COLUMBIA, S.C. – Junior Bobby Ruse pumped his fist and was met by catcher Kevin Martir as the Maryland bench cleared and joined the two in celebration just in front of the pitcher’s mound as the Terps clinched the program’s first ever regional title and advanced to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday night with a 10-1 victory over South Carolina at Carolina Stadium in the Columbia Regional final.
Entering the weekend, Maryland (39-21) had only one win in three all-time NCAA Tournament appearances. But in Columbia, the Terps completed a three-game sweep of the regional dispatching of the top-seeded Gamecocks (44-18) on consecutive nights and eliminating Carolina from a home regional for the first time since 1976.
"Obviously, this is a pretty incredible night for our program, our athletic department, and I think the state of Maryland in general,” said head coach John Szefc. “I am very, very happy for our coaching staff and our players. These guys work very, very hard to get to this point.
“We have some tough kids. Over the last 40 percent of the season, they have showed some things that I have rarely seen in college baseball in 24 years. They are very mentally tough, very driven kids. Also, guys that can perform on a high level under some duress.”
Clutch pitching and timely hitting highlighted Maryland’s win. The Terrapin pitching staff stranded 10 Gamecocks as South Carolina was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and 2-for-15 with runners on base.
Tayler Stiles, who earned the win, entered in the fourth with runners at the corners and two outs and got Marcus Mooney to fly out to center. Ruse entered in the sixth in the same situation and got Mooney to fly out to right.
Shortstop Blake Schmit provided a timely two-out, run-scoring single in the fourth to give the Terps a 2-1. Anthony Papio delivered a two-out RBI in the sixth to give the Terps a 4-1 advantage. Maryland did not look back and pulled away with a four-run ninth to seal the win.
“”I got down early 0-2,” said Schmit. “I was just trying to put the ball in play and make them make a play. He left a slider over the plate and I got enough barrel on it to get through the left side of the infield. That was probably one of the big turning points of the game right there.”
The Gamecocks struck in the first inning on a run-scoring double by Kyle Martin. Mooney reached on a leadoff single. With two outs in the inning and Martin at the plate, South Carolina put the hit-and-run on and Martin dumped a 3-2 pitch into left center. Schmit’s relay throw home was just late and Mooney slid past the tag of Martir for the opening run of the game.
Maryland grabbed the lead in the fourth thanks to a clutch two-out single by Schmit. Charlie White led off the frame with a single to right and moved up 90 feet on a LaMonte Wade walk. A wild pitch put both runners in scoring position, but South Carolina starter Joel Seddon got Brandon Lowe to line out to second and struck out Jose Cuas looking.
Schmit came through for the Terps and put them in front by two. The senior shortstop pulled a 0-2 pitch and got it through the left side of the infield to score White and Wade.
The Terps added a run in the fifth. Three consecutive singles by Anthony Papio, Martir and White loaded the bases. Wade brought the third run home on a grounder to second.
In the sixth, Maryland increased its advantage to four courtesy of another two-out hit. Papio came through with the big knock. With Schmit at second, Papio drove the ball through the right side of the infield to plate Schmit. After a Martir walk loaded the bases, White took a pitch off his arm to force home another run.
Maryland went up by five in the seventh. With runners at second and third, Lowe came home to score on a wild pitch. The Terps tacked on four insurance runs in the ninth.
Maryland is now 14-2 in the month of May and will head to Charlottesville next weekend for the Super Regional round. Times and dates to be determined.
The Terps had five players named to the Columbia All-Regional team led by White, who took home Most Outstanding Player honors. White was joined by Martir (Catcher), Wade (First base), Cuas (Third base) and Mike Shawaryn (Pitcher).