- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2014

The last time the Maryland baseball team qualified for the NCAA tournament, Richard Nixon was president, the “Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” was premiering on CBS, and the White House had not yet been rocked by the Watergate scandal. The last time the Terps went to the postseason, current coach John Szefc was 4 years old.

The current batch of Terps is well aware of the postseason drought that had dragged on since 1971, but will be more concerned with the present and future when it takes the field Friday afternoon against Old Dominion in NCAA regional play in Columbia, South Carolina.

“This chance is just awesome,” said Maryland senior Blake Schmit. “This is what I expected us to do this year. Getting to the ACC tournament and going deep into that, making it to a regional as a two seed. I’m really happy for us right now. We’re a hot team and we’ll see where it goes from here.”

The Terrapins put together an impressive season, going 36-21 and breaking the program’s single-season win record. After going 1-6 in a tough stretch through late April they cleaned up their act and went 11-2 in May. That run put them in the ACC tournament championship game for the first time since 1976, and it was especially sweet considering the school is moving to the Big Ten next year.

“Words can’t explain how exciting it was to play in the ACC championship since it’s our last year in the conference,” said redshirt freshman Brandon Lowe, who leads the team with a .346 batting average. “It felt really good to leave on a high note and leave this Maryland team in the minds of the ACC who never really think about Maryland baseball.”

Maryland coach John Szefc argues a call at the plate during the start of the six-run eighth inning for North Carolina in an Atlantic Coast Conference college baseball tournament game in Greensboro, N.C., Saturday, May 24, 2014. North Carolina won 13-7. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
Maryland coach John Szefc argues a call at the plate during the ... more >

With Maryland changing conferences next season it may be time for the Big Ten to sit up and take notice. The Terrapins are only graduating six players this year and six in 2015. This means that barring players entering the draft as juniors, Maryland will have 23 of its players returning for at least the next two years.

“We’re obviously young and trying to mature ourselves to get to the level we want,” said sophomore pitcher Jake Drossner. “I think that this program really took a step forward this year and is going to take another really big step next year.”

Drossner is not least among the underclassmen who will make a difference for the Terrapins moving forward. The left-handed pitcher has a 2.45 ERA, the best among Maryland starters this season.

“We have good young players now and something like 14 new guys coming in next year,” said Szefc. “On any good team the life of your program is your recruiting, what you have coming in behind the good players that you have now and meshing them together. Good programs always have players waiting in the wings — good, hungry players.

“We [the coaching staff] have only been here for two years and normally it takes three or four years to get it right, so we’re really a work in progress to be honest.”

Clearly Szefc and his players are not comfortable sitting back on their laurels and resting on the success of the current season. Still, the importance of being a part of Maryland’s first NCAA appearance in four decades is not lost on the current staff and players.

“It’s unbelievable. I’m really speechless over it,” said Drossner. “Coming into this program we were kind of lowest on the totem pole in the ACC and we wanted to bring some spark back to Maryland.”

Added Szefc: “It’s very special, obviously. I know how special it is for the people who have been around this program for a long time. For me I get a good feeling seeing those people happy that span of years is over now. Now we can make this more of a regularity hopefully, as long as we have good players and keep our system running.”