Mother Nature’s Wrath Not Slowing Down the Twelfth-Ranked Terps

by John Vittas

One cancellation, four postponements, two delays, an extra road trip and a whole lot of uncertainty – that’s what characterized the first three weeks of the Maryland baseball season. In a year where the weather has shown no mercy on college baseball teams across the Northeast, the No. 12 Maryland baseball squad has still managed a 7-2 start.

“It’s definitely been a grind,” Terps centerfielder LaMonte Wade said. “It’s been a major adjustment.”

“Grind” is a word that comes to mind for many of the Terps, who endured two twelve-hour bus trips this past weekend that weren’t even supposed to happen. The Maryland coaching staff had to move their late-February series against Appalachian State 675 miles south to Emerson, Georgia after a pair of snowstorms left Shipley Field in College Park buried in snow.

“It’s just a grind, basically,” junior catcher Kevin Martir agreed. “We have to get the games in. We have to adjust and embrace the circumstances.”

But getting to Georgia wasn’t the only obstacle. The Terps arrived at the Lakepoint Complex last Friday morning to find the field in Georgia covered in snow, too. They returned to their hotel for a few more hours until word came that the field would be playable in time for an early evening contest.

“The weekend was a grind because of the twelve hour drive. I feel like our team grinded out innings, grinded out pitches. Everything was fight this weekend,” Martir said at the conclusion of the Terps’ series against Appalachian State.

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The Terps are no strangers to practicing on icy fields this season. The snow-covered outfield at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium is also a familiar sight.

Friday’s game in Georgia wasn’t the first time the Terps were affected by unusually cold weather in the Southeast. Two weeks earlier, Maryland’s Feb. 15 game with the Coastal Carolina was cancelled when Myrtle Beach, S.C. experienced wind chills below twenty degrees.

Further up the coast, Maryland has been juggling their schedule with some local opponents as well. Games against VCU and Delaware were postponed twice each, keeping the Terps guessing as to whether they’d play until just hours before game time – when they learned that they’d instead be practicing indoors.

While you might think that the snow has kept No. 12 Maryland practicing indoors throughout the early season, guess again. Snow plows have continually cleared the snow off the turf infield at Shipley Field, allowing Maryland’s infielders to get defensive reps outside. The same goes for the team’s pitchers, who have utilized the outdoor bullpen mounds that have been sheltered by protective tarps.

“Don’t be surprised,” head coach John Szefc said to a reporter last week, who like most onlookers, was a little surprised to see the Terps practicing outside in the frigid temperatures of late February. Szefc’s team has taken pride in not only dealing with the cold, but thriving in it.

“Guys stepped up to the challenge. We accepted the challenge,” Wade said. “We couldn’t let the weather be an excuse for us not to play at a high level.”

Despite the uncomfortable weather and daily changes to the schedule, Maryland has managed to begin the season winning seven of their first nine games, moving up to No. 12 in d1baseball.com’s Top 25.

“That’s the thing, we’re dealing with a lot of other stuff other than just the game right now,” head coach John Szefc said. “I think when you factor that stuff into it, you’re like, ‘You know what? Things could be a whole lot worse right now.’”

While things could be worse, they’re about to get a lot better. The Terps will head south to Wilmington, North Carolina Friday, where temperatures are expected to be around 60 degrees, with sunshine greeting them when they arrive from snowy Maryland. Following their return to College Park Sunday night, the Terps can finally put their travel bags aside.

Assuming the snow melts in time for them to take on Richmond on Wednesday (it’s supposed to hit 50 degrees next week), Maryland will open up a four-game home stand which begins a stretch of 21 of 28 games coming at the friendly confines of Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium in College Park.

“The guys have been itching to play at home because we haven’t in so long,” Martir said. “It’s going to be awesome to finally get out and play.”

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