June 7, 2014


Terps Strike First

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Seldom is one play the direct cause for a win or loss in baseball, especially when that play comes in the first inning.


But one play clearly loomed large as Maryland held on to beat Virginia 5-4 Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 5,001 at the Charlottesville Super Regional at steamy Davenport Field, leaving the Terrapins one win from their first trip to the College World Series.


With the bases loaded and one out in a 1-1 game in the bottom of the first, Virginia’s Kenny Towns laced a line drive destined for extra bases to the right-center gap. Maryland center fielder Charlie White, who went 3 for 5 with two runs and led off the game with a double and scored the game’s first run, raced to his left and made a tremendous diving catch as the ball whispered the grass blades. The Cavaliers’ Mike Papi got caught in no man’s land off third base as the catch was made and hesitated before racing back to the bag to tag as White fired the ball to shortstop Blake Schmit near second. Schmit then wheeled and fired home in time to nail Papi at the plate to end the inning with the score tied at 1.


“That catch is as good as hitting a double with the bases loaded,” Maryland coach John Szefc said. “That took runs off the board.”


Papi, for his part, said he thought he left the bag early, so he said he returned to the bag to tag again.


“It’s tough to judge a 27-out game by just one play,” he said. “Baseball is a game of momentum. That play took a little bit of momentum away from us.”


Countered Terrapins starter Jake Stinnett (8-6): “That was absolutely huge. That could have turned into a nightmare of an inning.”


Stinnett, who tossed a no-hitter against Massachusetts early this season, was on the ropes at the outset. He walked Daniel Pinero before Papi (3 for 3, run, RBI) laced a hit-and-run single to the gap to put runners on the corners. Stinnett then got two strikes on lefty Joe McCarthy but hit him in the leg with a slider to load the bases. He had two strikes on lefty Derek Fisher and drilled him in the leg with a slider to force in Pinero and tie the game at 1.


White, a junior from Naperville, Ill., who was selected by the hometown Chicago Cubs in the 21st round of the Major League Draft Saturday, then saved the inning, and perhaps the day.


“That inning, that was Charlie White’s inning,” Szefc said before adding, “It was just a great, great defensive play.”


Virginia (47-14) claimed a 2-1 lead but would spend most of the lengthy three-hour, 41-minuate affair with ACC rival Maryland (40-21) playing catch-up.


With two outs in the third, Papi singled and stole second, moving to third on a wild throw from catcher Kevin Martir. After a walk to McCarthy, Fisher hit a hard grounder that third baseman Jose Cuas saved from extra bases by diving to his right and picking clean, but his throw to first short-hopped LaMonte Wade to allow Papi to score. Towns followed with a hard shot that was caught in right, starting an unwelcome trend that would see Virginia leave 14 runners on base.


“We had a lot of innings where we scored a run and had more runners on and guys squared the ball up,” Cavaliers coach Brian O’Connor said.


Added Papi: “We got a lot of traffic on the bases today… but we couldn’t come up with that big two-out hit.”


The Terps, on the other hand, gave Virginia starter Nathan Kirby (9-2) fits.


Cuas had the first of two up-the-middle singles with one out in the fourth, and Schmit followed with a double. Tim Lewis singled in Cuas, and Kyle Convissar, who had a 16-pitch at-bat his first time up, safety squeezed Schmit in for a 3-2 lead. Anthony Papio added an RBI double to the left-field corner to cap the three-run frame.


One inning later, Brandon Lowe hit a sacrifice fly – a slick, sliding catch in right by McCarthy – to score White, who had single, for a 5-2 lead. In the process, Maryland chased Kirby, the ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year with Miami’s Chris Diaz, touching him up for seven hits and five earned runs in 4.2 innings – Kirby entered with a 1.36 ERA and hadn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his previous 15 starts.


O’Connor called Maryland’s approach against Kirby the best he’s seen all year, and Kirby, who struggled with command on his secondary pitches, said the Terps we hitting the pitches he wasn’t making.


“He just didn’t look sharp to me out there,” O’Connor said. “Usually his velocity is a little better, usually that breaking ball is down a little bit more…when he made pitches that were up in the zone, they capitalized on it.”


“I think it was just their day to hit,” the sophomore lefty said.


Virginia scrapped back, thanks in part to reliever Whit Mayberry keeping Maryland in check with 4.1 scoreless innings with six strikeouts. Brandon Downes (2 for 4) doubled for the second time and scored on Branden Cogswell’s single in the sixth. In the eighth, the Cavaliers put together a two-out rally, with Papi singling in Cogswell to make it 5-4. Kevin Mooney came on to retire McCarthy, who lined out hard to right.


In the ninth, Virginia again put two runners on with two outs, but Mooney retired Robbie Coman on a fly out to right for his 13th save.



  •       Terrapins designated hitter Kyle Convissar had a 16-pitch at-bat that resulted in a walk in the second inning. He fouled off 10 pitches with two strikes. Said Cavaliers starter Nathan Kirby: “I made two bad pitches in the at-bat, I also made 14 good ones.”

  •      This is the fifth Super Regional for Virginia in the past six years. Virginia lost the first game at Ole Miss in 2009 before rallying for two straight wins. The Cavaliers lost the first game to Mississippi State in Charlottesville last year, eventually losing in two games. This is Maryland’s first Super Regional appearance.

  •       Terrapins second baseman Brandon Lowe made one diving play to his left and nearly made another in the fifth on a shot by Joe McCarthy. And Terps shortstop Blake Schmit ranged wide to his left, fielding a ball and throwing across his body (and getting a little help with a pick at first from Wade) to get Nate Irving in the second inning.

  •       Quotables

o        “I just got a good read on it, good bead on it.” – Maryland centerfielder Charlie White on his diving catch in the first.

o        “He made a pretty fantastic play on it, full-out diving.” – Virginia first baseman Mike Papi on White’s catch.

o        “As a team, we’re really good at moving past things and moving on to the next day.” – Papi.

o        “We’ve got plenty of pitching to do this thing.” – Virginia coach Brian O’Connor.

o        “Looking at Maryland, there’s a calm confidence to them.” O’Connor.

o        “He’s the classic bend-but-don’t break closer.” – Maryland coach John Szefc on Kevin Mooney.

o        “I know our players and coaching staff are very proud of that.” – Szefc on Maryland reaching 40 wins.

o        “I just had a little bit of trouble finding the zone.” – Maryland starter Jake Stinnett on his rough first inning.