Spartans secure sixth national baseball title
CARY, N.C. -
University of Tampa baseball coach Joe Urso has been wearing the ring his team won for its most recent national championship in 2007 since arriving at the Division II College World Series last week.
It was a not-so-subtle reminder to his current players of the goal they were in position to accomplish.
Saturday night at the USA Baseball Training Complex, the Spartans earned a ring of their own.
Scoring five runs in the second inning off previously unbeaten Minnesota State ace Harvey Martin — the national Pitcher of the Year — UT cruised to an 8-2 victory and the sixth national title in school history.
“I’ve dreamed always about getting a ring, but I don’t know that it’s hit me yet. It’s going to be a dream come true,” tournament MVP Jake Schrader said. “It’s been a motivating factor from Day One. Every day at practice, you see (the ring) on his hand.
“It’s always in your face. That’s the goal. That’s what we want to get, and now we have it.”
The Spartans (47-12) came into the tournament with the hottest-hitting offense in the eight-team field, but they suddenly appeared vulnerable after getting shut out by Grand Valley State in the semifinals Thursday.
UT bounced back to beat the Lakers 10-1 a day later, then carried the momentum into the championship game.
Sean O’Brien and B.J. Zimmerman started the decisive second-inning rally with back-to-back singles before Schrader picked up his seventh RBI of the CWS with a towering double off the wall in straightaway center field.
Zach Gawrych and Adam Pendleton also doubled to drive home three more runs and end the night for Martin, whose ERA coming into the game was 1.51.
“We just came out aggressive in that inning. Everybody did their part,” Pendleton said. “We just got some timely hitting and it worked out for us to get (Martin) out of the game quickly. That was huge for us. That changed the ballgame right there.”
After a sacrifice bunt by Jacob Tillotson, Connor Obrochta greeted reliever T.J. Larson with an RBI single that gave UT pitcher Jon Keller all the support he would need.
Keller, a junior transfer from Nebraska, scattered six hits and struck out five in seven innings to earn his second victory of the CWS. He was the winning pitcher in UT’s opening-round win against Coker.
The only run he allowed came on an error in the fourth. His teammates more than made up for the mistake by tacking on another run in the fourth and two more in the seventh.
“My fear coming into this is that I knew I had a special group of guys,” Urso said. “I just wanted this to end well for them. This will go down as my favorite team ever. That’s how proud I am of these young men.”