Preview: Winston-Salem Regional

The Maryland Terrapins lost their last four weekend series of the regular season, and needed a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament to solidify their hopes at an NCAA Tournament bid. They reached the semifinals in Bloomington, taking down top-seeded Nebraska in the process, but eventually fell to Northwestern, 6-5, failing to reach the title game. This left the Terps (37-21, 15-9 Big Ten) on the bubble, but they ultimately made the NCAA Tournament as a three seed, and will head to Winston-Salem, N.C., to open their third regional in four years.

Maryland will take on two-seed West Virginia (34-23, 12-12 Big 12) Friday at 2 p.m. in the opening game of the regional, which is double-elimination style. The regional is hosted by the one-seed Wake Forest (39-18, 19-11 ACC), ranked No. 14 in the country, and is rounded out by four-seed UMBC (23-23, 11-9 America East).

The Terps closed out the season on an offensive hot streak in the Big Ten tournament. They scored at least five runs in every tournament contest, and plated eight runs three times, including in two elimination game victories. Kevin Smith went 7-for-20 with a homer and five RBIs en route to being named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team. Justin Morris (6-for-17, HR, 4 RBIs) and Brandon Gum (9-for-21, HR, 6 RBIs) also enjoyed success at the plate in the tournament. Maryland’s bullpen was a bright spot in the tournament, as the trio of John Murphy, Jared Price and Ryan Selmer proved especially dominant. Murphy pitched six shutout innings with eight strikeouts, Price closed out Friday’s victory by allowing one earned run over 4.2 innings, and Selmer tossed 7.1 frames of one-run ball across three games.

Here’s a look at the Terps’ competition in the Winston-Salem Regional:

1. Wake Forest (39-18, 19-11 ACC)

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons finished third in the ACC this year, only behind Louisville and North Carolina, two of the other regional hosts in the NCAA Tournament. They did lose prematurely in the ACC Tournament to the sixth-seeded Miami Hurricanes, but nevertheless had an impressive enough resume to host a regional.

The Demon Deacons had a lot of their success this year via the long ball. They hit 96 home runs as a team, one short of Tennessee Tech for most in the nation. Gavin Sheets led the team with 2o homers, while two others (Johnny Aiello and Stuart Fairchild) notched at least 15. Not just a power lineup, however, Wake Forest hit an impressive .308 as a team, and six of the nine regulars hit over .300. Fairchild was named a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist for his all-around season at the plate, as the outfielder hit .353 with 15 homers, 59 RBIs, 62 runs scored, and 17 steals. 

On the pitching side, Wake Forest was less dominant, pitching to a 4.15 team ERA. Connor Johnstone anchored the Wake Forest rotation with a 7-0 record and 3.46 ERA in 80.2 innings pitched. Parker Dunshee has been the workhorse of the rotation, starting 15 games and pitching 88.2 innings. His ERA is a bit high at 4.16 but he struck out 98 hitters. Griffin Roberts, the closer for Wake Forest, also had a great season. He finished with the second most appearances on the team to the tune of a 2.31 ERA, and eight saves with a 13.05 K/9.

2. West Virginia (34-24, 12-12 Big 12)

West Virginia and Maryland’s seasons share a lot of similarities. The Mountaineers finished fourth in Big 12, just like the Terps did in the Big Ten, and just like the Terps, they lost to the fifth seed in the first round of their conference tournament. West Virginia struggled down the stretch, just like Maryland, losing their last four weekend conference series of the year. The Mountaineers and Terps faced off this year in College Park, a 7-6 victory for Maryland.

Like Wake Forest, West Virginia is formidable at the plate, with a .288 team average. Jackson Cramer led the Mountaineers with 10 homers and 12 doubles this season, and he was the catalyst for the Mountaineers against Maryland, tallying three hits in four at-bats. Cramer had help offensively throughout the year from Kyle Davis (.313/.402/.505, 12 2B, 8 HR, 41 RBI) and Darius Hill (.303, 12 2B, 44 RBIs). As a team, West Virginia is a threat on the bases, as they finished the year with 72 stolen bags, 12 of which came from two-way star Braden Zarbinsky, who hit .339 and also served as the team’s closer. 

The West Virginia pitching staff was inconsistent this season, as only one Mountaineer (BJ Myers) made at least 10 starts.

4. UMBC (23-23, 11-9 America East)

The UMBC Retrievers took home their first American East Title this year, coming in as the two seed. They finished the regular season just 3-6, so their run in the tournament was a little unexpected, although before that, they won five straight ball games. The Retrievers are another team that played Maryland in the regular season that fell victim to a Terps’ comeback. Maryland trailed 2-1 late, but scored four in the sixth, and won 6-2. Andrew Casali, who led the Retrievers in at bats, hits, average, steals, and triples, recorded two of the six UMBC hits against Maryland. Hunter Dolshon went yard that day for one of his nine home runs. Dolshon, the senior backstop, finished with ⅓ of UMBC’s 27 longballs. The Retrievers had seven starters this year, all of which finished the year with an ERA above five. Their team ERA was 5.60, good for 215th in the nation.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

FRI 2 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Brian Shaffer (7-3, 2.18 ERA) vs. Fr. Alek Manoah (1-1, 3.10 ERA)

WBVSTCBBLFRKCIX.201409242148581Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo   vs.    Manoah

As in every series opener this season, Brian Shaffer will take the ball for the Terps on Friday. The junior right-hander had a rare hiccup in his lone start in the Big Ten Tournament. He gave up six runs in the first three innings, but was able to make it through 6.1 innings, allowing seven earned runs total. Shaffer is still in the top 50 in the country in ERA and strikeouts, at 2.18 and 102 respectively, and has been a workhorse all year long, throwing a Big Ten-leading 103.1 innings. He recently was named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award. 

Alek Manoah will take the hill for the Mountaineers on Friday. Manoah is just a freshman, but has one of the lowest ERA’s on the team, 3.10. His downfall this year has been walks though, as his BB/9 is 5.53. His last appearance was in a wild Big 12 Tournament game against Texas Tech. Manoah threw 4.2 innings, let up 4 ER, and walked five, in a game eventually won by WVU 12-7. Manoah leads to the team in wild pitches, and has more than double as many hit batsmen as any other Mountaineer.