When the NCAA Tournament field of 64 was announced, most Rebel fans groaned when they saw that the draw they received was in Los Angeles. Rightfully so since the host of the L.A. Regional is the No. 1 overall seed UCLA Bruins (42-14). Along with the Rebels (30-26) and the Bruins are the No. 4 seed California State Bakersfield Roadrunners (36-22-1) and the Rebel's Friday night opponent, No. 3 Maryland Terrapins (39-21).
The Road to Omaha Surviving and advancing begins as the Diamondbearz will do battle with the Fighting Under Armour Flagships.
Now, as we take a gander at Friday's opponent from College Park, Maryland, the Terrapins have a lot of things that scare you. Most of those things that scare you come from the Terps' ace, Mike Shawaryn. John Szefc's (lol have fun watching from a rooftop across the street) ace has been absolutely lights out for Maryland this season as he is 12-2 heading into tonight's matchup with a 1.65 microscopic ERA. Even more terrifying is the fact that he has struck out 107 batters and has only walked 31 in 103.1 innings pitched.
He will do battle with the Rebel bats tonight using a fastball that will top out in the low 90s, a powerful, frisbee-like slider and an improving change-up that has been keeping people off-balance and looking stupid all season. Shawaryn led the B1G in punch-outs and is no stranger to facing SEC opponents. Last season, Shawaryn faced the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Columbia, South Carolina Regional and went 6.1 innings, gave up five hits, struck out three and gave up three earned runs. But, he did earn the win, snapping South Carolina's 28-game home postseason winning streak and ultimately helped the Terps get to a Super Regional against Virginia (NEVER FORGET). All in all, Shawaryn is very good and it will be a very tough test for Ole Miss.
At the dish, Szefc's squad is lead by a third team All-American, sophomore second baseman Brandon Lowe. The young man from Suffolk, Va. is hitting .342 with nine home runs and 10 stolen bases. He's solid defensively up the middle and has become a leader for Maryland in his second year with the club. Lowe is also very disciplined at the plate as he walks more than he strikes out. Another bat to watch out for is the junior catcher from Brooklyn, N.Y., Jason Martir. The Terrapins' clean-up hitter cleans up very well as he's hitting .330 and has walloped 7 dingers (chump change in terms of #WHISKEYANDMEAT currency).
As far as tonight goes, Shawaryn is very, very good at throwing baseballs and it will be a tough code to crack for Mike Bianco's club, but like the homie Kevin Garnett said, "anything is possible". One thing the Rebs and Terps have in common: loooong road trip. Whoever comes out ready to play and draws first blood will have a really good shot at winning. The Rebs need to touch up Shawaryn early and often, be aggressive early in the count against his fastball and try to get into Maryland's bullpen. With vintage postseason Christian Trent on the hill and Sikes Orvis serving up some #WHISKEYANDMEAT with a side of southern hospitality, the Rebs could come out with a bang and funk up ERRBODY'S bracket.
How to watch
When: Friday, 6:00 p.m. CT
Maryland: RHP Mike Shawaryn (12-2, 1.65 ERA, 124 K, 23 BB)
Ole Miss: LHP Christian Trent (7-6, 3.70 ERA, 68 K 19 BB)