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Published: June 09, 2024

Tampa Baseball Makes History With Ninth National Championship

The University of Tampa baseball team captured the program's ninth national championship with an 8-3 win over Angelo State University at the 2024 NCAA Division II National Championships at the USA National Training Complex in Cary, NC, this weekend.

baseball team with trophyThe University of Tampa baseball team captured the program's ninth national championship with an 8-3 win over Angelo State University at the 2024 NCAA Division II National Championships.

The No. 2 seed Tampa Spartans claimed the 2024 NCAA National Championship by defeating the No.8 seed and defending national champion Angelo State Rams. This triumph caps off an impressive season with a 52-8 record for head coach Joe Urso's Spartans.

“These guys are all going to be part of my family for the rest of my life. They are going to go down in my heart as one of the greatest teams of all time," said Urso '92, who recently earned his 1,000th career win and was named National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA) National Coach of the Year.

"I know with this group, I’m going to be part of their lives for a long time outside of this game.”

The championship game began with early momentum for Angelo State. Jacob Guerrero's aggressive baserunning led to the game's first run, capitalizing on a Tampa throwing error in the first inning. The Rams extended their lead in the second inning with Tayten Tredaway's sacrifice fly, bringing in Christian Garnett to make it 2-0.

Tampa struggled to get on the board until the fourth inning when Nico Saladino's runs batted in (RBI) single cut the deficit to 2-1. Angelo State responded in the bottom half of the fourth, as Blake Wilhoite's sacrifice bunt brought in Kamden Kelton, pushing the lead back to 3-1.

The game's turning point came in the top of the sixth inning, where Tampa's offense exploded for six runs. This rally began with Brayden Woodburn scoring on E.J. Cumbo's single. Anthony Nunez then tied the game with a sacrifice fly, bringing in Nico Saladino. Stephen Klein delivered a clutch two-RBI double down the right field line, and J.P. Gates followed with a towering two-run homer to right-center, giving Tampa a commanding 7-3 lead.

Cumbo, the all-time hits leader in NCAA Division II, registered his 400th career hit in the sixth inning. He became one of just three players in NCAA history to reach 400 career hits. 

"[This is] the best feeling possible. I’ve been here twice, and getting [a ring] on the last one to end the career is the best that it could have gone," said Cumbo '24.

In the ninth inning, freshman Maddox King added an insurance run with a solo homer down the left field line, solidifying the Spartans' lead at 8-3. The home run marked the first collegiate homer for the Tampa native, and son of 1998 national champion Mike King.

Tampa's pitching was instrumental in securing the victory, with Alex Canney earning the win to improve to 14-3 on the season. J.P. Gates combined to hold Angelo State to just six hits and three runs over nine innings, earning his fourth save of the season.

"I was just hoping to get up there and drive the ball. I hadn’t seen many fastballs after the first two games. I finally got one, and it just sparked everything," said Gates '24.

J.P. Gates would be named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player in the ceremony following the game. Joining him on the all-tournament team was Cumbo, Klein and Canney.

With nine national championships, Tampa is now tied with Florida Southern for the most national championships in NCAA Division II. The Spartans have now won six national titles in the 2000's, more than any other school at any NCAA level.

*This story first appeared on The University of Tampa Athletics website.

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