by John Vittas
In what will be considered the most successful baseball season in University of Maryland history, the 2014 Terps accomplished a lot:
- Most Wins in School History – 40 (previous record was 34 – set in 2002)
- Three straight winning seasons for the first time since 1976-78
- First ACC Championship game appearance since 1976
- First time above .500 in ACC play since 1981
- First NCAA tournament appearance since 1971
- Turned South Carolina’s 28-game home winning streak in the NCAA Tournament into a 2-game losing streak
- First Super Regional appearance in school history
- First Super Regional win in school history
Culminating with seven postseason victories and the dismantling of arguably the nation’s most prolific program, Maryland did all this in what was their final season in the ACC.
As they head into a new conference in 2015, the Terps bring with them a sparking new national ranking and higher expectations than ever before. Thoughts of Omaha don’t seem too far-fetched when you consider that Maryland returns six of their eight starting position players and nine of their top 12 pitchers from their stunning run in 2014 in which they fell just one win shy of reaching the College World Series. While there is no reason the Terps shouldn’t reach the postseason this year, some major concerns remain.
They still have to replace last year’s ace Jake Stinnett, who put together one of the most complete pitching seasons in school history, perhaps only rivaled by this year’s ace, Mike Shawaryn, who broke the school record with 11 wins. Stinnett broke the school’s single-season strikeouts record (132) and completely shattered the school’s innings record, becoming the first Terrapins pitcher to break the 100-inning plateau. He finished with 118 innings pitched – 23 more than Bob Ferris threw in 1976 – a record which had stood for 38 years.
It also remains to be seen how the Terps replace the two position players who also departed for the pros. Despite playing different positions and swinging from opposite sides of the plate, Charlie White and Blake Schmit provided similar value to the Terps. Both served as veteran leaders and turned their game up when it mattered most. White led by example, playing a composed yet exciting style of baseball, letting his glove and legs do the talking. Schmit, also possessing capable legs and an elite glove, was the fiery type who could be found fist pumping and yelling after big plays. While their intangible qualities and defense up-the-middle might be the biggest losses the Terps will have to account for in 2015, Maryland also loses their top two base stealers (White is Maryland’s all-time leader) and a pair of .300 hitters who both reached base at a 40 percent clip last year.
Depending on how you look at it, the Terps’ 2015 schedule might also be viewed as a concern. Following a season in which Maryland played 24 games against ranked teams, they’ll only play six against such opponents in 2015 (according to d1baseball.com’s rankings). While the weaker Big Ten slate might make winning a conference championship or posting an ungodly win-loss record more attainable, the Terps have much more pressure to win and may not be as battle-tested come the postseason.
And the final concern is simple: How do they handle going from being the hunters to the hunted? I guess we’ll find out.