Tim Lewis.
Stiles kept Maryland close to that point, was pulled for closer Kevin Mooney after he loaded the bases with one out in the eighth.
Branden Cogswell singled to drive in two on Mooney’s first pitch, setting off “ACC” chants at Davenport Field. The relentless Virginia lineup tacked on three more as they batted around.
Stiles was charged with three runs in five innings, and Mooney allowed a pair on three hits in two-thirds of an inning.
Howard pitched a scoreless inning to set off a celebration on the infield, and send the Cavaliers to a third College World Series in six years.
Maryland, bound for the Big Ten in all sports on July 1, closed out its Atlantic Coast Conference membership with the best baseball season in program history. After appearing in its first ACC tournament in nine years and advancing to the title game, the Terps swept through the Columbia, S.C. regional to advance to a first ever NCAA super regional.
“I really can’t sit here and lament a whole lot about what these guys have accomplished this season,” Szefc said.