By Reese Williams
Ladies and gentlemen, it is officially baseball season and The University of Tampa Spartans are sitting on top of the throne to start. The Spartans were given the top spot in the DII Baseball preseason poll after they won the DII National Championship in 2019. The title was the Spartans third in the last seven years.
After the Championship game, the Spartans lost four players to the Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft. These players included the SSC player of the year Yorvis Torrealba, Keven Pimentel, Tyler Beck, and Sammy Peralta. However, they still have multiple key pieces from that championship team returning including, junior second baseman Drew Erhard, Senior RHP Jacinto Arredondo, and senior third baseman Nick Derr, just to name a few.
“The two biggest position players we are bringing back are Drew Erhard and Nick Derr. Unfortunately, my third guy was Sam Fritas but he herniated a disk in his back while lifting weights so he’ll be out for the season,” said head coach Joe Urso. “So when you look at starting returners those are our two only guys really. On the pitching side it is mostly all new as well. The main returner is our closer and the World Series MVP Jacinto Arredondo. We also got Jordan leisure back from Tommy John. It’s the biggest transition I’ve ever been through but I am excited to get started.”
The team is also excited about some of their new additions.
“We are excited to have Christian Flint come in this year and we are expecting him to be our starting shortstop. He is fast and can really hit the ball,” said second baseman Drew Erhard. “We are also expecting big things out of Junior RHP Nik Constantakos who should be our Friday night starter, and Junior LHP Brandon Knarr who is a great left-handed pitcher.”
Another interesting storyline for this year is that it will be Coach Urso’s 20th year as the head coach of the Spartans. When asked about this accomplishment Urso said, “It is a dream come true to come back to your alma mater and be the head coach. The success that we’ve had over the last 19 years and now this being the 20th has been amazing for myself and the whole coaching staff.”
The expectations set for the team are what they are every year with a program like UT and that is to win the National Championship. The team is still in the early stages of the season but, captain Drew Erhard had this to say about where the team is at. “We are looking good so far. We have a couple of things to still work on but we are ready to get going and chase after another National Championship.”
“This is going to be a team that is built on pitching and defense, as well as play a lot of small ball,” said Urso. “It is not going to be the power team that you are used to seeing Tampa be, but in the end you look at a lot of the scores in the World Series and the game was only won by a run or two. We’ve been the best at winning the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings for a long time and for this group to be great they are going to have to be good at that.”
Sophomore sport management major Michael Pascento said, “I’m excited to see how the team looks this year. It was really fun to watch them go out and win a National Championship last year and hopefully they go out this year and do it again.”
The Spartans will begin their season with a three game home-opener between Friday-Sunday, Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at home against The University of Mount Olive, Queen’s University (N.C.), and Georgia College respectively.
Reese Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org