There’s a lot of similarities between the 2014 and 2015 Charlottesville Super Regional round. For one, it’s a rematch of last of last year’s opponents, Maryland and Virginia. Second, both teams started off highly ranked, and to some extent didn’t live up to pre-season expectations. In all fairness, the two teams sffered injuries to key hitters as well as a weekend starter on both teams. Finally, as a result of their respective body of work Maryland and Virginia were both given #3 seeds in the Regional round and sent off to the west coast.
However, the make-up of the Terps and Cavaliers are quite different from last year’s teams. Maryland lost Jake Stinnett, Blake Schmit, and Charlie White to the draft. This year’s team has less speed, but possesses better power than last year. There are two solid starters (Mike Shawaryn, Brian Shaffer) and two other pitchers that can be counted on for significant innings (Ryan Selmer, Taylor Bloom). Last year Maryland’s post-season rotation was Stinnett, Shawaryn, and finger crossing. Virginia lost Nick Howard and Artie Lewicki to the draft, as well as the heart and soul of their team, Mike Papi. This year, injuries to Joe McCarthy’s and John La Prise have taken a toll on Virginia’s offense. Perhaps the most devastating injury was a severe muscle strain that Nathan Kirby, the Cavaliers’ ace, suffered in late April. The cupboard wasn’t bare though, as Virginia had some talent returning as well as highly acclaimed freshmen coming aboard.
Last year the talent gap between the two teams favored the Cavaliers, although Maryland gave Virginia all they could handle in the Super Regional. The Cavaliers eventually were runners-up in the College World Series. This year the two teams are almost equal, with Maryland perhaps holding a slight edge due to the depth of their bullpen. A lot will depend on whether or not Brian Shaffer is good to go this weekend. But the biggest unknown concerns Nathan Kirby’s potential availability, and if he’s ready, how effective will he be?
Players to watch: Maryland
LaMonte Wade has been tremendous of late, showing signs of being a five-tool player. Kevin Martir is on fire at the plate, and freshman Kevin Smith has been consistently clutch all year. On the bump, the Terps have first-team All-American Mike Shawaryn as their ace. The sophomore doesn’t just throw hard, but is as mentally tough as they come. It helps that his slider can make opposing batters look foolish. In the bullpen, closer Kevin Mooney saved all three of the Terps’ wins in the B1G Tournament as well as the L.A. Regional. If his curve ball is on he’s as good as they come.
Players to watch: Virginia
Catcher/1B Matt Thaiss has gone from being a role player in 2014 to this year’s top hitter. Shortstop Daniel Pinero plagued Maryland in last year’s Super Regional. He’s upped his offensive numbers in almost all categories, and could be a thorn in Maryland’s side. Senior third baseman Kenny Towns has been a steady hitter. A nice surprise is freshman left fielder Pavin Smith, whose bat has helped pick up some of the offense lost due to injuries to key players. Josh Sborz has 14 saves and shut out the Terps through seven innings in game three of the 2014 Super Regional.
All in all, this shapes up to be a very competitive Super Regional.