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By ROD GIPSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001
TAMPA -- After sweeping West Florida in a three-game series last weekend, UT improved to 10-0 and embarks today on a five-game series as the No. 1 team in Division II.
It also has a Division II record of 264 consecutive games without being shut out.
In beating West Florida 13-8, 4-3 and 9-2, the Spartans stayed perfect and continue to receive solid play from Charlie Manning, Mike Rabelo and others.
During the series, Manning picked up his second win and Rabelo went 5-for-11 with five RBI. He now is hitting .429 with 8 RBI. Matt Smith and Dwight Edge are batting .385 and .333, respectively, and have a combined 23 RBI.
The Spartans face Saint Leo, Presbyterian and Florida Southern this weekend at the FSC Spring Classic before traveling to Valdosta State for a two-game series March 2 and 3.
MEN'S BASKETBALL: With conference wins over Florida Tech and Rollins last week, the Spartans have returned to the Division II Top 25 at No. 25.
The highest Tampa got this season was No. 7 in the Dec. 18 poll. The Spartans have spent four weeks in the top 10.
The preseason pick to win the Sunshine State Conference, the Spartans now are ranked first in the South Region by the NCAA Basketball Advisory Committee after holding that spot in the initial South Region Poll.
Gecarri Freeman, Elijah Piazza and James Mereus have stepped up during the Spartans' six-game winning streak. Freeman leads UT in three-point shooting, making 39 of 109.
Piazza has scored in double figures in four of his past seven games, and Mereus has been a force on the offensive boards as he picked up seven of his 10 rebounds against Barry at the offensive end. Mereus is tied for the team lead with 57 offensive rebounds. He has recorded five or more offensive rebounds three times.
UT, assured of no lower than a No. 3 seed, starts play in the SSC tournament Sunday in Lakeland.