Wednesday, June 4, 2014
series preview: Maryland
Date/Time: Sat-Mon, June 7-9; 12:00, 12:00, 4:00
(Monday game is if necessary)
Record against the Terps: 109-79-1
Last meeting: Md. 7, UVA 6; 5/22/14, Greensboro, NC (ACC tournament)
UVA won Charlottesville regional (10-1 over Bucknell, 3-0 over Arkansas, 9-2 over Arkansas)
Maryland won Columbia regional (4-3 over ODU, 4-3 over South Carolina, 10-1 over South Carolina)
LHP Nathan Kirby (9-1, 1.36, 102 Ks) vs. RHP Jake Stinnett (7-6, 2.65, 130 Ks)
LHP Brandon Waddell (8-3, 2.73, 63 Ks) vs. RHP Mike Shawaryn (11-3, 2.81, 70 Ks)
RHP Artie Lewicki (6-1, 1.72, 46 Ks) vs. LHP Jake Drossner (4-1, 2.45, 55 Ks)
(These are my own guesses; neither school has put them out there yet.)
Regional weekend was full of carnage this year. Should make for an interesting College World Series. Three of eight national seeds advanced and only seven of 16 regional hosts. Only one super-regional pits regional hosts against each other, and two will be hosted by teams that didn't have their own regional. The big winner: the Big 12, which sent five teams to the tournament and watched four of them win regionals. The ACC was only 2 for 7 in that regard; the Pac-12, 1 for 5; and the SEC, a miserable 2 for 10. Even the Big Ten was having a terrific year by its standards until regional play began; two teams represented the conference, one as a host and one as a two-seed, and both lost.
On Vengeance Tour '14, UVA got its first taste of sweet revenge by blowing Arkansas out of the water. South Carolina would've been up next, but Maryland had other ideas, which is OK because the Hoos can simply refocus their revenge efforts on more recent events. More interestingly, the Sunday contest will be the very last time a Maryland team takes the field (or court, or whatever) with the ACC logo on their chest. (Or Monday.)
(Of course, with UC-Irvine and Ole Miss still in the field, if UVA makes it to Omaha we'll have to hope for a real quick end to Vengeance Tour '14, or rename it the Continued Dominance Tour or something. Could you imagine if both UVA and Irvine made it to the final of finals in Omaha? That'd be a really fascinating matchup.)
Then again, I forget myself. Maryland first. They're having a historically fantastic season, and while they shouldn't be quite on UVA's level, it's baseball and anything can happen. You get to this level, you take them all seriously. And in this case, winning would be awesome but losing would be even worse than winning would be good. Here's the deal with the Terps:
-- First base: LaMonte Wade (.259-2-24). 2nd hitter. Main asset at the plate is a very good batting eye; leads team in walks with 35. Has a little bit of pop but sometimes struggles to make contact and strikes out a little bit more than you want from a 2 hitter.
-- Second base: Brandon Lowe (.341-1-39). 3rd hitter. Redshirt freshman hits for a lot of contact; leads team in average (.341) and slugging average (.467) despite only one home run. Very tough out; 33 walks against just 18 strikeouts.
-- Third base: Jose Cuas (.266-5-42). Cleanup hitter. Horrible strikeout-to-walk ratio (45 Ks, 14 BBs) but the ball flies off his bat when he gets ahold of it. Solid fielder for a college third baseman.
-- Shortstop: Blake Schmit (.307-1-26). 5th hitter. Low numbers in homers, walks, and Ks, so kind of an anti-Rob Deer. Leads the team in doubles with 16. Excellent fielder and a bit of a speedster on the basepaths (16 steals.)
-- Left field: Tim Lewis (.292-0-13). 6th hitter. Juco transfer who hit his way into the lineup midseason. Solid hitter who isn't outstanding at anything in particular but gets the job done.
-- Center field: Charlie White (.276-2-28). Leadoff hitter. Speedster with 24 stolen bases in 28 attempts and has been plunked by 18 pitches, tied for second with Schmit. (Maryland has a particular talent for that, having been HBP no fewer than 122 times - more than twice per game.) Very difficult to strike out.
