Questioned Dominance: Is Baseball Good Enough to Repeat?

The image of last season’s wild championship celebration on a baseball field in Montgomery Alabama seems like it happened a long time ago. UT baseball won the national championship thanks to dominant offensive power and steady pitching that other teams couldn’t overcome. Coaches and players knew going into this season things would be different.

Five key players were drafted to the major leagues, including Division II National Player of the Year Lee Cruz and Sunshine State Conference Pitcher of the Year Sergio Perez.

Arriving were Paul Cruz and Junior Mejia to replace Lee Cruz and Orlando Rosales in the outfield. On the mound, the previously undefeated Ross Jackson would be relied on to anchor the staff alongside Johnny Williams and Kevin Ferguson.

This was the outlook coming into this season, but with the Spartans already tallying the same amount of losses (six) in the middle of this season that they had for the entire championship season last year, a closer look is necessary.

Pitching has not been a huge problem but inconsistency has. Starter Johnny Williams is 6-0, but in Saturday’s game he walked four batters to help Eckerd get out to an early lead. If Roberto Mena hadn’t hit a grand slam to help Tampa get back into the game, the Spartans could have easily lost to an inferior team and notched their seventh loss of the season. Freshman Anthony Perez has rebounded from a shaky start to the season, but as an observer I don’t know how comfortable I am with him on the mound come tournament time.

Defense has also been a problem. Craig Corrado is having a breakout year at the plate, showing power in addition to his trademark speed. However he had to be moved from third base to the outfield as he had trouble fielding ground balls, recording nine errors this season.

This shift made coach Joe Urso move first baseman Jose Jimenez to third base.

Is it just me or does it seem very weird seeing Jose Jimenez play third base? He was a catcher in high school and occasionally gives Chris Rosenbaum a break behind the plate, but he is an incredibly athletic first baseman. Many sources close to the team expect Jimenez to catch next season after Rosenbaum graduates, but he is too important to the offense to bench him now.

Overall the Spartans are ranked third in Division II and sit at a record of 29-6. Their record is good, they have only lost once in awhile, but the dominance of last season is a thing of the past.

Whether the Spartans can win it all with a less dominant team is something we will learn in the very near future.

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I could comment on the pathetic attendance at Sunday’s double-header against Eckerd, but the sports section of The Minaret has beaten that horse to death. Instead, I will comment on the sports marketing promotions at games. I found one promotion at this weekend’s game humorous. A yellow pages book was handed out to a contestant that had five minutes to search the book to find out where to go get wild in Tampa.

When I am sitting in 90 degree weather hearing an attractive female UT marketing member tease where to go get wild in Tampa, I expect the contestant to find the phone number for a classy establishment such as Mons Venus. Not the Lowry Park Zoo (which, make no mistake about it, is a fantastic zoo). The promotional team should be careful. Getting fans’ such as myself, hopes up with provocative sounding games that end up being a trip to the zoo can drive them away. Disclaimer: This thought was only half serious.

Jordan Chariton can be reached at jchariton@ut.edu

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