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June 1, 2014

Terps bounce USC from NCAAs

USC postgame

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Before the Columbia Regional began, Maryland coach John Szefc said it'd be "cool" if his Terrapins could be the team to break South Carolina's 27-game postseason winning streak, one that included 16 straight victories at Carolina Stadium.

Szefc's Terps did just that on Saturday, then 24 hours later became the first team to beat USC in the NCAAs in Columbia since Louisiana-Lafayette in 2000 and first team to win an opening-round regional in Columbia since 1976 with a convincing 6-1 win Sunday night in front of a less-than-capacity crowd of 6,340 fans.

For dogpiling Maryland, which hadn't been to the NCAAs since 1971, it was cool indeed.

"Obviously just a a pretty incredible night for our program, for our athletic department, for the state of Maryland in general," Szefc said. "I'm very, very happy for our coaching staff and for our players. These guys work very, very hard to get to this point."

For South Carolina, which failed to make a Super Regional for the first time since 2009, it was anything but.

"It sucks," said Tanner English, one of two players with multiple (2-for-4) hits and a member of the All-Regional team. "We're done playing for the year.

"I think we definitely fell short of what we wanted to (do), and obviously it's not going to be fun to lose like that, especially in that fashion, at home in front of your fans. It sucks."

South Carolina finishes the 2014 season with a 44-18 record. Maryland (39-21) advances to play Virginia in the Charlottesville Super Regional.

Chance after chance went by the wayside as the Gamecocks' chief weakness down the stretch - an anemic offense devoid of clutch hitting - made one final appearance. Despite tallying nine hits, South Carolina had just one run to show for it, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and hitting just .133 (2-for-15) with runners on base.

In two losses to the Terrapins, the Gamecocks left 19 runners on base.

"We had some pitches to hit and thought early in the game we took some good swings," Holbrook said. "I was sitting over there in the third inning saying it feels like we should be up more than one to nothing.

"We kind of let them off the hook a little bit there by not getitng the big hit with runners in scoring position. A lot of our opportunities with runners in scoring position came with two outs over the weekend, and we just couldn't get that big two-out hit.

"When you score one run in a regional championship game, you're going to have a very difficult time winning. We just couldn't get that big hit offensively."

South Carolina looked ready early, getting on the board in the bottom of the first when Mooney led off with a single up the middle, looked like he'd be stranded when Max Schrock and Joey Pankake flew out but came home when Kyle Martin doubled to left center on a play at the plate Mooney beat by a nose for a 1-0 USC lead through one inning. But Maryland struck back in the fourth, putting runners at second and third with no outs on a single, walk and wild pitch from Joel Seddon, who was making his first start of the season and sixth of his career despite being the Gamecocks' primary closer and leading the SEC in saves with 14. Seddon retired the next two batters on a line out and a strikeout, but a bounding ball to the left side from Blake Schmit got past Joey Pankake to score both runners and give the Terps a 2-1 lead they'd never lose.

Though Seddon (L, 3-2) tied a season-high with six strikeouts he surrendered eight hits and five runs, allowing one in the fifth and two more in the sixth, when he left the game after a walk to Schmit and and single from Tim Lewis put runners at first and second with one out trailing 3-1. Reliever Josh Reagan took over from there, getting a popup to deep short but he then allowed a single up the middle from Anthony Papio to make the score 4-1.

That hit relived Reagan of duty with two outs and runners at the corners, and Cody Mincey came on from there. Mincey fared no better, immediately issuing a walk to load the bases then plunking Charlie White to score a run and make it 5-1 Maryland and put Vince Fiori on the mound.

"I just tried to go out there and treat it as a regular outing," Seddon said. "I didn't really feel any extra pressure going out to start. It wasn't too much different, so I just tried to go, keep us in the game and go as hard as I could as long as I could."

Holbrook said that's all he was looking for from his potentially All-American closer.

"He pitched his heart out for us and kept us in the game, which is what we asked him to do," Holbrook said. "We just kind of ran out of gas there at the end."

Maryland added another run in the seventh and four more in the ninth, but by then only a couple thousand fans were left to see it as Maryland closed the book on the 2014 Gamecocks, who went scoreless over the final eight innings of the game.

"Our guys gave it all they had, we just couldn't get any momentum going there after the first inning there from a run-production standpoint," Holbrook said. "Wheen they got up four, five to one it kind of deflated us a little bit.

"Congratulations to Maryland, they played exceptional tonight," Holbrook said. "They played great defense, they pitched, and they just beat us tonight. When you get beat 10 to 1 in your home park, you have to tip your cap. They thoroughly outplayed us tonight."

For a team that at one point was ranked number one in the nation, finishing the season with the program's first regional loss since 1976 wasn't what anyone wanted.

"It was a good season, but good's not good enough around here," Holbrook said. "I understand that. We have to do better than good, and that's going to be the attitude here as long as I'm the coach."

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