TAMPA, Fla. - In a rematch of last season's NCAA South Region final, the #1 University of Tampa (4-1) took the first of four over the visiting Catawba Indians (4-2) with a 7-5 score.
Catawba took advantage of a couple walks and an RBI single by Chad Baker to take a 1-0 lead off of Tampa's Kevin Ferguson in the first. The Indians left the bases loaded after K. Ferguson induced a groundout to Roberto Mena, who made a nice charging play and toss to first to end the inning.
Ryan Kennedy managed to reach on a single, and Mena drew a walk, but that was all that could be done in the first against Catawba's Tim Smith.
Last week against Eckerd, in his first start as a Spartan, K. Ferguson showed that he had a decent pickoff move and just like last week he ended an inning with a that slick move. This time he caught Craig Lyerly trying to steal third to end the frame.
After both Tampa and Catawba went three and out the Spartans tied the game in the bottom of the third. Junior Mejia beat out a chopper to third then stole second to put himself in scoring position and that's what he did on a Kennedy groundout to second.
The tie ball game didn't last long as the Indians' Chad Baker took the first pitch he saw in the fourth and put it over the fence in right center for a 2-1 lead. K. Ferguson the proceeded to strike out the next three batters, to end the threat.
Jose Jimenez tied the game once again at two with an RBI single through the left side, driving in Kennedy.
Jimenez flashed some leather in the top of the sixth, with a runner on first, Baker hit a dribbler just out of reach of the pitcher, Jimenez made a sliding stop and a perfect throw to second to keep the runner from advancing. K. Ferguson struck out the final two batters to keep the game tied heading into the bottom of the inning.
The Spartans took their first lead of the evening when Paul Cruz scored on Nolan Brannon's single to left after Cruz led of the inning with a double. Later, Chris Rosenbaum crossed the plate on Troy Ferguson's RBI, for the 4-2 advantage.
Craig Corrado ignited Tampa in the seventh with a lead off double, that was followed by a Cruz walk and a Rosenbaum hit by pitch. With the bases loaded Brannon ripped a single to the left center gap that plated two runs. Rosenbaum later scored on Mejia's RBI fielder's choice, for a 7-2 Tampa lead.
The Indians got those three runs back in the top of the eighth, highlighted by Brett Hatley's bloop single down the right field line, that scored two runs.
K. Ferguson (2-0) picked up the victory for the Spartans while his counter part, Tim Smith (1-1) took the loss. Scott Leffler pitched a perfect seventh when he struck out the side, Craig Benner was responsible for three runs in the eighth, only two earned. Jonathan Holt picked up his second save of the young season, he tossed a perfect ninth.
Brannon continues to swing a hot bat as he added two hits to his season total as well as three more RBI.
The same two teams continue their four-game series with a double header tomorrow beginning at 1:00 pm at the University of Tampa Baseball Stadium.