Confidence, chemistry key in successful start to season for Terps

In their best start to a season since 2015, the Maryland Terrapin’s heads were held high after winning a closely-contested Sunday matinee versus the Rhode Island Rams.

While that 2015 squad was the last to make the NCAA tournament super regionals, the prospect of the Terps fully replicating that season doesn’t have head coach Rob Vaughn chomping at the bit.

“It’s so early,” said the third-year head coach las week, after a perfect 3-0 road trip to begin the season. “We sit here this weekend and we have a good weekend, the boys are on top of the world, they feel good, but you and I both know that this game can flip at the drop of a hat.”

Not one to jump to conclusions, Vaughn still saw the first weekend of the year as an early barometer for the remainder of the season, and Maryland outscoring opponents 23-6 in this three games, along with three stellar performances from the starting arms, certainly makes that barometer spike.

Before Maryland’s home opener versus Rhode Island this past weekend, Vaughn preached the importance of confidence to his team.

“He often says, ‘Do the right thing, it’ll pay you back,'” said senior pitcher Elliot Zoellner. “So we’re just trying to continue with that and head in with confidence into the weekend.”

Zoellner pitched once in the season-opening road trip a week ago, a perfect sixth inning to keep Charleston at bay, and this Sunday notched the final out in the top of the sixth to keep Rhode Island out of the run column.

While confidence has proven a vital tool for the young Maryland team in these first two weekends, this season’s squad has the most chemistry of any team in the past four years, according to Zoellner.

“We’ve bonded really well, the freshman class is great, all the transfers fit in really well,” said Zoellner. “The coaches have put together a really good culture over the past couple of years, and it’s great to be a part of.”

That sentiment of a strong team bond is felt by players across the board, including freshman Tucker Flint, who played a crucial role — hitting for a .545 average — in the Terps’ first three victories. Flint explained that the team’s chemistry has enabled some of the conficence Maryland has shown of late.

“I think everyone seems to know their role really well,” said Flint following opening weekend. “I think confidence-wise, having a great first weekend helps a lot. Going 3-0, it’s huge, and it makes us believe we can beat anybody going forward.”

While the Terps went only 2-1 in their second weekend — the loss being a near-comeback 11-8 slugfest — having a high level of confidence is crucial for such a young Maryland squad.

Sean Burke, a redshirt freshman who missed the 2019 season recovering from an injury, is an example of the innate power of confidence. The righty threw his second gem in as many starts Sunday versus Rhode Island, striking out eight batters over 5 1/3 scoreless innings en route to Maryland’s 3-0 victory.

“I’ve only been here for this year and last year, but I think this year our team obviously is very close,” Burke said last Wednesday. “We get along with each other really well off the field so I think that translates well on the field with us trusting each other and being confident in each other…I think everybody’s pretty confident.”

Maryland’s confidence will be put to the test on Tuesday, as the Terps play host to the George Mason Patriots in their first midweek matchup of the season. Last season Maryland went 9-4 in midweek matchups, a result the team hopes its confidence and chemistry — and abilities on both sides of the ball — will better this year.