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Colleges

Sun, sand on tap for UT

By ROD GIPSON
Published March 2, 2004

TAMPA - The University of Tampa opened Sunshine State Conference baseball play in convincing fashion during the weekend by sweeping Florida Tech in a three-game series.

UT won 4-2, 9-6 and 3-1. That performance came on the heels of the Spartans taking two of three at Valdosta State.

Now 14-4 overall and ranked third in the Division II poll, the Spartans get to have a little fun.

UT travels Thursday for a six-game series against Hawaii-Pacific, a Division II school in Honolulu. The Spartans and the Sea Warriors play doubleheaders Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. In between, the Spartans will do some sightseeing before returning home and continuing SSC play March 13 at Saint Leo.

"We wanted to do something special for the boys," UT coach Joe Urso. "So we're going out there (Hawaii) for spring break. It's great for team chemistry and building even more camaraderie.

"And those kind of things show up later on in the season when your team's playing in big games."

The Spartans head to Hawaii with a pitching staff that has been dominant. Senior right-hander Casey McKenzie pitched a seven-inning complete game to seal the sweep of Florida Tech. McKenzie allowed one earned run on five hits and four walks while striking out 13 Panthers. That effort helped McKenzie, who has earned complete-game victories in his past three starts, earn SSC Pitcher of the Week honors.

Fellow Spartan hurlers Sergio Perez, Joey Watts and Eric Beattie have been equally effective. A freshman, the right-handed Perez has started his college career 3-0. Watts, a senior left-hander, is 3-0, and Beattie, last season's SSC Athlete of the Year and a likely high pick in this June's amateur draft, is 3-1.

Collectively, the UT pitching staff has a 2.95 ERA with three shutouts and 156 strikeouts in 152 innings.

SOFTBALL: Spartans junior first baseman Kristin Law had multiple-hit games in each of the Spartans' four wins at this weekend's South Region Crossover tournament in Valdosta, Ga., earning the SSC Softball Player of the Week award. Her best performance came against tournament host Valdosta State, as she went 3-for-4 with a double, a home run, three RBIs and a run scored. Against Lincoln Memorial, she was 2-for-3 with a home run, four RBIs and two runs scored. Law finished the weekend with a .500 batting average and eight RBIs. UT (8-1) hosts Saginaw Valley State Saturday.

MEN'S BASKETBALL: The Spartans ended the regular season Feb.25 with a 49-47 loss to Florida Southern. Despite a second-half lead, UT could muster only one point during the last 3:15 on its way to the loss against the rival Moccasins.

UT senior forward James Mereus, who was relegated to the bench because of foul trouble for most of the second half, scored 11 and pulled down five rebounds in his last home game.

The Spartans (15-12, 6-8) ended the regular season with losses in three of their last four games. UT opens the Sunshine State Conference tournament Friday in Winter Park as the sixth seed against No. 3 Lynn. With a 17-10 overall record and a 9-5 mark in conference play, Lynn enjoyed two wins against the Spartans in the regular season, 66-57 in Tampa in January and a 64-40 thumping Feb. 21 in Boca Raton.

[Last modified March 2, 2004, 01:44:59]


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