For the first time since 2017, Maryland (28-16) is in the NCAA Tournament thanks in part to a late-season 20-5 stretch from March 29 to May 21 to set the best 25-game stretch in program history. The Terps won seven straight series wins to end the season and finish second in the Big Ten standings.
Maryland is slated as the No. 3 seed in the Greenville Regional which features the host No. 1 seed East Carolina, the No. 2 seed Charlotte and No. 4 seed Norfolk State.
Helping lead Maryland back to the NCAA Tournament was the top three guys in their lineup all earning Big Ten honors. Shortstop and Big Ten home run leader Ben Cowles was named First-team All-Big Ten. Center Fielder Chris Alleyne was named to the Second-team All-Big Ten and Second Baseman Matt Shaw was an at-large on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team.
Pitching wise, Jason Savacool was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team, and Ryan Ramsey out of the bullpen was named Second-team All-Big Ten.
Luke Shliger was also named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team.
Maryland enters the postseason being ranked No. 24 in the D1 Baseball top-25. This weekend will also feature the first time all season Maryland faces a non Big Ten opponent.
Maryland owns an all-time record of 8-9 in the NCAA Tournament with its best performances being back-to-back super regional appearances in 2014 and 2015. In its last appearance in 2017, Maryland went 1-2 and did not make it out of the opening round.
Being four years since their last appearance, Maryland does not have much NCAA Tournament experience on the roster. Only two players remain from that 2017 team, pitcher Tyler Blohm, who’s battled injuries all year, and Elliot Zoellner, a key part of the Maryland bullpen.
This is Rob Vaughn’s first NCAA Tournament as a head coach but he is not a stranger to the big stage here as he was a part of the staff under previous head coach John Szefc during the 2014, 2015 and 2017 NCAA Tournament appearances. Vaughn also made it as a player in 2009 for Kansas State and 2011 as an assistant coach.
Maryland will face Charlotte for the first time ever in program history at 6:00 P.M. Friday from Clark-LeClair Stadium with Jason Savacool taking the mound. In a double elimination format a win would send them to the winners bracket Saturday against the winner of East Carolina/Norfolk State matchup which is at noon Friday. A loss would mean they play the loser of that matchup also on Saturday with their season being on the line.
Charlotte 49ers (39-19)
Charlotte’s season was cut short after 17 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the 49ers with a 9-8 record. Their biggest win was against No. 8 NC State but they were also swept by No. 22 East Carolina.
Charlotte won the Conference-USA regular-season championship and was ranked throughout the season and was in the host discussion for the NCAA Tournament but settled for the No. 2 seed in the Greenville Regional after being bounced from the Conference-USA tournament.
Hitters to watch
Charlotte’s lineup is well-balanced across the board but is led by third baseman Austin Knight and first baseman LuJames Groover III. Knight has a .351 batting average, a 1.024 OPS and a team-high 61 RBI on the season. Groover III sits just behind in batting average with a .350 average. Groover III also has a .880 OPS and 34 RBI on the season.
Pitchers to watch
Starting pitching-wise Charlotte is led by Andrew Lindsey who will get the start Friday against Maryland. Lindsey has a 6-1 record, a 4.64 ERA in 77 2/3 innings pitched this season. Bryce McGowan is the second guy to watch for with a 7-4 record and a 4.62 ERA in 78 innings pitched this season. Out of the bullpen, Christian Lothes has a 2.72 ERA and a 4-0 record in 20 appearances and one game started as well.
East Carolina Pirates (41-15)
East Carolina’s season was cut short after 17 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the Pirates with a 13-4 record. While they did not play any ranked teams they did sweep Charlotte but did lose to Indiana and Ole Miss.
East Carolina is one of college baseball’s biggest powerhouses getting the No. 13 national seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Pirates won the regular season AAC title but lost in the semifinals of the AAC conference tournament to UCF. However, on paper this is a team capable of making a deep run into the tournament ranking among the national leaders in nine different categories such as in hits, sac bunts and K to BB ratio.
Hitters to watch
Where do we start with a dangerous team like this? What about the AAC Conference Player of the Year and Second Team All-American Connor Norby who has a .424 batting average, a 1.173 OPS, 51 RBI on the season and at one point set the school record with a 56-game on-base streak going back to 2020 that ended on May 21. Thomas Francisco is another name to watch with a .368 batting average, a .992 OPS and 44 RBI on the season. Josh Moylan also checks in with a .321 batting average, a .887 OPS and 32 RBI.
Pitchers to watch
AAC Pitcher of the Year and First-Team All-American Gavin Willams is the ace of the East Carolina pitching staff. Williams has a 1.32 ERA which is fourth in the NCAA, a 10-0 record, allowing 10 earned runs on the season while opponents only have a .176 batting average hitting off of him. Another starter to watch out for is Carson Whisenhunt who is 6-1 with a 3.52 ERA. Out of the bullpen, Cam Colmore is the name to watch. Colmore made 28 appearances with one start and posted a 1.74 ERA.
Norfolk State (25-26)
Even though it was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season was not kind to the Spartans finishing with a 3-13 record. They did get a win against Old Dominion but had losses against VCU and Kentucky.
Despite the under .500 record it has been a historic season for Norfolk State which is making its first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. They did it in dramatic fashion by winning the MEAC conference tournament in extra innings, 7-6, over North Carolina Central to earn an automatic bid.
Hitters to watch
Norfolk State is led by two-way player and MEAC Player of the Year Danny Hosley who has a .375 batting average, a .961 OPS and has 23 RBI on the season. First-team All-MEAC second baseman Aslander Womack is another name to watch with a .358 batting average, a .899 OPS and leads the team with 36 RBI. First-team All-MEAC outfielder Dionte Brown checks in with a .312 batting average, and a .790 OPS. He also leads the team in stolen bases with 19.
Pitchers to watch
Hosley is the name to watch on the Norfolk State staff making Second-team All-MEAC as a pitcher. Hosley posted a 2.95 ERA and leads the team with 79 strikeouts. Left handed pitcher and Third-team All-MEAC James Deloatch is another name to watch. Deloatch has a 2.58 ERA and a 7-2 record but gives up a lot of walks with 41 on the season, the most on the team. Out of the bullpen, Nolan Manzer has a 0.81 ERA and a 1-1 record in 13 appearances and 22 1/3 innings pitched.