Season Preview: Improved Rotation Readies Terps for Next Step

by: Matt Present

After tallying 82 wins over the past two seasons, noting that the Terps are now on the map would simply be pointing out the obvious. John Szefc has continued what Erik Bakich started, and the results are evident. Eight Terps were drafted following the 2015 season, the most Maryland players ever to sign with a professional organization in one year.

There have been so many successes over the past two seasons. The Terps have made their first two Super Regional appearances in school history, and last year set the single season wins record in the process.  To highlight the last two years—in contrast with the many years prior—only three players on this year’s roster even know the feeling of not making it to the postseason. However, with each success, the goals and expectations rise, and so after knocking on the door the past two seasons, the Terps hope this is the year they can finally kick the door down and make it to the College World Series.

DAY 5This year’s weekend rotation is what separates this team from the previous two. In 2014, Jake Drossner had a very good regular season behind Jake Stinnett and Mike Shawaryn, but faltered down the stretch. In the ACC Tournament, Drossner struggled to get through five innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits, and then in the Columbia Regional final he was pulled after just 3.2 having given up five hits and a run. It turned out that runs would not be at a premium as Maryland went on to win 10-1, but Drossner’s inconsistency cast enough doubt in the minds of the coaches that in the decisive third game against Virginia in the Super Regional, they turned instead to the veteran Bobby Ruse.

Last year, the Saturday and Sunday spots in the rotation were in flux for most of the season, especially following the injury to Tayler Stiles. The coaching staff mixed and matched throughout the season, trying to press the magic button that could produce wins behind Shawaryn’s ever reliable Friday starts.  In all, ten different pitchers made weekend rotation starts, including the school’s all-time saves leader Kevin Mooney. In the end, the Terps had two true freshman, a redshirt freshman, and a sophomore start every postseason game.

All things considered, the rotation finally clicked. In the Big Ten Conference Championship, Brian Shaffer tossed seven strong innings to snap Illinois’ 27-game winning streak, and then Ryan Selmer followed the next day with five innings of shutout ball. In the Los Angeles Regional, Taylor Bloom won the clincher, pitching six innings of one-hit ball. However, also in the Regional, Selmer struggled, and Shaffer made an early exit with right arm stiffness. Back in Charlottesville, Selmer got hit around again in game two, and despite a performance for the ages by Rob Galligan out of the bullpen, the Terps came up short again.

But in terms of this season, the best thing to happen to the Terps a year ago was to be forced into sending Shaffer and Bloom to the mound in the Regional. The big game experience is invaluable. While the media guide will tell you that both are sophomores, the successes that  both enjoyed in key spots as freshmen, will give them the confidence of veterans.

It takes three wins to win a Regional, two wins to take home a Super Regional, and five more to be crowned a champion. Entering the 2016 season, the Terps are no longer in search of their dynamic duo…that’s because they have found their terrific trifecta, at least it certainly looks that way.

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