TAMPA, Fla. - The #1 University of Tampa led the entire game over the #10 Tusculum Pioneers, behind great pitching in advancing to the South Region Final with a 5-3 victory.
According to the tournament format the Spartans played the game as the visiting team and they didn't take long to get on the board. Singles by Ryan Kennedy and Craig Corrado, followed by a Jose Jimenez walk left the bases loaded for Nolan Brannon. The first baseman responded with a hard single through the right side, driving in two as Tampa jumped to the early lead.
Tusculum had runners on second and third in the bottom of the fourth and Aaron Porter delivered with a single to left, Maikol Gonzalez scored easily but Matt Webb gunned down at the plate by Troy Ferguson for the second out of the inning.
Tampa got that run back in the top of the sixth when Jose Jimenez drove in Corrado to make the score 3-1. Corrado earlier recorded his 105 hit of the season with a double down the right field line. That hit broke the UT record for hits in a season that was set a year ago by Lee Cruz.
The Spartans continued to score as they put two across the plate in the seventh. Chris Rosenbaum led off with a single back up the middle. Ryan Williams laid down a sacrifice bunt but a throwing error by the catcher allowed him to reach base. After a Junior Mejia sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, T. Ferguson lifted a fly ball to left that was deep enough for Rosenbaum to tag up and reach home. The next batter was Kennedy and he drove the ball up the middle and Williams motored around to score Tampa's fifth run.
Kevin Ferguson got into a little trouble in the bottom half of the seventh as he walked the bases loaded with only one out. He allowed a sacrifice fly from Eric Barclay but induced a ground ball to the next batter to retire the side.
K. Ferguson retired Tusculum in order in the eighth. He allowed the leadoff man to reach in the ninth before being relieved by Jonathan Holt. K. Ferguson (12-2) scattered seven hits in his eight innings of work allowing only three hits. Holt closed out the game for his 19th save of the season and third in as many days.
The Spartans reach the South Region Finals in three games for the second straight year. Tampa will face one of the three teams remaining (Florida Gulf Coast, Florida Southern or Tusculum) tomorrow at 1:00 pm. Tampa needs only one victory to reach the championship series in Montgomery, Ala. While the opponent to be named later will need two.