The top ranked Spartans baseball team faced a top opponent last weekend, playing a three-game series at home against the 2014 defending national champions, University of Southern Indiana.
Winning two out of the three games, the Spartans took the field for the first game, with junior starting pitcher David Heintz on the mound. Heintz started up Tampa’s seventh straight win, throwing six complete innings, allowing four hits to the 22 batters that took the plate. Junior Dylan Barrow took the mound in the seventh inning in relief, while sophomore Jake Mielock tossed the eighth and ninth innings, striking out three batters.
The Spartans defeated the Screaming Eagles 8-2 with the help of a sacrifice fly from senior right fielder Ian Townsend, a double from senior shortstop Giovanny Alfonzo that brought in two runs, and a home run from senior catcher Nick Tindall.
The Spartans defeated Southern Indiana once again in the second game of the series with a 5-2 win. Senior Chase Sparkman took the mound leading the Spartans, tossing 6.1 innings and allowing just four hits before Barrow came in for relief. UT registered 12 hits on the evening, walking twice and taking advantage of five errors made by the Eagles. Senior first baseman Andrew Amaro, along with junior center fielder Casey Scoggins each recorded a stolen base.
Closing out the series, the Spartans fell to the Eagles’ strong defense as they scored three quick runs in the first inning, taking an early lead. In the third inning, Tampa made a quick 5-4 comeback, exploding their offense to get a lead, but Southern Indiana responded quickly every time the Spartans’ brought in another run. The battle resulted in a 9-7 defeat.
Although the Spartans may not have swept the entire series as planned, winning two out of three games against a team that beat them in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Championship has set a new mentality for the future of the team.
“A lot of our leadership came out this past weekend, the guys knew what was at stake,” said head coach Joe Urso. “This was a team that beat us in the first round last year and they were defending national champs. Our guys wanted to prove themselves and prove what this team is about, and I thought we did well in a lot of areas.”
Experiencing their first loss of the season, the one defeat will not affect their chances of making it to the Sunshine State Conference tournament, so all the men can do is learn from their mistakes and appreciate their majority of wins in the series. “We went about it like any other weekend series, we just knew a little more was at stake since they were still defending champions and had something they took from us,” Barrow said. “I felt we all did good, especially getting the first two wins, it’s baseball, you can lose any day, but you learn a lot from those losses and it’s all about how you bounce back from them.”
Barrow, along with Heintz and Sparkman, were key in setting the tone from the mound and attacked the zone, but other players stepped up their game as well. Junior left fielder Zion Bell filled in for senior captain Stephen Dezzi who could not play in the series due to a strained oblique muscle injury. Alfonzo lead the team both offensively and defensively, and Amaro made his debut for UT playing in his first series since transferring from the University of Maryland.
“I think winning two of three against Indiana was a great success,” Amaro said. “I think I hit the ball pretty well for it being my first weekend playing. Playing a huge series like that one will certainly prepare us for the SSC and playoff games.”
The Spartans will take the road for the first time this weekend, heading to Georgia for a three game series against Georgia Regents University. Currently holding a 4-3 record, Urso is confident that his team can tweak any errors made against Southern Indiana in practice to go and sweep Georgia.
“When you make mistakes playing a team that isn’t that good you can get away with it, when you make mistakes playing a team like Southern Indiana, you learn and capitalize from it,” Urso said. “Georgia had a below .500 record last year, but their pitchers locate the ball on the outer half of the plate so we need to hit the ball to the opposite filed. If we’ve been playing defense the way we have been, we should be fine.”
Regina Gonzalez can be reached at email@example.com