TAMPA — A bout with tendinitis sidelined University of Tampa pitcher Trey Oest for a month to end the regular season, so the plan for the sophomore during Sunday's Division II South Region championship was to keep the right-hander to a low pitch count, Spartans coach Joe Urso said.
Oest more than delivered in his return to the mound, tossing a complete-game one-hitter — needing only 78 pitches to do so — as the Spartans beat Florida Southern 3-0 to advance to the national championship finals in Cary, N.C., for the second straight year.
“He's coming off tendinitis where he didn't pitch for three-plus weeks,” Urso said. “He told us he knew he could give us five or six good innings and we would go from there. We saw the pitch count and what he was doing, knew he could go deep in the ballgame, but never did we think complete-game shutout, one-hitter. That's pretty special.”
Staked to a 2-0 lead after the top of the first, Oest faced the minimum through four innings and gave up his only hit in the fifth when Dominic Brugnoni doubled to left. But that was all Oest allowed — he struck out five and walked none — as Tampa (51-2) advanced to the national finals for the 16th time.
“The rest definitely helped me, but it felt good to be back out there today,” said Oest, a Durant High graduate. “I threw some tough rehab over the past few weeks to prepare and get ready for this and it worked out to my benefit.”
Michael Danner's RBI single in the first scored Tyler Ding to open the scoring, and the Spartans went ahead 2-0 when Sean O'Brien (3-for-4) scored on an error.
Ding's single in the seventh scored Connor Obrochta to make it 3-0, which was more than enough support for Oest on this day.
Ding, an Alonso graduate, hit .625 during the Spartans' four South Region games and was named the tournament's MVP.
“I got pitches I was looking for, nothing all that different for me,” said Ding, the Spartans' third baseman. “I started out as a freshman, the ninth batter and playing in the outfield and it's been a different position each year, and now I've worked my way to the No. 3 hitter, and the last two years have really been a lot of fun.”
Giovanny Alfonzo, Stephen Dezzi and Kevin McNorton joined Oest and Ding as all-tournament selections.
Now it's off to North Carolina as the defending national champion Spartans will look for their seventh national title and their fourth since 2006.
“I knew this team deserved it, but you never know in baseball. What a run these guys are on; 51-2 is just unheard of,” Urso said.