Eagles Fall to Spartans in NCAA Baseball Tournament
Tampa, Fla. – The top-seed University of Tampa (49-6) defeated #2 seed Florida Gulf Coast (41-16) 12-5 in third day play in the NCAA Division II South Region baseball tournament.
The Eagles, who are now 2-1 in the double-elimination tourney, will play the winner of the afternoon elimination game between Catawba and Lynn. The Eagles' two NCAA wins have come against the Indians and Fighting Knights.
The first inning was similar for both teams, as one runner each, reached base. Freshman outfielder Josh Upchurch (Cape Coral, Fla.) led the game off with a walk and made his way all the way to third but senior first baseman Ian Manson (Plano, Texas)grounded out to first to end the inning. For the Spartans, Orlando Rosales reached on an error by the Eagles’ first baseman.
In the second, freshman shortstop Pat Garrido (West Palm Beach, Fla.) reached on an error with two out, but Jackson again induced an inning ending groundout to first.
Spartans catcher JR Hopf doubled down the first base line but FGCU starter Casey Coleman (Cape Coral, Fla.) struck out Craig Corrado to the end the bottom of the second.
After Spartans' starter Ross Jackson set the Eagles down order in the third, the Spartans got on the scoreboard with Troy Ferguson’s sacrifice fly to center. Roberto Mena led the frame off with a triple to the right center gap, then scored when Ferguson lifted a fly ball to center.
A Spartan error allowed the Eagles to tie the game in the fourth. Senior third baseman Jason Louwsma (Sanford, Fla.) reached on third baseman Billy Wimberly’s error then advanced to third on Manson’s single to right. Sophomore Shawn Griffin (Hollywood, Fla.) then grounded into a 4-6-3 double play but it was enough for Louwsma to score the tying run.
Tampa threatened again in the fourth as Lee Cruz singled to left and Jimenez walked, but the next three batters were retired ending the inning.
The Spartans got their run back in the fifth on a throwing error by Garrido. Roberto Mena led off with another extra-base hit, this time a double. He then advanced to third on Ferguson’s sacrifice bunt. After a pop-out by Kennedy, Garrido made a wild throw to first trying to throw out the hustling Rosales. Mena scored and Rosales moved to second, bringing up Cruz, who singled to left for an RBI. Tampa led after five innings, 3-1.
Upchurch led the sixth with a double over the head of center fielder, Rosales. He then moved over to third on a groundout then finally scored on Louwsma’s sacrifice fly to left field, cutting Tampa’s lead back to one at 3-2.
In the sixth, the Spartans’ opened up a larger lead, as four crossed the plate in a wild inning. With two outs, Mena hit his second double of the game. Ferguson then singled through the right side for an RBI. Kennedy then seemed to be an easy out as he grounded to second, but the ball was booted and Tampa stayed alive. Rosales then hit a bloop single that fell between the shortstop, center fielder and the left fielder, allowing Ferguson to score. Cruz then came to the plate and hit a bloop double to right center driving in two, and giving Tampa a 7-2 edge.
Jackson again put the Eagles down in order, in the seventh. In the bottom of the inning, Ferguson picked up his second hit of the day and an RBI as he doubled down the left field line, driving in Corrado for their eighth run.
FGCU refused to let Tampa get comfortable as they scored three runs in the top of the eighth cutting into the Spartan lead at 8-5. Sophomore catcher Graig Smith (Venice, Fla.) and pinch-hitter, Derek Mollica )Boca Raton, Fla.) led off with singles, then Coleman singled, driving in Smith. UT closer Aaron Cook then came in relief of Jackson, but gave up a two-run double to Manson before getting out of the inning as the Eagles brought the potential game-tying run to the plate.
Tampa answered right back as Jose Jimenez hit his 17th homerun of the year, driving in two after Cruz walked. Wimberly and Corrado scored in the inning as well and Roberto Mena picked up his fifth hit of the game, with an RBI single.
Jackson (11-0) remained perfect on the season, tossing 7.1 innings with five strikeouts, allowing five runs. Cook pitched 1.2 innings to close the game.
Coleman (3-1) suffered his first loss of the season for FGCU, allowing 10 hits and seven runs - only two of which were earned - in 5.2 innings.
Manson and Smith each had two hits for the Eagles.