By ROD GIPSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 19, 2001
TAMPA -- Joey Watts put up impressive numbers as a senior pitcher at Brandon High School. But despite going 11-0 with a 1.68 ERA, he admitted he "didn't pitch well in big games."
Watts had no such problems in his first big college game.
In seven strong innings, Watts gave up four hits and earned the win as Tampa defeated Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) 12-5 in the second round of the NCAA Division II South Region Friday at Sam Bailey Field. UT (48-8) advanced to today's 1 p.m. title game against Saint Leo, which advanced through the losers' bracket and defeated Lenoir-Rhyne 12-7 Friday night.
For UT, the trip to the title game has been smooth sailing. The Spartans won their second tournament game in as many days mainly because of Watts, who settled down after the third inning, and a solid offense. Watts (9-2) allowed three hits in the first and another in the second but rebounded. With a strong defense behind him and a command of his pitches, Watts had six strikeouts, walked three and in one stretch retired 16 of 19 batters.
"I think at first I was trying too hard," said Watts, the Sunshine State Conference's freshman of the year. "But I guess I settled down and the defense was excellent."
The Spartans' bats weren't bad either.
UT broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning with back-to-back triples from Angel Cruz and Kenny White. An inning later, leading 2-1, the Spartans scored four runs thanks in part to hits from Neal Maybin and White.
Mike Burruezo, Cruz and White had doubles as UT built a 9-1 lead in the seventh. White and Tom Carrow finished with three hits each and Burruezo and Cruz had two each.
"Our bats really showed up today," UT coach Joe Urso said. "It was a tight game but this team stays focused and we knew it was far from over. And Watts has a lot of guts. Nothing seems to affect him."
Saint Leo stayed alive earlier in the day with a 24-7 pounding of Wingate (N.C.). The Lions had 24 hits, with five players getting at least three hits.
FSU 5, CLEMSON 4: Tigers closer Josh Cram, who Thursday said Clemson was the conference's power despite losing three to the Seminoles this season, gave up Karl Jernigan's winning ninth-inning single and was the loser. When Mike Futrell, whose two-run homer tied the score in the sixth, was asked if Cram's comments had any impact with Florida State, he said, "Absolutely." The Seminoles have to win three more times for their first ACC tournament title since 1997. "I mean, they're going to play the way they play, they play hard, no matter what is said," Cram said. "I think we're a great team, we're just not doing all the things we need to right now. I'm not pitching well."
ALSO: Freshman Kyle Sleeth held Georgia Tech to seven hits in seven innings and moved Wake Forest a step closer to its third ACC tournament title since 1998 with a 4-3 victory. The Demon Deacons are the only 3-0 team. They can win the crown by defeating FSU this afternoon, and either the Yellow Jackets (41-17) or North Carolina State tonight. ... Corey Mattison, who hadn't pitched in nearly three weeks, shut down Virginia on four hits as North Carolina State won 6-2. Joe Gaetti, the son of major-leaguer Gary Gaetti, had a two-run homer and three RBI for the Wolfpack.
MISSISSIPPI 7, FLORIDA 6: Glen Morris had a sacrifice fly in the seventh and picked up the save as the Rebels eliminated the Gators. Mississippi, which has won 10 of the past 11 against UF, has to beat defending champion LSU twice today to make the championship. The Gators (34-25) outhit the Rebels 13-8 but committed three errors and twice had aggressive baserunning backfire. Coach Andy Lopez thinks Florida deserves an at-large NCAA region bid Monday. "I refuse to go through the anxiety of waiting," Lopez said. "I think when you play in this league, and play a non-conference schedule like we did against Miami and Florida State, that speaks for itself."
ALSO: Tim Whittaker hit a grand slam as South Carolina eliminated top-seeded Georgia 10-2. The Gamecocks meet Mississippi State today, needing two wins to reach the championship.
USF 7, LOUISVILLE 3 (10): The bottom of the Bulls lineup produced eight hits, including four in the 10th inning in an elimination game. USF needs two wins over Southern Mississippi today to advance to Sunday's title game.The first game will be at 10 a.m.; Game 2 would begin at 4 p.m. The Bulls scored three in the third inning, but Louisville tied it at 3 in the seventh.USF broke through against first-team all-conference reliever Josh Ring for the second time in three days. Mike Barclay had the winning RBI. Reliever David Richtberg pitched two scoreless innings.
JACKSONVILLE-UCF TITLE GAME: The Dolphins defeated Troy State 10-6 and Florida Atlantic 12-5 to advance to today's 1 p.m. championship game against Central Florida.
MIAMI 17, NEW YORK TECH 5: The host Hurricanes hit four homers, three triples and stole 11 bases.
- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.