COLLEGE PARK, Maryland –The first pitch for Friday’s NCAA Tournament opener against Long Island was scheduled for 7 p.m. Coach Rob Vaughn arrived in his office in time to get ready, arriving around 8:30 a.m.
“I couldn’t sit at home because I would think about everything,” he said.
There was certainly a lot to think about on Friday. Maryland, for the very first time, hosted regionals. The Terrapins, having already set a program record for wins and won a conference title for the first time in 51 years, were chosen by the selection committee as one of 16 host sites for the first round of the NCAA tournament. . The Terrapins were ranked No. 15 overall and were set to host Wake Forest, Connecticut and Long Island at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.
These are heady times for the program. Friday would be the biggest moment yet for the Terrapins. In preparation for the NCAA Tournament, Maryland had added a set of bleachers beyond the left field fence, increasing The Bob’s capacity to 3,000 fans. On Wednesday, those tickets were all sold out for Friday night.
Terrapins fans like Vaughn got there early. A line to enter the stadium snaked down the street when Maryland came out for batting practice. A crush of hookers gathered around the corner. The 68-year-old stadium has seen many years. He saw the Terrapins take on the Baltimore Orioles and the Soviet national team.
He had never seen anything like Friday night. On the first pitch, The Bob was packed and the fans were rowdy. The Terrapins made sure not to disappoint.
After a fast and quiet first inning, Maryland had nine runs in the second inning. The Terrapins sent 14 batters home and got big swings from Nick Lorusso, who hit a three-run double, and Matt Shaw, who followed with a two-run homer.
Maryland never stopped scoring. The Terrapins added three more runs in third, seven in fourth and four more in their final three turns at home plate. By the end of the night, they had won a 23-2 victory and their 23 points were tied for fourth in an NCAA Tournament game.
Leaving no doubt, the Terrapins have made their fans happy.
“The only thing you don’t want to do is lay an egg when they show up,” Vaughn said. “That’s when they don’t come back.”
Maryland’s offense hasn’t laid too many eggs this season. He entered the day averaging 9.1 points per game, seventh in the nation, and his 123 home runs were third nationally.
That offense played out in spectacular fashion Friday against Long Island starter Joshua Loeschorn, who led the nation in wins. Each starter scored a run and recorded a hit. Troy Scheffler led the way with three hits and three runs and Lorusso went 2 for 3 with two doubles and three walks.
This offensive performance alone would have made it an unforgettable evening. Combine it with the crowd and the stage the Terrapins made it on and Friday will live on in program lore forever.
“How loud and energetic everyone was was something really special,” Lorusso said. “It’s something I will remember forever.”
Vaughn and the Terrapins were quick to say after the game that they wouldn’t be satisfied with winning a single game of the NCAA Tournament and that they wouldn’t get carried away by Friday’s emotion. They need two more wins to advance to super-regionals and they would like this special season to continue for as long as possible. On Saturday, Maryland takes on Connecticut in the winner’s game and the Big East champion Huskies will present more of a challenge than LIU did on Friday.
But the relentless NCAA Tournament schedule shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying what Maryland accomplished Friday simply by taking the court home. This is a program that went over 40 years without playing in the NCAA Tournament before a breakthrough in 2014. It took extra effort and support to get The Bob into shape to host a regional. It took a concerted effort by three different head coaches over more than a decade to take the program out of the ACC’s bottom half and turn it into a regional-caliber team. It took this team’s excellence throughout the season to earn the No. 15 seed.
It all came together Friday night in College Park for a sold-out baseball stadium and historic on-field performance.
“Looking at the full stands there, let alone the stadium, I think is a testament to that team and the hard work of those kids,” Vaughn said. “It’s not an overnight thing, it’s something we’ve worked very hard for and been very meticulous with. Seeing that kind of achievement has been pretty impressive.
After a night like Friday, it’s easy to see why Vaughn, the Terrapins and their fans couldn’t wait to get to the Bob on Friday. And there’s good reason to think everyone will want to come back as soon as they can.
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