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Tampa wins seventh NCAA Division II baseball title

The Spartans celebrate after clinching their seventh Division II baseball championship.
The Spartans celebrate after clinching their seventh Division II baseball championship.
Published May 31, 2015

CARY, N.C. — Michael Calkins had said he didn't think he had a complete game in him heading into the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship Series.

But Tampa's junior left-hander was good enough for the team's second of the week on Saturday, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Calkins allowed one run on four hits, striking out four in a 3-1 victory over Catawba (N.C.) College in the series finale, giving the Spartans their seventh national championship. They're second only to Florida Southern (nine) for most D-II baseball titles.

It's the second national championship in three seasons for the top-seeded Spartans (43-13), who were 4-0 at Coleman Field at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.

The result denied Catawba (47-15), backed by a heavily partisan crowd of 2,452, a chance to win the South Atlantic Conference's first NCAA title in any sport.

"Catawba was awesome," said Joe Urso, the coach for four of the Spartans' titles, 2015, '13, '07, '06; they also won in 1998, '93 and '92. "(Coach) Jim Gantt just runs an amazing program.

"We were just lucky to scratch out a big hit to get the lead. And Calkins kept dominating the zone. I couldn't be happier with this group. (Shortstop Giovanny) Alfonzo kept some leadoff hitters off base with some tough backhands in the hole. It was an all-around team effort."

Calkins retired the side in the second, fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings, and did not allow Catawba to reach second base after the Indians scored in the third inning. "(Starter) Sean Grant gave us a chance, but we just couldn't do anything with their pitcher," Gantt said.

Calkins, who began the season as a reliever, also threw a nine-inning complete game against Sunshine State Conference foe Nova Southeastern in the South Region.

Calkins (6-4), named the tournament's most outstanding player, was one of six Spartans named to the all-tournament team, joining Alfonzo, catcher Nick Tindall, outfielders Stephen Dezzi and Casey Scoggins, and fellow pitcher Chase Sparkman of Brandon.

Catawba left-hander Grant lasted 6⅓ innings, giving up the three runs on five hits with a walk and a strikeout. "That's a solid lineup, and you've got to tip your hat to them," said Grant, who faced five left-handers in UT's lineup.

Catawba, playing about 120 miles west of its campus in Salisbury, grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third. Luke Setzer hit a one-out single to left, then with two outs Dylan Richardson ripped a two-out RBI double to left before Calkins intentionally walked All-America catcher Will Albertson and got out of the jam.

Tampa took the lead in the fourth as Dezzi hit a one-out single to right and moved up on Cody deNoyelles' two-out walk. Both scored on Tindall's triple to right.

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"Our lineup has guys who could hit third or fourth on every other team in the country," said Tindall, who hit sixth after batting ninth most of the week.

The Spartans, who had a perfect 8-0 run through the postseason, tacked on an insurance run in the seventh as Brett Jones hit a one-out single to left to end Grant's outing, then scored on Scoggins' two-out single to left off Michael Elwell.

"They all knew we had some unfinished business that they wanted to take care of," Urso said of his team, which fell one win shy of reaching the title game last year. "We came in here last year with high expectations, and we got our hearts crushed. This year we came in with a group that was really overachieving and got hot at the right time, and they weren't going to take no for an answer.

"They knew how important it was to keep the (UT) tradition going, and the pride these guys have in this university just means the world to me. … One of the most satisfying championships that I've been a part of."

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