NCAA Finals Call for Spartan Baseball

Published: May 19, 2010

Live stats and a link to the NCAA webcast will be available through www.tampaspartans.com.
Things were looking a little shaky Monday afternoon in the 2010 NCAA Division II South Region baseball championship. The Spartans were down in a game against Southern Arkansas University which had won 10-7 in the first game of the day.

Then catcher Mike Blanke ’11 stepped up and hit one out of the park. Blake’s grand slam revived the Spartans and even made it to SI.com’s Extra Mustard as the sports video of the day.

“I was excited because it was dead the whole day, and that lifted it up,” said Blanke, a marketing major from Palm Bay, FL. “With bases loaded, I was just trying to get something in the air.”

The Spartans (46-9) went on to win their 14th NCAA South Regional with a 20-3 victory, and Blanke, was named most valuable player of the tournament. Larry Walicki also hit a grand slam, tying UT with an NCAA record with two grand slams in a postseason game.

“This one was an emotional rollercoaster,” said Coach Joe Urso ’92, a former Spartan All-American, now in his 10th season as head baseball coach at UT. “It was a big letdown dropping the first game. In the second one we gave up the lead-off homerun. But our team battled the starting pitcher.”

When the pitcher was switched out, Urso said the energy in the dugout spiked, and he knew his guys were ready to take the tournament. Heading into the NCAA Division II Championships on Saturday, May 22, Urso is trying hard to keep his players from being affected by the added intensity.

“I want them to try to not be so overly hyped,” said Urso, who has led the Spartans to two NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007. “The first game of the tournament is the toughest because of that.”

Following the south regional championship, Urso and six student-athletes each earned ABCA/Rawlings All-South Region honors. Urso was named the ABCA/Rawlings Coach of the Year and Patrick Donahue and Blanke each earned a spot on the first-team. Josh Bowman, Tyler Cox, Mike Schwartz and Jared Simon also earned second-team consideration.

The Spartans will travel to Cary, N.C., for the NCAA Division II Championships where it will meet the University of Central Missouri, the South Central Region champion, on Saturday at 1 p.m. The finals conclude May 29.

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