Coach Joe Duff remembers the last time his Navy baseball team participated in the NCAA baseball playoffs. The game was in 1982, on the road against Maine.
"We're leading, 1-0," Duff said yesterday, "and this guy hits a pop ball to right field and our right fielder drops it. You or I could have caught the ball."
Well, Duff went on, his pitcher then threw a curve ball into the dirt and past the catcher, a grounder went under his shortstop's legs and, later in the game, his second baseman booted a ball. And then there was the freshman who threw to the wrong base. Before Duff knew it, the Midshipmen were behind, 2-1.
Duff is hoping things will be different Thursday at noon, when Navy (30-8) meets Georgia Tech (42-21) in the Atlantic Regional in Coral Gables, Fla.
With Miami (42-15) -- the defending champion and sixth-ranked team -- South Carolina (42-21) and Alabama (41-18) also in the same region, the Midshipmen will have to be more than ready.
"I don't want to make a big deal over it," said Duff of the competition. "We have to do like we have all year. We can't get intimidated by reading about anybody. I'm concerned with our team.
"When you get that far, they're all good."
Duff believes the Midshipmen have every reason to expect to come out of the region on top.
Navy's starting pitchers -- senior Drew Tanner, senior David Landwehr, sophomore Steve Wieman and sophomore Todd Bibza -- have earned-run averages of 2.26 or lower. Tanner and Landwehr are the leaders and offer different styles. Tanner (9-2, 2.04, 76 strikeouts) has a "major league curveball" that he'll throw at any time. His record the past two years is 18-2, with a 1.87 ERA.
Landwehr (8-1, 2.26 ERA) is a fastball pitcher, as evidenced by his 79 strikeouts. Wieman, from Bowie High School, has a 6-0 record and a 0.94 ERA. Bibza (5-1, 1.81) has been the surprise of the staff.
The most amazing statistic is that, together, the four pitchers have struck out 224 batters and walked only 39.
In the regionals, the Midshipmen will be facing, in general, better hitting than they've seen in the Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League -- which includes the Ivy League schools and Army. But, Duff said, "Hopefully, our pitching will come through and keep things at a minimum."
And Navy has the ability to score runs. Center fielder Mike Shultz, batting .429, has good speed and leads the team in five offensive categories (46 runs, 60 hits, 11 doubles and 19 stolen bases). Senior second baseman Mike Leeney (.372) has 46 RBI, two shy of Andy Loferski's season record.
Georgia Tech, which received an automatic berth by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, has the pitchers to potentially make Thursday's game a low-scoring one.
Kevin Brown (11-5, 3.22), considered by major league scouts to be among the top five pitchers in the next draft, will start against Tanner. If Brown gets in trouble, the Yellow Jackets won't hesitate to bring in Keith Fleming or Jim Poole, who combined for 15 shutout innings in the ACC tournament.