The University of Tampa baseball team came into the Division II College World Series as the tournament favorite because of its high-powered offense.
Tuesday, the top-ranked Spartans showed they can pitch a little, too.
Senior right-hander Ben Brown pitched seven shutout innings before tiring in the eighth and the big bats behind him did the rest, as UT pounded out a 10-3 victory against St. Edward’s at USA Baseball Training Complex.
The victory was the Spartans’ second straight in the double-elimination tournament, earning them a ticket into Thursday’s semifinals against either Franklin Pierce or Grand Valley State.
“I felt like Brownie just took over,” UT coach Joe Urso said. “He was pounding the ball away, had a good slider going and was freezing guys late. I think that’s the longest he’s gone all year.
“He told me a couple days ago that he was going to give me seven strong (innings). I got a little greedy and sent him back out for the eighth, but it was a gutsy performance on his part.”
Just as it did in its opening-round win against Coker on Sunday, UT jumped on top with an early show of power.
Jake Schrader hit his second homer of the tournament — and only the fourth overall in eight games — over the left-field wall in the top of the second to score the first two runs. UT (45-11) added two more two innings later on a double by Adam Pendleton, followed by an RBI single by Jacob Tillotson.
The Spartans finished with 11 hits, with every member of the starting lineup contributing at least one. UT also benefitted from seven walks and four hit batsmen in moving within two wins of its sixth national title.
“We never settle,” Schrader said of an offense that came into the tournament averaging eight runs per game. “We always want more, keep going and try to put a game away early. Once we get on top it just feed us and gives us more energy to keep going.”
Although UT did just that, scoring at least one run in every at bat during the final six innings, Brown didn’t need the cushion.
He allowed only five hits and got help from a defense that turned a pair of double plays while preventing the Hilltoppers from advancing a runner past first until giving up two runs in his final inning. Preston Packrall finished off the victory by getting the final six outs.
“It takes the pressure off (when pitching with an early lead), but you still have to pitch like it’s a one-run game,” said Brown (6-0). “This is a World Series. You’re facing good teams and anything can happen here.