CARY, N.C. — After losing only two games during the regular season, the University of Tampa baseball team wasn’t about to lose two straight at the Division II Championship Series.
The Spartans let that be known right away Monday by striking for four runs in the opening inning of their elimination game against Chico State.
And that was only the start.
Bouncing back from a stunning opening-round loss to Southern Indiana, in which they were limited to only three runs, the defending national champions had 19 hits and scored in all but two innings for a 14-6 win that extended their stay in the double-elimination tournament.
The victory advanced UT into a matchup against either Southern Indiana or Lander at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the USA Baseball Training Complex.
“These kids have been through a lot. They’ve come from behind so many times,” UT coach Joe Urso said. “We had a big team barbecue (Sunday) night and just looking at their faces, you could see that they were confident they’d come back out and play the way they’re capable.”
That confidence manifested itself by the way the Spartans (52-3) came out swinging in the top of the first.
Stephen Dezzi and Tyler Ding got things started with hard-hit singles. Then, after Sean O’Brien hit into a force play, Michael Danner unloaded the first of his team’s seven doubles to score the game’s first two runs. Giovanny Alfonzo and Zach Gawrych followed with RBI singles that increased the UT lead to 4-0 and set the tone for the rest of the day.
“Their lack of offensive production on Saturday probably gave them motivation to be aggressive today,” Chico State coach Dave Taylor said. “And they were.”
The fact that Chico State answered back with two runs in the bottom of the first on a homer by Tyler Madrid only seemed to fuel the Spartans’ fire.
Adjusting their swings to hit more line drives after hitting into 16 fly-ball outs against Southern Indiana in their opener, UT’s hitters wore out the gaps for eight extra base hits — including two doubles each by Dezzi and No. 9 hitter Connor Obrochta. Danner also contributed a double and a triple as five different Spartans produced three or more hits in the victory.
That was more than enough to offset a shaky five-inning performance by starting pitcher Trey Oest and two relievers before closer Kevin McNorton came in to settle things down.
“All year we’ve been competing against ourselves and doing our best,” Danner said. “Once you see our guys start hitting the ball so well, you get excited and you want to go out and do the same thing.”