COLLEGE PARK-- University of Maryland baseball has gone 110-74 in their three full seasons as a member of the Big Ten Conference, finishing two of those seasons with the most wins and third-most wins in school history.
After spending 61 years in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Maryland joined the Big Ten Conference in July 2014 due to financial reasons, affecting game schedules and levels of competition for all of Maryland’s teams. Sports fans and analysts wondered how such a big change would affect the Terps’ performance in all sports.
After Maryland joined the Big Ten, a student group named “The Pride” officially launched. “The Pride” is made up of several specific student fan groups for the different sports at Maryland. The baseball team’s student fan section is called “The Backstop,” which has helped bring out more people to the games.
A student fan section at sporting events can encourage that team, as well as help bring out more fans.
In 2015, the first season playing in the Big Ten, Maryland finished with 42 wins, a school record. They also finished tied for third in the conference with a record of 14-10 in conference play.
The 2016 season was their worst since joining the Big Ten, but they still posted a winning record of 30-27, going 13-11 in Big Ten play. This was good enough for a tie for sixth place in the conference, but the Terps did not make the postseason.
In 2017, the third season playing in the Big Ten, Maryland finished with 38 wins, the third most in school history. They also finished tied for fourth in the conference with a record of 15-9 in conference play.
As the line graph above shows, Maryland baseball eclipsed 30 wins in only four out of the last 10 years they played in the ACC. They have already reached 30 wins in each of their first three full seasons in the Big Ten.
Along with the school record 42 wins in the 2015 season, Maryland also went to the NCAA tournament, reaching the super regionals (round of 16) and finishing the year ranked 14th in the country. They also went to the NCAA Tournament again in 2017 but lost in the regionals (round of 64).
When a school moves to a new conference, it is a possibility that the team struggles in the first year or two, as they adjust to playing against new competition. This wasn’t the case for Maryland. One of the contributing factors to the immediate success in the Big Ten could have been that they played in the ACC, another conference that usually produces many good teams, year in and year out.
For example, in 2014, Maryland’s last season in the ACC, seven teams from the ACC, including Maryland, made the NCAA tournament. One of those teams, the University of Virginia, made the College World Series Championship, but lost.
It’s safe to say that Maryland was used to playing a high level of competition which better prepared them to play teams in the Big Ten.
Any good team has to have a solid core of players and certain position players have more of an impact on the team.
In Maryland’s case, the shortstop was a key contributor to all three teams that Maryland has had since they joined the Big Ten.
Shortstops are often called the captain of the infield because they are the ones who give signals to other infielders about how to position themselves. Shortstops also take charge on balls hit in the air as well as communicate with the other infielders.
Shortstops are involved in almost every play, even if the ball isn’t hit to them. They usually possess good range when moving to field the ball and a strong throwing arm. It is arguably the most valuable defensive position in the infield, if not the entire field.
Another common characteristic of shortstops is that they are some of the less-imposing hitters in a lineup, in terms of power. However, shortstops who have the capability of being strong fielders and hitters can prove to be the most valuable player to a team.
In 2015, shortstop Jose Cuas led the Terps in homeruns and runs batted in (RBIs). In 2016, shortstop Kevin Smith was second on the team in homeruns and RBIs. He then led the team in homeruns and RBIs in 2017.
As seen from the chart above, in Maryland's first three years in the Big Ten, shortstops for the Terps were the team leaders in both homeruns and RBIs, contradicting the fact that shortstops are usually some of the less imposing hitters in the lineup.
Maryland has been toward the top of the Big Ten in homeruns and RBIs all three years. From 2015-2017 in order, Maryland was ranked second, fourth and third in homeruns, while they were ranked third, sixth and tied for third in RBIs.
Certain players’ individual performance, as seen from Maryland’s case, can have a direct correlation to the team’s overall performance.
It has been encouraging to see the Terps success in baseball since joining the Big Ten, mirroring some of the other Terp teams’ performance in their respective sports, as Maryland has won a league-best 25 regular season and tournament titles over their three-year span in the Big Ten.
Time will tell as to how the Terps will perform in the coming years, and if they can keep up their level of play as they have in their first few years.
Copyright © 2018 Chris Tulp - All Rights Reserved.