- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2014

It can be intimidating to go somewhere you’ve never gone before or to try something new, but for the University of Maryland baseball team it’s just another step in a season that has been full of new experiences.

After playing in their first NCAA tournament regional since 1971 and sweeping it in high style, the Terps are moving on to the school’s first ever super regional appearance. They will play a best-of-three series against Virginia beginning Saturday in Charlottesville, with a trip to the College World Series on the line.

“I mean, it’s awesome,” said senior shortstop Blake Schmit. “We’re kind of in rebuilding mode, you know, with our new coach coming in. But at the same time we’ve got an awesome ballclub here, we knew that coming in this fall.”

Schmit had an RBI single in the fourth inning of the Terps’ second game against South Carolina last weekend to put his team up 2-1. It turned out to be the run that sparked a 10-1 blowout win that clinched Maryland’s sweep of the Gamecocks at home.

“It’s an awesome environment down there and an awesome atmosphere,” said junior outfielder Charlie White. “They’re nationally known as a baseball powerhouse and we went down there and kind of took it to them.”

White played well enough over the weekend to earn the most outstanding player award for the Columbia Regional. The Terrapins have little time to enjoy their victories with a matchup against an ACC rival and national powerhouse, but coach John Szefc and his team are taking things one game at a time.

“I don’t really deal with what’s far ahead,” said Szefc. “We just kind of deal with what’s going to happen in the first inning. We’ve already played them [Virginia], our guys have already been on the field with them and kind of know what’s coming. I’m just not trying to put any undue pressure on our guys, there’s no need for it.”

Often a team under pressure performs poorly, something that Szefc seems to be very aware of. He has tried to eliminate as much pressure as possible, and after the Terps’ performance at the Columbia regional, they feel as if the burden has shifted to their opponents.

“There’s not a lot of pressure on us,” said Szefc. Those guys [Virginia] are ranked first in the country and they’re playing at home, so I think we’ll be good.”

Maryland played Virginia only once before in 2014, beating the Cavaliers 7-6 in the ACC tournament. That experience combined with beating a seasoned tournament team on the road in South Carolina have prepared the Terps well for this weekend’s matchup.

“Over the years we’ve been in environments like Virginia,” said White. “I played there my freshman and [redshirt] sophomore year and it’s a great environment, great atmosphere. But we’ve also had some tough non-conference opponents to open the year and as long as we’ve been in the ACC there’s been environments that are similar to Virginia so we’re well prepared for that.”

Despite their success in Columbia, however, the Terps are preparing for a tough battle against a Virginia team that beat Bucknell and swept Arkansas to win its own regional round.

“You’re not going to win a lot of 10-1 games in the postseason like we did on Sunday,” said Szefc. “That was kind of a really cool thing but that’s not usually going to happen in the postseason. If you look at most of the scores they’re 4-3 or 5-4 kind of deals and you’ve got to hang in there with those guys.”

Whatever happens in the super regional round the Terrapins have made history this season. But they’re ready to put these accomplishments behind them and play for the chance at another new experience: the College World Series.

“It was a good culmination of a lot of work that our staff’s put in I’ve never really had that before,” said Szefc. “You work your whole career for something like that and players prepare their whole careers for a night like that so it was a sense of fulfillment for a lot of players and coaches as well and also the mindset of where do we go from here? How do we enjoy this for about twelve hours and then start to look ahead?”