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High School Sports

In the hunt: Ex-Firebird Lewis part of College World Series push

Maryland's Tim Lewis heads to first base on a hit against Old Dominion during an NCAA regional baseball game, May 30 in Columbia, South Carolina. Lewis is a Free State High product.

Maryland's Tim Lewis heads to first base on a hit against Old Dominion during an NCAA regional baseball game, May 30 in Columbia, South Carolina. Lewis is a Free State High product.

June 7, 2014

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Maybe the workman-like approach Tim Lewis takes to the baseball field made the feat difficult to notice — even for him.

Sure, the former Free State High standout had produced in the batter’s box more and more late in the season for surging Maryland. But no one seemed to realize the first-year lefty was registering a hit every time the Terrapins played. The junior outfielder’s hitting streak finally concluded this past weekend at 15 games (a team high this season), and a few days after the fact, he laughed about how it flew under the radar.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know I had that going for probably the first 10 games of it,” Lewis admitted. “I had no idea.”

Though a huge accomplishment for the two-year transfer from Allen Community College, he shrugged off the streak this week, as his team remains one of 16 in the country in the hunt for the College World Series.

“It’s just part of the game, man. You just go in, day in and day out, and do your thing,” Lewis said. “I’d rather get a few hits for my team and go to Omaha (Nebraska, site of the world series).”

Maryland’s No. 6 hitter and starting left fielder will get his shot this weekend, when the Terrapins (39-21) play at Virginia (47-13) in a best-of-three series — Game 1 is 11 a.m. today on ESPN2. Lewis (.287 average, 21 runs, 14 RBIs) helped the cause last weekend in Columbia, South Carolina, where Maryland went 3-0, and beat the host Gamecocks twice. Though he went 2-for-13 at the regional, he singled and scored in the sixth inning of the clincher, when the Terrapins increased their lead from two runs to four before cruising to a 10-1 victory.

“That inning, the fans went from just outrageously loud to where you could hear a pin drop in that stadium,” Lewis said. “So that was pretty cool.”

The stage thrilled the former Allen player, who a year ago competed in front of “a handful of fans” at his home games in Iola. Lewis ended up in College Park, Maryland, because one of his Allen coaches, Brett Lisher (another Free State product), reached out to Maryland coach John Szefc. Lisher played for Szefc at Kansas, when he was KU’s hitting coach and recruiting coordinator (2009-10). Last year, Lisher called up the Terps’ skipper, heralding Lewis as a left-handed outfielder who reminded him of one of Szefc’s former Jayhawks, Brian Heere, who was drafted by Cleveland in the 41st round in 2010.

Szefc’s response: “Well, if you’re comparing him to Heere, then we got room.”

Lewis started off slow this season, as he adjusted to the next level, but Szefc put him in the starting lineup in early April, and the second-year coach said he hasn’t been able to take him out since.

“He gives you tough at-bats and he gets to balls in the outfield. He makes the play 95 percent of the time, runs well and is just a blue-collar guy from Kansas,” said Szefc, who also served as Kansas State’s associate head coach from 2011-12. “He kind of fits the mold, I guess.”

Now all Lewis wants to do is help Maryland knock out ACC foe Virginia — the Terps prevailed, 7-6, against the Cavaliers in their only meeting this season, at the ACC Tournament a couple weeks ago. That would mean a trip back to the midwest for the Lawrence native, and just a little more than 200 miles for his friends and family to drive to watch him play at the College World Series.

“We’re just gonna keep plugging along, and hopefully we’ll get two wins out of there and go to Omaha,” Lewis said. “Man, that would be sweet.”

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