By ROD GIPSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001
TAMPA -- The Spartans took their first step Thursday evening toward a return to the Division II World Series, although a few dramatics were needed to jump-start a potential championship run.
Despite trailing for most of the game and being held hitless until the fourth inning, Tampa put together a seventh-inning rally en route to a 8-4 win against Saint Leo in the opening round of the South Region baseball tournament.
With the win, UT improved to 47-8, setting a school record for victories in a season.
More importantly, the Spartans stayed unbeaten in the tournament going into today's second-round matchup against Lenior-Rhyne, a 14-8 winner against Wingate. UT and Lenior-Rhyne play at 3. Saint Leo plays Wingate in the losers' bracket at 11 a.m. All games will be played at Sam Bailey Field.
"Our team plays hard for nine innings," UT coach Joe Urso said. "We have to tip our hat to (Saint Leo pitcher) Eric Paone. He pitched a good game but we always believe we can come back. We've done it all year long."
But it didn't look good for the Spartans midway through the game. Paone limited the Spartans to one hit through the first five innings and had a 3-0 lead.
But the sixth inning saw the Spartans' bats heat up. Catcher Mike Rabelo hit a home run and Dwight Edge scored on a wild pitch. An inning later, the Spartans put up five runs as Angel Cruz, Neal Maybin and Tom Jachimczyk had hits in their decisive inning.
"You don't want to hit the panic button," said Rabelo, who went 3-for-5 and scored twice. "(Paone) was tough to hit but we wore him down. We had a plan and we knew it was just a matter of time."
FLORIDA 9, TENNESSEE 3: Matt Goss drove in four runs, including a three-run homer, to lift the Gators in an elimination game in Hoover, Ala.
The Gators scored three in the first and one in the second before the Volunteers made it 4-3 with runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh.
Goss answered with his 11th homer of the season. Jason Dill went 2-for-4, including a two-run double for the Gators.
Florida plays Mississippi today.
ALSO: Marcus McBeth, Garris Gonce and Tim Whittaker each hit home runs to lead South Carolina to a 5-4 win over Auburn, eliminating the Tigers. Mike Fontenot and Zeph Zinsman each had home runs to lead LSU to a 13-2 win over Mississippi. LSU set the tone for the win in a six-run first inning that included Fontenot's and Zinsman's blasts. Mississippi turned a triple play in the sixth, the first against LSU in history. Mississippi State beat Georgia 8-4 in the late game.
GEORGIA TECH 6, FSU 5 (10): Matt Murton's hard shot got past Florida State shortstop Scott Toole in the 10th inning, letting Jason Basil score from second as the Yellow Jackets won their seventh straight conference tournament game in Fort Mill, S.C.
Toole was charged with his third error. It ended a wild three-inning finish that saw the teams exchange the lead four times.
"When we went up by one twice," Florida State coach Mike Martin said, "gosh, you have to feel like you just need three outs."
The Yellow Jackets, the defending tournament champions, take on Virginia or Wake Forest in today's winners' bracket.
The Seminoles, who had won seven of eight, fell to an elimination game today against second-seeded Clemson.
ALSO: Clemson watched North Carolina whittle down a 7-1 lead and put the tying run on third in the ninth inning. But the Tigers held on for a 7-6 victory. Right-hander Daniel Caldwell, a reliever the past six weeks, no-hit Duke for nearly six innings as North Carolina State remained alive with a 5-3 victory. Jamie D'Antona drove in the winning run with a single in the eighth and Wake Forest pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts as the Demon Deacons defeated Virginia 2-1.
SO. MISS. 18, USF 5: Clint Stoy drove in four runs and Allen Winningham and Chris Dunn drove in three apiece and the seventh-seeded Golden Eagles stayed unbeaten in the tournament in Metairie, La.
USF faces sixth-seeded Louisville in an elimination game today.
Southern Miss scored three unearned runs in the third to take a 3-1 lead. The Golden Eagles put the game away with eight more in the fifth. Five were unearned.
"We made a couple of costly errors, and I mean real costly errors when you total the runs that scored after them," USF coach Eddie Cardieri said.
USF starter John Vigue (7-4) took the loss, giving up nine hits and eight runs, three earned, in 41/3 innings.
ALSO: Jon Kaplan had two RBI and Andy Cannizaros had one as top-seeded Tulane scored four in the bottom of the seventh to eliminate fourth-seeded Cincinnati 9-7. Mike Budak walked and Morgan Bojorquez was hit by a pitch, both times with bases loaded, giving sixth-seeded Louisville two runs in the bottom of the ninth to eliminate No. 2 Houston 6-5. Paul Reuer went 4-for-5 and drove in the tiebreaking runs as fifth-seeded Memphis remained unbeaten by defeating eighth-seeded Charlotte 4-2.
UCF 8, CAMPBELL 3: Former Dunedin High star Jeremy Kurella went 4-for-5, including three doubles, three runs and an RBI, and the Golden Knights eliminated the Fighting Camels at Alexander Brest Stadium in Jacksonville.
BIG EAST: Notre Dame senior right-hander Aaron Heilman claimed his second straight conference pitcher of the year award as the Irish earned at least a share of all four post-season honors. Centerfielder Steve Stanley shared player of the year with Connecticut centerfielder Mike Scott. Second baseman Steve Sollmann was rookie of the year, and Paul Mainieri was coach of the year.
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.