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Spartans celebrating 20th tournament trip
By DAVID NORRIE
Published May 17, 2005
The University of Tampa baseball program makes its 20th appearance in the NCAA Division II baseball tournament when it faces Tusculum College in Lakeland to open the South Region.
The Spartans (38-16), ranked No.9 in the NCAA poll, earned the third seed in the region behind their first-round opponent, South Atlantic Conference champion Tusculum (42-13), and top seed and host Florida Southern, (43-10) which won the Sunshine State Conference and is ranked No.2. A third SSC team, No.11 Rollins (37-16) is the fourth seed.
UT faces Tusculum, ranked 17th, at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Tampa has met the Pioneers just once, winning 8-2 in the 2003 South Region. UT is 4-3 against Florida Southern and Rollins this season. The Spartans swept a three-game series against the Tars in March. In an April showdown with Southern, UT took the opening game, 5-1, behind a strong performance from right-hander Sergio Perez but was outscored 23-8 in losing both ends of a doubleheader the next day.
Perez (2.31) and teammate Aaron Cook (0.84) hold two of the top four individual ERAs in a conference saturated with quality pitching. FSC, Rollins and Tampa finished in that order in team ERA and runs allowed. Perez is 1-1 against Rollins and 1-0 against FSC; Cook earned a win against Rollins in March and has yet to face Southern.
Tampa, which has won three Division II titles, most recently in 1988, is 61-38 (.616) in 19 postseason appearances, 38-25 (.603) in South Region play. In his four years since taking over as coach, Joe Urso has led UT to two conference titles and two region championships as well as second in the nation in the 2003 Division II tournament.