June 7, 2014
Terps Strike First
By Sean Ryan
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
“That inning, that was Charlie White’s inning,”
Szefc said before adding, “It was just a great, great defensive
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
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.
“I just got a good
read on it, good bead on it.” – Maryland centerfielder Charlie
White on his diving catch in the first.
“He made a pretty
fantastic play on it, full-out diving.” – Virginia first baseman
Mike Papi on White’s catch.
“As a team, we’re
really good at moving past things and moving on to the next
day.” – Papi.
“We’ve got plenty
of pitching to do this thing.” – Virginia coach Brian O’Connor.
Maryland, there’s a calm confidence to them.” O’Connor.
“He’s the classic
bend-but-don’t break closer.” – Maryland coach John Szefc on
“I know our players
and coaching staff are very proud of that.” – Szefc on Maryland
reaching 40 wins.
“I just had a
little bit of trouble finding the zone.” – Maryland starter Jake
Stinnett on his rough first inning.