Spartans come out swinging in CWS opener
CARY, N.C. -
The University of Tampa baseball team hit a school-record four triples, two home runs and a pair of doubles in its opening game at the NCAA Division II College World Series on Sunday.
But it was a hit that traveled barely 5 feet from home plate that turned out to be the biggest of the day for the top-ranked Spartans against Coker (S.C.).
Michael Danner’s seemingly harmless two-out pop-up landed softly between three Coker fielders, keying a three-run second inning that catapulted UT to a 12-4 victory and a promising start in the double-elimination tournament at the USA Baseball Training Complex.
“I didn’t know where it went at first. I just looked up and saw it landed in fair territory, and I saw (Jacob Tillotson) score, which is pretty cool,” said Danner, a junior left fielder who also had a double, a homer and four RBIs. “I’ve never hit a ball that short before.
“Every team is so good when they come out here. When you get a break like that, it really helps.”
Danner’s bit of good fortune didn’t just help the Spartans (44-11) overcome an early 2-1 deficit. It also helped them settle in, relax and start playing the style of ball that has become their trademark throughout the season.
The second-ranked Spartans advance to play St. Edward’s on Tuesday night at 7. St. Edward’s beat Grand Canyon 1-0.
Their four runs in the first two innings Sunday were more than they scored in the entire tournament the last time they advanced to the CWS in 2010, when they were eliminated in two games.
UT finished with 18 hits Sunday, with every member of the starting lineup contributing at least one.
“It’s been our thing all year,” said third baseman Jake Schrader, who had three hits — including a triple and a homer — while driving home three runs. “One through nine we just click. There’s not one person that we rely on. Everyone’s got the power. It’s just see the ball, hit the ball.”
Although the Spartans came into the game averaging eight runs per game and ranked among the nation’s top 30 in 13 offensive categories, their offensive outburst was something of a surprise in a ballpark known for favoring pitchers. Only three runs were scored Saturday in the first two games of the CWS.
“The key to the game was that we set the tone early.” UT coach Joe Urso said. “We anticipated having a low-scoring game. Luckily for us we had a few walks, mixed in with a couple of big home runs to put that game away.”