Spartans Overpower Indians

The top-ranked University of Tampa baseball team (6-2) continued their hot hitting last weekend, scoring 29 runs as the Spartans took three out of four games from the Catawba Indians (5-4).

In game one, Spartans designated hitter Nolan Brannon went 2-4, and Tampa used a three-run seventh inning to defeat Catawba 7-5.

Brannon had three RBI and came through with a clutch bases-loaded single in the seventh that plated two Spartans to give UT a 6-2 lead.

“He [Matt Seabolt] had just hit Rosenbaum with a pitch, and the count was 2-0, so I knew I had to get a perfect pitch,” said Brannon about his at bat in the seventh. “I almost took it, but I knew he had to throw a strike.”

The insurance runs were critical for Tampa as Catawba cut the deficit to 7-5 in the top of the eighth. That was as close as the Indians would get, though. Junior closer Jonathan Holt picked up the save, striking out four Catawba hitters in the final 1 2/3 innings.

Tampa ace Kevin Ferguson picked up his second victory of the year. Ferguson went six innings, allowing six hits and two runs while striking out eight.

Ferguson was able to get out of trouble for much of the night as he pitched out of jams in both the first and sixth inning. In the first inning, Catawba scored one run but left the bases loaded after designated hitter Brian Sommer grounded out to end the inning. In the sixth inning, Catawba had runners on second and third with one out, but Ferguson struck out the next two hitters to retire the side.

Paul Cruz went 2-3 and scored two runs, and Roberto Mena added three hits in the win.

After committing five errors in their previous game against Georgia College and State University, Tampa had just one error in the first game of the series. The two run victory was the closest game the Spartans have won thus far in the season.

“Defense is always important,” Brannon said. “The less errors you commit, the better chance you have to win. It was good to get a win like this; we know we are going to have a lot of close games later in the season.”

In game two, Tampa second baseman Ryan Kennedy had just one hit in four at bats.

The one hit, however, was the difference in the game. With the score tied at three in the bottom of the fifth, Kennedy connected on a two run home run that gave Tampa a 5-3 lead. The Spartans went on to win by the final score of 7-4.

“It was a changeup. I just tried to stay back and drive the ball,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy has already surpassed his home run total from last season in just seven games this year. The second baseman has hit four home runs this season after hitting three homers in 2006.

“I worked really hard in the offseason to get faster and stronger, and so far this season, things have been working out. The game seems to be slowing down and I’ve been confident at the plate,” said Kennedy.

Tampa starter Johnny Williams did not factor in the decision. Williams went 4 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and three earned runs. Scott Chapman (2-0) picked up the win for UT, going 3 1/3 innings in long relief. Closer Jonathan Holt recorded his third save of the season as he struck out three hitters in 1 1/3 innings.

Catawba had their chances, but three ground ball double plays killed many rallies the Indians had put together.

In the third game, Tampa overcame an early four-run deficit to defeat the Indians by a score of 10-7 in the second game of their double-header.

Freshman pitcher Anthony Perez survived a rocky first inning to notch the first win of his collegiate career.

The Indians pounced on Tampa early for four runs on five hits, including a two-run home run by third baseman Zach Evans. The damage could have been worse, but a superb defensive play from catcher Garrett Maines stopped the bleeding.

With a runner on second and two outs, Indians catcher Kevin McMillian lined a single into left. Left fielder Troy Ferguson fielded the ball and threw home. Maines stretched to his left to make the catch, and came across his body to tag the runner out.

The Spartans got on the board in the bottom half of the inning on second baseman Ryan Kennedy’s solo home run. It was his fourth round tripper of the season.

In the bottom of the second Tampa got three runs to tie the score at 4-4. Ferguson’s two-run homer highlighted the comeback.

UT took the lead for good in the bottom of the third on designated hitter Chris Rosenbaum’s RBI single through the left side. After an RBI single from third baseman Charlie Raley, leadoff man Junior Mejia stepped to the plate with two men on. Mejia connected on a powerful opposite field homerun to put the game out of reach for the Indians.

Pitcher Craig Benner threw to just one batter and picked up the save.

Perez appreciates having such dominating hitters playing behind him.

“It feels great man,” said Perez. “It’s nice to know that those guys have my back.”

In the series finale, Catawba took advantage of two errors by Mena in the eighth inning as the Indians scored three runs on two hits in the frame. Heading into the eighth the game was tied at 3-3, but Catawba took a 6-3 lead and held on to win by the final score of 6-5.

Tampa made a late rally, but the three run lead was too much to overcome.

Catcher Chris Rosenbaum stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, down by one run, with runners on first and third, but grounded out to third baseman Travis McSweeney to end the game.

Senior Ross Jackson suffered his first career loss for Tampa after going 11-0 last season. Jackson went 4 1/3 innings allowing three runs on three hits. Of the three runs Jackson gave up, only one was earned.

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