The next game Bianco would coach would be against Arkansas-Little Rock in Oxford-University Stadium as head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels to begin the 2001 baseball season. Friday in Los Angeles, Bianco and Szefc will meet again. Szefc is now head coach at Maryland.
The Rebels are the second seed in the NCAA Regional at UCLA. The Bruins are not only top seeds in their own Regional but also the No. 1 seed in the entire NCAA Tournament field.
Maryland is the No. 3 seed, and California State Bakersfield is the No. 4 seed.
Szefc’s Terrapins won a Regional at South Carolina last year, beating the Gamecocks to advance. They lost two of three games at Virginia to fall just short of Omaha. This is the best era for Maryland baseball in years, maybe ever.
This year Maryland built on that run and won 39 games, falling to Michigan in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament, the Terps’ first season in the Big Ten after leaving the ACC.
The Terps ended Illinois’ Big Ten record 27-game win streak and defeated fellow NCAA Tournament team Indiana before losing to Michigan in the championship game of the league's tournament, held last weekend in Minneapolis at Target Field, home of the Twins.
The Terrapins reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 43 years last season. The program has reached the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons just one other time (1970-71).
Maryland is 2-1 all-time against UCLA and 0-1 against Ole Miss. The Terrapins have never faced CSU Bakersfield.
Szefc said his team wanted to make certain to be selected for the NCAA Tournament field and has secured that opportunity.
"We had an up and down year, we weren't a two seed,” he was quoted earlier as saying on the Maryland Terrapins sports website. “So when you're a three seed, you're at the mercy of the committee. There weren't many East Coast regionals this year so the chance of having to go out west was a good chance. We want to be playing (this) week and that's what we're doing."
As Szefc continues to build Maryland into a baseball power, he says this week is another step.
"It's really important to the program,” Szefc said. I'm just happy for our guys and the coaches. It's the culmination of a lot of work to get to this point. You look forward to (selection day) the whole year, you build toward that. It's important for our young guys to experience it. It's important for our recruits to see us. I've always respected the people in college baseball who can produce consistency. You want to have stability and consistency across the board, and that's what we're trying to build. For a lot of reasons, it's a really important day for us."
Szefc believes the Big Ten season the past three months, their first in that league, has prepared his team for NCAA Tournament play this weekend and potentially beyond.
"I'm not really concerned about anything. I'm just looking forward to getting our guys prepared, getting them some information, getting them some rest and getting them on the field on Friday," he said. "The gauntlet we just ran in the Big Ten Tournament is an awfully tough gauntlet. I'm not really overly concerned about anything in particular."
Ole Miss and Maryland play at 6 p.m. Central Time this Friday from Jackie Robinson Stadium on the UCLA campus.
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