CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. — If you're going to do something special, Maryland baseball coach John Szefc said after a three-run eighth inning lead quickly turned into a 5-3 defeat Friday, "every one of your better guys has got to play special."
For seven innings of the super regional opener against Virginia, his stars did just that.
All-America right-hander Mike Shawaryn, the program's all-time wins leader as just a sophomore, was rolling through seven scoreless innings. Center fielder LaMonte Wade (St. Paul's), star of the Los Angeles Regional, staked them to a 2-0 lead that grew to three by the eighth inning.
And when Shawaryn ran out of gas after two one-out singles in the eighth, closer Kevin Mooney (North Harford), Maryland's all-time saves leader and a shutdown force last weekend, was on hand to clean up.
Mooney allowed the back half of a run of four straight singles that cut Maryland's 3-0 lead to 3-2. And with two outs, he surrendered a long fly ball off the bat of left-fielder Kevin Doherty that Wade chased down on the warning track but saw bounce out of his glove as he hit the wall.
Three runs scored on the play, and Virginia took the first game of the best-of-three series at Davenport Field in Charlottesville, 5-3, before an announced 5,001.
"It would have been nice if we got one more out or got one more catch, but those guys are the guys who have gotten us here the whole year, so I can't knock those guys," Szefc said. "They did the best they could today. It just didn't happen."
Maryland (42-23) now needs to win today and Sunday to advance to its first College World Series, and in doing so, avenge a defeat at this same stage in the tournament last year against Virginia.
It will need a better offensive performance to reverse the result in Game 2 today. Maryland built its initial 3-0 lead by combining a patient approach with Virginia starter Connor Jones, a little small ball and a big swing from Wade.
The Terps had just two runners through the first four innings, on a second-inning walk to Kevin Martir and a fourth-inning single from Brandon Lowe.
The latter blemished Jones' first four innings, a stretch in which he threw just 45 pitches. In a 35-pitch fifth inning, his easy ride was over.
Nick Cieri, Jose Cuas and Kevin Biondic worked walks to load the bases that inning, displaying patience that Maryland lacked the first time through the order and setting the table for the game's biggest moment to that point.
Wade, who homered twice, had five hits, and made seemingly a show-stopping defensive play every game in the Los Angeles Regional, laced a middle-high fastball back up the middle. The ball tailed into left-center field, away from center fielder Adam Haseley and off the end of his glove.
In the seventh inning, Cuas blooped a double to left field, was bunted over to third base by Tim Lewis, and then scored on a suicide squeeze from Biondic. It appeared the ball hit Biondic's hand instead of his bat, but the run counted anyway and Maryland led 3-0 entering the eighth inning.
The way Shawaryn had pitched to that point, three runs seemed plenty. The sophomore had just two 1-2-3 innings but was always in control despite the constant threat of runners on base.
Virginia entered the eighth inning 1-for-14 with runners on base and 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. On three occasions — the second, third and fifth innings — Shawaryn stranded a runner on third.
"He had 13 wins on the year for a reason — he's pretty special," Cavaliers coach Brian O'Connor said. "Watching him on video, and knowing what he's capable of doing, he's got an ability to rise his game up to a different level at the most important times, and that's probably the greatest quality he has as a pitcher."
Still, Shawaryn took his second super regional loss to Virginia in as many years, allowing two runs on seven hits in
7 1/3 innings.
Mooney allowed three runs on three hits and an intentional walk to take the loss, and Robert Galligan pitched a scoreless ninth for Maryland.
"It's not frustrating," Shawaryn said. "Sometimes, that's just how baseball is. We played really well until that eighth inning, and sometimes, things just happen that way. We're going to do a good job of just flushing it. It's just one of those days, and we'll come back tomorrow ready to compete."