TAMPA, Fla. - The No. 1 ranked University of Tampa baseball team fell to the visiting top-ranked University of Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles by a 9-7 score, Sunday afternoon from UT Baseball Field. The defeat marks the Spartans' only loss of the 2015 season.
The visiting Screaming Eagles jumped out of the gate offensively, scoring three quick runs in the top of the first inning to take an early lead. USI capitalized on two singles, two hit-by-pitches, and a homerun in the half inning, rallying for their biggest lead of the series.
After two scoreless outings by the Spartans, Southern Indiana returned again in the top of the third inning to extend their lead. The run came on back-to-back singles and back-to-back walks.
In the bottom of the third inning, however, Tampa's offense exploded for five runs to force a 5-4 lead. Junior Zion Bell led off the inning with a single up the middle, and senior Andrew Amaro then walked to give the Spartans two base runners. After junior Casey Scoggins advanced to first on a hit-by-pitch and loaded the bases, junior Nick Flair came up clutch with a base-clearing double. Senior Ian Townsend then walked, and both he and Flair advanced on a passed ball to give the Spartans runners on second and third. On the next play, junior Cody deNoyelles took first on a fielder's choice, but Flair was able to score on an Eagles' throwing error, allowing Townsend to take third and deNoyelles to take second. To finish out the offensive rally, senior Nick Tindall sent a sacrifice flyout to right-field that scored Townsend and gave the Spartans a 5-4 lead.
Southern Indiana responded quickly, taking back the lead in the top of the fourth inning. It was the Eagles' Kevin Kempf who sent a two-run homer over the left-field fence to push Southern Indiana ahead, 6-5.
A scoreless fifth inning turned faded into the sixth, as Southern Indiana tacked on another run for a 7-5 lead.
Tampa's Giovanny Alfonzo sent a solo homer over the left-field fence in the bottom of the seventh to bring the Spartans with one, but the Eagles responded in the top of the eighth with another run to take back a two-run lead.
In the top of the ninth, a solo homerun from Southern Indiana's Dylan McNamara extended the Eagles' lead to three.
Trailing 9-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth, junior Nick Flair jumpstarted the inning with a triple to left-centerfield, and was escorted home on an Ian Townsend sacrifice fly. Despite the late push, the Spartans ended the contest with a 9-7 loss.
Junior LHP David Hencke started the game for the Spartans, going two and one-third innings and striking out four. The lefty allowed five hits before junior Michael Calkins appeared for one inning, striking out two and permitting just one USI hit. As the pitcher of record when Southern Indiana forced their defining lead, Calkins was awarded the loss.
In the fourth inning, sophomore Logan LaPace came in for relief, tossing two complete innings and allowing one Screaming Eagles hit. Juniors Kevin Martin and Zac Favre closed out the game with a combined two and two-thirds innings pitched, allowing one run each and a total of four hits.
On the day, both teams recorded 11 hits.
No. 1 Tampa will touch the field again in Augusta, Georgia when they begin a three-day, three-game series against Georgia Regents University. First pitch is set for Friday, February 20 at 6 p.m. Live stats as well as a live video webcast will be available through www.tampaspartans.tv.
Fans may follow University of Tampa athletics on Twitter (www.twitter.com/utspartans), Facebook (www.facebook.com/tampaspartans), YouTube (youtube.com/utathletics) and Instragram (tampaspartans). UT also offers blAst, a free text messaging service that sends text alerts following all Spartan events. To sign up, please register at www.tampaspartans.com.