-- Right field: Anthony Papio (.267-2-26). 8th hitter. Outplayed early-season competition to lock down right field job. Decent average, but a strikeout machine with nearly 50. Not much power.
-- Catcher: Kevin Martir (.276-4-25). 9th hitter. Swings a lot, but not an easy strikeout, and is second on the team in home runs.
-- Designated hitter: Nick Cieri (.250-0-17). 7th hitter. Numbers aren't great, but, only true freshman in regular starting lineup. Left-hander who sometimes gives way to senior Kyle Convissar (.250-1-15).
-- Pitching staff:
Saturday: RHP Jake Stinnett (7-6, 2.65, 130 Ks). Drafted last year as a junior in the 29th round (Pirates) but opted to return to school for a senior year. Big pitcher described as "crafty but a righty" by Big League Futures. Throws a 90-ish fastball, change, and a slider. Opposing batters are hitting .192. Only Maryland starter UVA has seen this year; Stinnett struck out 10 in 8 innings but gave up 10 hits and Hoos scored four runs. Has four complete games this year.
Sunday: RHP Mike Shawaryn (11-3, 2.81, 70 Ks). Freshman drafted out of high school in the 32nd round (Royals) but chose college. Similar-sized pitcher to Stinnett, but a harder thrower with somewhat less control. Generally pitches only into the 6th inning.
Monday: LHP Jake Drossner (4-1, 2.45, 55 Ks). Sophomore was a 23rd-round pick by the Cubs out of high school. Rocky freshman year but settled down this season; still walks too many hitters. Has nearly as many walks as Stinnett in half the innings. Tends to only go about five innings per start.
-- Bullpen: Closer Kevin Mooney (1-2, 4.05, 45 Ks) has 12 saves, but they've been adventurous. He nearly blew the save against UVA, coming in to protect a 7-4 lead and giving up two runs. Mooney gets a ton of strikeouts, however. RHP Bobby Ruse (7-2, 2.86, 32 Ks) is the top long-relief option, and lefty Zach Morris (2-1, 2.77, 19 Ks) can also pitch in long relief and is an outside possibility to take the start on Monday. Morris's K/BB ratio is underwater, though, and he allows a .257 BA. By contrast, southpaw Ben Brewster (0-0, 2.74, 28 Ks) allows a miniscule .132 BA. Other options such as Taylor Stiles (4-2, 4.15, 30 Ks) and Jared Price (1-2, 6.91, 31 Ks) exist, but after that top four the hittability goes way up.
-- Synopsis: Gone for now are the days when you could kick back on a nice Saturday and watch the Hoos score their customary 20 runs on Maryland. They have a real live pitching staff now, and a better lineup than Arkansas had. That's not saying a lot, really, but while Maryland lacks a truly fearsome bat, they also lack any large weak points, and can pinch-hit some very experienced players if they want.
UVA is the better team on paper, there's no doubt. Maryland's lineup is respectable; UVA's is better even with numbers that've caused hand-wringing for underperformance. Maryland has good pitching and they held a tough South Carolina lineup in check; UVA's is better yet. And a similar situation exists in the bullpen. It's important to remember, too, that in the loss, UVA threw its third-best pitcher while Maryland had their ace. Jake Stinnett is a good pitcher worthy of the ace label, but.... man, Nathan Kirby.
I wouldn't be surprised to see this series go three games. Maryland is the kind of team that doesn't know they were supposed to stink, and they've been hot lately; since May began they're 14-2, with one of those two losses coming in a meaningless ACC tourney game when they had wrapped up the pool already. But - BOC spoke very highly of his team's performance and demeanor from last weekend, and UVA is 32-3 at home. You take a reasonably confident and loose team with as much talent as UVA has, put them at a home stadium where they almost never lose, and playing a team that doesn't quiiite measure up on paper, and that's a team that ought to at least be able to take two of three.
FYI - this is the last post til Monday. I'm getting on a plane tomorrow. Next week, I'll start the nomination series for the 6th annual FOV Cavalier of the Year, a series which I always enjoy. And with any luck we can intersperse more baseball previews and wutnot.