More than three hours into a seven-hour bus ride home Monday afternoon, Maryland freshman pitcher Mike Shawaryn still struggled to put the weekend into perspective.
On Friday, in the first game of the NCAA tournament’s Columbia, S.C., Regional, the Terrapins needed Old Dominion to hit two consecutive batters in the ninth inning just to pull off an improbable win. On Saturday, with Shawaryn on the mound, they snapped top-seeded South Carolina’s 28-game home winning streak in the postseason. By Sunday, they had made program history in convincing fashion — a 10-1 victory over the Gamecocks helped them advance to the super regionals for the first time.
“In theory, it should have been harder.” Shawaryn said. “For a lot of us, it’s been almost surreal. We understand what we’ve done, but we have these moments where we sit back and go, ‘Wow. We just did this.’ ”
Maryland, making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1971, shocked college baseball with its 3-0 surge this past weekend. The Terrapins (39-21) are just two wins from the College World Series entering a best-of-three super regional series at Virginia this weekend, and it all seemed to come together in a month.
When May arrived, the Terrapins were 9-14 in ACC play after a sweep at Boston College and on the verge of another unremarkable season. After a nonconference loss to James Madison on April 29, they have reeled off 14 wins in 16 games.
Looking back, Coach John Szefc said he first got an inkling a turnaround was possible when his team swept Notre Dame and came back from a three-run deficit to defeat Towson following its disastrous weekend outside Boston.
“That gave us hope,” he said.
The next sign came during a rain delay in Maryland’s final ACC series of the season at Pittsburgh. Szefc worried his players might be having too much fun, sliding around the outfield in the elements before creating “a makeshift rock band” to pass the time. Instead, the Terrapins completed a three-game sweep.
“Maybe something out of the ordinary is going on here,” he told his coaching staff.
Maryland then began the ACC tournament with wins over the Cavaliers and Florida State, both conference juggernauts, setting the stage for a regional that officially turned this season into a historic one. Twenty minutes after it was over, Szefc was overwhelmed to see his cell phone already had 78 congratulatory text messages.
“They don’t normally end like that, especially against a powerhouse at their own park, but I don’t think there’s a sense of we’ve reached our end goal,” Szefc said. “I think they feel a great sense of accomplishment, but there’s not a sense of finality either.”