The Maryland baseball team never got too high as it tore through the month of May, winning 11 straight before a pair of ACC tournament losses, then stringing together four more victories to open their first NCAA tournament since 1971.
So it should come as no surprise that after Virginia's bats exploded for 17 hits in a 7-3 Terps loss Sunday in Game 2 of the NCAA super regional, the team is not feeling down on its luck.
“It’s a loss, but it’s not the biggest one of the year,” third baseman Jose Cuas, who had two hits in the loss, said Sunday. “We’re still alive for tomorrow. As long as we put this game behind us, we can come out tomorrow from the first inning on and attack.”
Virginia forced a Game 3 tonight, with the winner going to the College World Series. The game will air at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
The Cavaliers would be making a third CWS appearance. Maryland had never won more than one NCAA tournament game previously, so every game is a new program-best for Maryland, which has a school-record 40 wins.
The Terps will have to draw from those victories on Monday, not Sunday’s loss. Coach John Szefc and Sunday’s starter Mike Shawaryn, who was tagged for five runs on 12 hits in the 7-3 loss, said the team needs to “flush” the loss and focus on a new day Monday.
“We just have to re-gather ourselves and flush this really quick and come back mentally prepared tomorrow,” Szefc said.
The Terps will send junior Bobby Ruse, a Bel Air native who played for C. Milton Wright, to the mound Monday night in what is the latest in a string of games that can all rightfully be called the biggest in the program’s history.
Ruse has made 30 appearances for the Terps this season, with only three mid-week starts in the early part of the season. But he pitched well in those three outings, and has a 2.77 ERA overall. He threw 38 pitches in 1 1/3 innings of relief in Maryland’s 5-4, Game 1 win Saturday, allowing an earned run on a hit, two walks, and a hit batsman.
Sophomore lefties Jake Drossner (4-1, 2.45 ERA in 62 1/3 innings) and Zach Morris (2-1, 2.77 ERA in 39 innings) are also available to pitch for the Terps, having been the two highest-profile arms on the team not to pitch yet. Drossner was the team’s Sunday starter, but isn’t getting the starting nod for Monday. Morris made seven starts for the Terps this season — many of them mid-week outings.
Relievers Jared Price, Tayler Stiles, Ben Brewster, and Alex Robinson all pitched Sunday, but Szefc said all could be used again Monday. Closer Kevin Mooney threw Saturday and should be available as well. Basically, only Saturday’s starter, Jake Stinnett, and Shawaryn are likely off limits in Monday’s deciding third game.
Virginia, who used scheduled Monday starter Artie Lewicki Sunday, is instead going with righty Josh Sborz (4-4, 3.08 ERA) Monday. They also have not used closer Nick Howard, a first-round draft pick (No. 19 overall to Cincinnati), in the series.
Virginia coach Brian O’Connor believes Monday will be a showcase for his pitching depth, and Szefc agrees the Terps won’t have an easy time at the plate.
“No matter who they throw out there tomorrow, it’s going to be challenging,” Szefc said. “It’s not like they’re going to throw a weak arm at you. We’ll have to have our best effort out there offensively and defensively to get it done. At this stage of the season, you know you’re going to face a challenging pitcher. We’re going to need to play well to be successful. We need to get off to a good start.”