by John Vittas
The Terrapins haven’t forgotten.
It was one year ago, almost to the day, that Virginia beat Maryland two days in a row to deny the Terps of their first berth to Omaha’s College World Series in school history.
But this year, the Terps will get an unlikely chance at revenge. Both teams had relatively disappointing regular seasons, and made the NCAA Tournament field by the skin of their teeth. Having barely made it, both the Terrapins and Cavaliers were faced with a similar challenge when the tournament field was unveiled. They were both placed on the West Coast for their Regionals and had to fly cross-country to take on California juggernauts. The catch – their regions were adjacent to one another in the bracket.
After a weekend of hard-fought games, both East Coast teams prevailed in Southern California. Virginia knocked off USC, while Maryland took out the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, UCLA. That made the slim possibility of a rematch a reality.
“I’m pretty sure that the big betters in Vegas would not have bet that that would have happened when they laid odds at the beginning of the weekend,” Maryland head coach John Szefc said after beating UCLA. “I just think it’s so ironic. It’s almost like a deja vu kind of thing. It kind of shows you how bizarre college baseball can be.”
As the Maryland players celebrated their second consecutive Regional championship, they couldn’t help but start to think about their next opponent.
“That’s exactly who we want,” Terrapins catcher Kevin Martir said. “We want some revenge on them. We’re going to go up there and we are going to fight one hundred percent.”
Maryland’s closer Kevin Mooney, fresh off his third save of the tournament, said the same thing about heading to Virginia: “That’s exactly the place we want to be. As much as we love California and the weather out here, we want to head back home and take out the team that knocked us out last year.”
Martir and Mooney were front-and-center for Virginia’s Super Regional celebration last June. Martir caught all three games of the 2014 Super Regionals and Mooney allowed two runs at the end of UVA’s series-clinching win.
“It makes us hungry,” Mooney said Wednesday in Maryland. “We played them tight all three games. It was really tough to sit there after that game and to see how some of the seniors reacted. It really fuels me to not do that to our seniors this year.”
LaMonte Wade played first base during last year’s three-game series, and co-starred with Martir and Mooney last weekend to dispatch UCLA. Wade delivered two home runs in the Terps’ two wins against the Bruins and made three run-saving plays on defense. He was the slam dunk selection for the Los Angeles Regional Most Outstanding Player. He too, hasn’t forgotten last year’s loss in Charlottesville.
“They were a tough team, they’re not going to roll over,” Wade said. “They keep attacking you but we have to make sure that we’re attacking back and throw that first punch.”
When asked if Virginia is the team he wanted in the next round, Wade responded: “Absolutely, one hundred percent.”
Wade’s head coach, John Szefc, is friendly with the entire Virginia coaching staff. He sees a lot of similarities between the two teams’ 2015 seasons.
“They had a lot of mixed results because they had injuries too,” said Szefc. “They also lost a lot of their significant players from last year. They’re good, just a different kind of good.”
Take two begins Thursday for the Terps, when they return to Charlottesville for an afternoon practice.
“It’s kind of a little bizarre,” head coach John Szefc said. “There’s a lot of places you can go, but to go to the same place for two straight years, it’s bizarre. The deck would be stacked against that happening. But we’re happy it happened, believe me.”
Tickets for the three-game series at Chalottesville’s Davenport Field this weekend are already sold out, which should make for another loud and exciting weekend for the former ACC rivals.
“As a college baseball player, you live for that type of atmosphere,” Maryland ace Mike Shawaryn said.
Shawaryn will start Friday afternoon’s series opener, and Mooney hopes to finish it.
“Last year was a great series and this year is going to be the exact same thing,” said Mooney. “It’s going to be a dogfight all the way to the end. We’re going back to Davenport and we have some big-time unfinished business.”