Published: June 03, 2006
Montgomery, Ala. – It took Tampa ten innings and the ability to come
back from one run deficits twice to earn its fourth National
Championship with a 3-2 victory over Cal-State Chico on Saturday.
It looked like Tampa was on its way to a big first inning as the
visitors once again, but a popped up sacrifice bunt and a line-drive
double play ended the inning with Troy Ferguson stranded on third base.
With a record of 11-0, Ross Jackson took to the mound for the second
time of the tournament, and he looked on top of his game early. He
struck out one and forced two ground outs to the right side of the
infield for a perfect first.
JR Hopf took a pitch to left
field for a one out single, in the second but consecutive pop fly outs
ended the frame for the Spartans.
The Wildcats’ Daniel Code
ripped a ball down the third base line, but a diving Billy Wimberly
made a great stop and an even better throw to get the first out in the
bottom of the second. Christopher Sweeney hit a double to right center
and later scored on a Robby Scott single just under the glove of the
diving Jose Jimenez. For the first time in the Championship Series,
Tampa trailed with the score 1-0.
After the Spartans went down
in order in the third, Chico State threatened with two walks, but never
reached home plate. For the second out of the inning, Orlando Rosales
showed off his blazing speed in center as he tracked down a line drive
with a nice over the shoulder grab, saving at least one run.
Tampa fell victim to another inning ending double play in the fourth,
as Jimenez hit a hard grounder that was snatched by the pitcher,
starting the 1-6-3 double play.
Jackson struck out two in the
fourth on his way to another three up, three down frame. Tampa followed
suit in the top of the fifth as they hit into two groundouts and a pop
Greg Finazzo hit a two-out double down the left field line
but got no further as Jackson got Carl Fairburn to ground out to second
in the bottom of the fifth.
In the top of the sixth, Roberto
Mena led off with a double to the left center gap, he moved to third on
a Ferguson sacrifice bunt. Ryan Kennedy hit a hard grounder to the
shortstop, who booted it. Mena was running on contact, giving Kennedy
an RBI. Rosales and Cruz both followed with singles, to load the bases
and chasing Nick Bryant, the starting pitcher. Left-handed pitcher
Garrett Rieck came in relief and got both the left-handed batters
Jimenez and Hopf to pop out to third to end the inning at a 1-1 tie.
Jackson went through the meat of Chico State’s order in the sixth with
no problem as the three, four, five batters were retired.
Chico’s third pitcher of the evening, Billy Spottiswood, came into the
ball game in the top of the seventh and retired all three of the
Spartans that he faced.
Jackson followed suit once again in
the bottom half of the seventh, as he sat the Wildcats down in order
for the fourth time of the evening.
Ferguson led off the
eighth with a walk and moved to second on Kennedy’s sacrifice bunt.
Rosales put a charge into one, but it was caught in center for the
second out. Cruz came to the plate but was given a free pass. Ferguson
hustled to third on a passed ball but no runs were scored as Jimenez
popped to second to end the inning.
Aaron Cook came into pitch
the eighth. With one down, Finazzo reached on a bunt single and
Fairburn drew a walk. After a Jerin Harper strike-out Code delivered an
RBI single through the right side and gave Chico a 2-1 lead with Tampa
left with only three outs.
Hopf, pinch hitter, and Chris
Ignaut both hit the ball solid but were retired. Craig Corrado hit a
two-out single through the left side. Mena followed up with an infield
single to third, bringing up Ferguson, who singled through the left
side to tie the game at two. Kennedy hit a liner to shallow left field
that was caught by the sliding Code to end the inning.
Cook tossed a perfect ninth but was aided by nice plays by Kennedy and Jimenez, as the two teams headed to extra-innings.
With one down, Cruz lofted a single down the right field line, followed
by a Jimenez fly out. Hopf drew a walk, chasing Spottiswood. Pinch
hitter Chris Rosenbaum hit a line-drive single to right, scoring Cruz
from second, for the 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the tenth,
Sergio Perez came into the game for the first time all season as a
relief pitcher. Pinch-hitter James McCarthy hit a full-count scorcher
to first that was picked up by Jimenez on a nice diving play, tossing
it to Perez for the out. Perez then struck out Finazzo looking for the
second out. Pinch-hitter Chad Williams then roped a double down the
left-field line before Perez induced a groundout to short to end the
Jackson tied career highs in strikeouts and innings pitched with seven in his no-decision.
Cook (9-1) earned the victory and the first-team All-American picked up his first save as a Spartan.
This marks the fourth time that Tampa has won a national championship, the first since 1998.
Joe Urso led the Spartans to the best record in school history with 54
wins for his first national championship as a coach, and also saw his
team break almost all of Tampa’s previous offensive records.
The all-tournament team consisted of Tampa players Troy Ferguson, JR
Hopf, Roberto Mena and Sergio Perez, while National Player of the Year
Lee Cruz was named tournament MVP.
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