By SIMON BRADY
The UT men’s baseball team grinded its way to two out of three victories against Georgia College in this past weekend’s home series. Now with its two opening series in the books, the Spartans are positioned well at 5-1 this season thus far.
Having played Georgia College in the past and being aware of their success, head coach Joe Urso knew this weekend’s series would be a challenging one for his team.
Given Georgia College’s great ability on the offensive end, Urso knew great play out of the pitching staff was crucial for a successful series. “They have a lot of power offensively, so our pitchers will need to locate their pitches well to have success,” Urso said.
The first matchup on Friday went just as planned for the Spartans, beating Georgia College 8-1. A huge third inning in which the Spartans registered four runs highlighted the night.
Senior shortstop Kevin Santa had a huge night at the plate, going 3-4 with an RBI and two runs. Meanwhile Urso’s wish of outstanding pitching play was granted as they kept the Georgia College bats in check all day.
After being named Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Pitcher of the Week performance in the opening series against Bentley, junior right handed pitcher Garrett Cave had a tremendous five inning outing totaling five strikeouts and giving up just one hit and one run.
Junior Cody Martin and freshman Colton Widdows relieved Cave, each going two innings and giving up a mere three hits and zero runs combined.
Georgia College would respond to game one’s lackluster performance on Saturday in a hard-fought contest in game two of the series. However, the Spartans would prevail in back-to-back games with a thrilling 6-5 win.
A breakthrough fifth inning for Georgia College in which three runs were scored, put them up 4-1 on the Spartans, who were in need of a rally from there.
UT responded in the sixth and eighth innings scoring one run in each on RBI base hits from senior third baseman J.D Osborne and junior outfielder Andrew DiLacqua, respectively. However, still down 5-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Spartans would need some late game magic to come back and win their fifth straight.
Junior outfielder Richie Rivera knotted up the game at 5-5 with a solo homerun to left field. With Santa in scoring position on second base, a wild pitch sent him to third. And after an intentional walk, with the bases loaded, Osborne singled up the middle to drive in Santa and the winning run.
The Spartans appeared to be on their way to a sweep of Georgia College going into game three as they got off to a hot start.
UT had a four run first inning including a three run homer from DiLacqua.
Georgia College quickly responded with five unanswered runs as they regained the lead after four innings. The bats for Georgia College kept coming after that, as the Spartans found themselves down 8-5 after six innings.
The Spartans would not go down without a fight, as RBIs from Osborne and senior first baseman Adrian Chacon cut the Georgia College lead to one. The Spartans would be held scoreless the final two innings as Georgia College closed out an 8-7 victory to take one of three from the Spartans in the series.
Senior Kevin Santa reflected on the series as a whole touching on the importance of winning this series. “Our goal coming into this series versus Georgia College, especially a regional team, was to win the series and we did,” Santa said.
Although Santa and and the team are upset losing their first game on the season, they plan to use it as a positive moving forward. “We were a little upset about losing that last game because we didn’t expect to lose, but we know how to bounce back too so we’re going to be just fine,” Santa said.
Santa also discussed the biggest strengths he felt the Spartans displayed in this weekend’s series. The versatility from the Spartans’ offense stuck out in Santa’s eyes. “I feel like our hitting pretty much carry us throughout the whole series. We executed most of our situational plays, using small and long ball,” Santa said.
The Spartans now move onto their third straight home series as they host Southern Indiana this weekend, starting this Friday night, Feb. 17 at 6:00 pm. At second place in the SSC standings behind only Florida Tech, the Spartans are in prime position to contend for a conference title if they continue to play at the high level they played against Georgia College this weekend.