By Karen Tang
After getting an unprecedented taste of national success last year, Maryland baseball agonizingly had their season cut short, losing a three-game series against Virginia in the team’s first ever appearance in the Super Regionals of the NCAA tournament.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t think about it probably everyday,” Anthony Papio, redshirt junior outfielder said. “I never want to feel that way again so we’re going to do whatever we can to not let that happen again.”
Last season, the Terps qualified for the NCAA tournament and won the Columbia Regional, the first regional victory in school history, and made their debut appearance at a Super Regional. The team travelled to Charlottesville, Virginia to take on No. 3 Virginia at Davenport Field, but fell one game short from making it to the College World Series, historically hosted in Omaha, Nebraska.
“[Omaha] is the promised land of college baseball,” redshirt sophomore infielder Brandon Lowe said.
This year is the highest the baseball team has been ranked in the preseason predictions. Various polls have the Terps ranked within the top-20.
“Coming off of last year, we have a lot of momentum,” Papio, said. “We’re coming off our best year in school history.”
“We will no longer be looked at as the so called underdog,” Matt Swope, director of baseball operations, said. “We have some heightened expectations which are good for the program.”
This year, the Terps plan to make school history and be the first Maryland baseball team to qualify to Omaha.
“Our team goals are to make it to Omaha and win a Big Ten Championship,” sophomore pitcher Mike Shawaryn said.
“I think we are talented enough … to compete for a national championship this year, but right now we are focused on preparing for each regular season game,” noted Papio. “But setting the long-term goals gives us a sense of direction and what we are working towards at the end of the year.”
Later in the season the Terps will play against Michigan in late-March for the first time since former Terps coach Erik Bakich resigned and took the position as Michigan’s head baseball coach.
“It’s going to be fun to go off and play against Michigan,” Papio said. “We get to go there so I’m pretty pumped about that.”
Another team the Terps will play against is Cal State Fullerton, a powerhouse college baseball program that several preseason polls have ranked above Maryland.
“I’m interested to see Cal State Fullerton come in here,” Swope said. “They have two of the top pitchers in the country that could be first-round draft picks. Hopefully [the game against Cal State Fullerton] will raise the awareness of Maryland baseball as a whole.”
The three-game series with the CSUF Titans will take place in College Park from April 17 to April 19.
“A lot of people were iffy like is Maryland really that good or was last year a fluke,” Lowe said. “They trademarked that series [with Cal State Fullerton] to be like this is where you can really find out.”
The Terps lost memorable seniors, such as Jake Stinnett, Charlie White and Blake Schmit last year, however Swope seems confident with the depth and talent of this year’s team.
“We have a group of leaders coming back from last year with some big time game experience and … an influx of talent with the freshmen this year,” Swope said.
The Terps have honorable players to look out for. In the 2014 season, Mike Shawayrn and Brandon Lowe were named Freshman All- American. Lowe was also named Preseason All-American for 2015.
“It’s nice to see the honor … but you’re not going to get that without your teammates behind you,” Lowe said.
Maryland baseball hopes to piggyback off their great season last year and continue to surprise people with their success.