1. Sports

University of Tampa baseball wins 8th national championship

The Spartans rally to defeat No. 1 seed Colorado Mesa 3-1 in the NCAA Division II finale.
University of Tampa players celebrate after winning the baseball program's eighth Division II national championship, beating Colorado Mesa 3-1 in the title game on Saturday, June 8, 2019, in Cary, N.C. [BRETT FRIEDLANDER | Special to the Times]
Published Jun. 8
Updated Jun. 9

CARY, N.C. — The University of Tampa beat the weather, then beat top-seeded Colorado Mesa 3-1 Saturday to capture the baseball program’s eighth NCAA Division II national championship.

The No. 2 Spartans, undefeated in the double-elimination tournament, had two chances to earn the one victory needed for their first title since 2015. With severe thunderstorms in the forecast and ominous clouds gathering at the USA Baseball National Training Center, Tampa wasted no time putting away the Mavericks in Game 1.

Yorvis Torrealba broke a seventh-inning tie with a two-out, two-run single, and tournament MVP Jacinto Arredondo pitched the final two innings for the victory that completed the Spartans’ undefeated run (9-0) through the postseason.

“This is the reason we all decided to come to Tampa,” said Torrealba, a junior leftfielder selected in the 14th round of the major-league draft by the Rockies earlier in the week. “It’s to be part of history, to win a national championship and have our names in the record book.”

Tampa is second only to Florida Southern (nine) for the most baseball national titles in Division II. It’s Joe Urso’s fifth national championship in his 19th season as UT coach. The Tampa native also won one as a player with the Spartans (1992).

Torrealba, the Sunshine State Conference’s player of the year, and his teammates accomplished their goal with a performance that became their trademark this season. They rode the strong starting pitching of Keven Pimentel until their bats heated up just enough to come from behind in the late innings.

Pimentel (13-2) gave up one unearned run on five hits in seven innings, striking out five. The senior right-hander matched Mesa starter Trevin Reynolds out-for-out through five scoreless innings. A two-out single in the sixth by Chase Hamilton off Pimentel scored Spencer Bramwell, who had reached on an error, to give the Mavericks the lead.

UT (45-14) got the run back in the bottom of half of the inning on a two-out double by Cole Perry, the hero of the opening-game win against Mercyhurst. Fellow senior Danny Sirven, who had reached on an 0-and-2 single, scored from first, running through a stop sign from Urso, who was coaching third.

“Good thing Sirven didn’t listen to me, because I was holding him up,” Urso said with a laugh.

Mesa (53-15) threatened to regain in lead in the seventh, putting runners on first and third with one out. But Pimentel worked out of the jam, getting the Mavericks’ Dominic DeMarco on a ground ball up the middle that second baseman Nick Derr tracked down and turned into an inning-ending double play.

The defensive gem became even bigger in the bottom half of the inning after No. 7 hitter Danny Blair and No. 8 Nick DeTringo had consecutive singles to set the table for leadoff man Torrealba’s winner. The All-American’s two-run single was his seventh hit in four games at the World Series, while DeTringo, a former Tampa Prep standout, batted .405, drove in nine and scored 10 runs.

“The momentum of a game like this, the guys just ran with it,” Urso said. “We preach the seventh, eighth and ninth innings are our innings, and today these guys did a great job. Even though Reynolds was just dominating us, I don’t think they ever panicked.”

Once Tampa went ahead, Urso put the ball in Arredondo’s hands. And as he had done all week, Arredondo was all but unhittable, getting the final six outs. The junior right-hander pitched 7⅓ shutout innings in the tournament, allowed one hit and two walks, struck out eight and picked up two wins and a save to earn MVP honors.

“I put a lot of pressure on these guys,” Urso said. “It’s unfortunate, but to be remembered as a Spartan, you have to win a national championship. Nobody remembers who’s the runnerup. That’s how big this is for our program.”

FSU TAKES GAME 1: Reese Albert hit a three-run, tying homer in the seventh and added a solo shot in the ninth, and Florida State opened the Super Region in Baton Rouge with a 6-4 victory over host LSU. The teams play again Sunday night (6, ESPN2) in the best-of-three series.

J.C. Flowers, who started the game in centerfield, went to the mound in the eighth and recorded six outs for his 12th save of the season.

FSU coach Mike Martin, who plans to retire after this season, is one victory away from his 17th College World Series trip since taking over the program at his alma mater 40 seasons ago.

LSU took a 4-0 lead with single runs in the second through fifth innings. Josh Smith had two hits and scored twice for the Tigers (40-25), while Chris Reid added two hits and singled home a run.

FSU (40-21) didn’t have a hit until former Jefferson High standout Robby Martin’s single to right with one out in the sixth against LSU reliever Todd Peterson. Drew Mendoza advanced to third and scored FSU’s first run on an infield hit by Matheu Nelson of Calvary Christian.

Albert tied it when he launched Trent Vietmeier’s 3-2 pitch over the rightfield bleachers with two runners on in the seventh. The towering shot came after Albert had fouled off five straight two-strike pitches.

Nelson walked with one out in the eighth and scored the go-ahead run on Tim Becker’s sacrifice fly to left. Antonio Velez (4-2) of Brandon High pitched a scoreless seventh for the win.

Information from Times news services was used in this report.


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