Conference tournaments have come to a close, the field of 64 has been set, and
meaningful post-season baseball is ready to begin this weekend in the 2015 edition of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
The Rebel baseballers find themselves in Los Angeles regional paired with No. 1 overall seed, UCLA, the WAC champion, CSU Bakersfield and Maryland. The Rebels will face off with the Terrapins and their stud pitcher Mike Shawaryn at 6 p.m. CT on Friday.
I got up with Andrew Kramer of Testudo Times, who gave me his thoughts on the match up, predictions for this weekend's regional, and Maryland's interesting take on uniforms.
1. I'll start you off with a three-part question: John Szefc has been suspended for the first two games of the regional. What kind of impact, if at all, will that have on the Maryland baseball team? What naughty words did he say to the umpire that got him the boot? And finally, how do you say Szefc?
Andrew: His name is pronounced "chef." Easy to remember but hard to spell.
Coach Szefc has assembled a really good group of young, talented assistant coaches. I'm sure he and the coaches will strategize before and after each game. If Mike Shawaryn is pitching, then things can go on auto-pilot.
There was some cussing going on since the strike zone was quite low. Same stuff I say when I'm in gridlock traffic in the D.C. area. What got Szefc bounced was coming out of the dugout to talk with the hitter at the plate. The ump thought Szefc was going to argue calls again, so he tossed Szefc.
2. Besides Brandon Lowe (.342 avg, 9 hr, 52 rbi) and Kevin Matir (.330 avg, 7 hr, 42 rbi) who will the Rebel pitchers have to worry about the most in the Maryland lineup?
Andrew: Kevin Smith. The freshman shortstop has been hot the last month and is good in clutch situation.
Nick Cieri spent a month on the DL due to a fractured hamate bone in his hand. Now healed, he's a consistently good hitter. Same injury happened to LaMonte Wade. If Wade had enough at-bats he would be among the top 10 hitters in the B1G Conference. Jose Cuas and Anthony Papio both have long ball potential.
3 It's no secret that Mike Shawaryn is a dominating pitcher (12-2, 1.65 era, .202 b/avg). What will the scouting report say on him? Has anybody been able to get to him this season, and if so, how were they able to do it?
Andrew: Fastball in low to mid 90's, a plus slider, and an improving change. Except for an early season outing, Shawaryn has been pretty much shut down. One of his losses was a 1-0 game, and the other came on a a two-out error that lead to two runs. Opponents have to hope that one of his pitches isn't "on" that day, which happens infrequently.
4. Ole Miss has a fan base that is really locked into baseball (I'm sure you've seen/heard some of the antics that go on at Swayze Field). How important is the baseball program to Maryland fans? Has the transition to the B10 helped/hurt the way the fans support the program?
Andrew: I'm envious of the following your baseball program gets. Interest in Maryland baseball has been trending upwards, but isn't a fraction of what exists at Ole Miss. The major reason for that is the fact that Maryland has two large MLB teams that draw fan interest, the Orioles and the Nationals. Plus, baseball vies against lacrosse, which is huge at Maryland. The switch to the B10 hasn't helped or hurt fan support. If the team continues to do well, then the fans will slowly start to increase.
5. What are your predictions for the weekend? How does this regional shake out?
Andrew: I usually don't make predictions because 50 percent of the time they're wrong. However, I'll say this about Maryland's chances: if Brian Shaffer and Ryan Selmer (Game 2 and if applicable Game 3 starters) continue pitching like they have been the last two weeks, then Maryland has a legitimate shot of winning the regional.
6. I can't let you go without asking about Maryland's flag-themed football uniforms. Do the fans and players like them? When will be the baseball team be sporting unis that look like those?
Andrew: From what I've heard, the football players like them. The fans are split, but more and more are getting used to them. It would have helped if the team had done some winning coincident with the "Pride" unis, but the Terps went 2-10 in 2011. The "Pride" baseball unis aren't very attractive and the team rarely wears them. One cool aspect is that the baseball players wear high stirrup socks, and sometimes the "Pride" logo is on it. That's actually a good look.