Top-ranked Tampa tops Mavericks |

Top-ranked Tampa tops Mavericks

CARY, N.C. — Senior outfielder Zach Gawrych drove in a pair of runs and junior starting pitcher Chase Sparkman took a shutout into the ninth inning in leading the top-ranked University of Tampa baseball team to a 3-1 victory over No. 4 Colorado Mesa on Thursday in the Division II World Series.

Sparkman (4-1) limited the Mavericks (46-12) to six hits over 8 1/3 innings, did not walk a batter and struck out three in the best outing of his career. After giving up a one-out single to Austin Kaiser with one out in the ninth, Sparkman gave way to Tampa closer Kevin McNorton, who surrendered an RBI single to Garrett Woodward before finishing his second save of the tournament and 13th of the year.

Mesa received an equally impressive pitching performance from starting pitcher Ryan Reno (3-2), who held the defending national champion Spartans (54-3) to just seven hits and one earned run in his second complete-game effort of the season. However, Reno was hurt by a pair of Mesa errors that led to two unearned runs.

The loss was the first for the Mavericks in the tournament and forced a second meeting with Tampa at 11 a.m. mountain time today to determine which team will advance to Saturday’s national championship game.

Mesa had the best opportunity to score in the game’s first four innings after a pair of hits and a Tampa error in the bottom of the third. However, the Mavs had two runners thrown out trying to steal, the latter one at third base for the final out of the inning.

The Spartans, held to just one hit by Reno over the first four innings, used two hits and a key Mesa error to break the scoreless tie in the fifth. Giovanny Alfonzo produced a one-out single to right and advanced all the way to third when a pickoff throw to first by Mesa’s catcher sailed into the right-field corner. Gawrych followed with a single to left, giving Tampa the lead for good.

Tampa added a run in the top of the seventh after Michael Danner led off the frame with a single to left-center, advanced to second on a sacrifice by Alfonzo and scored on a single up the middle by Gawrych.

The Spartans tacked on a third run in the eighth inning, again courtesy of a Mesa miscue. Stephen Dezzi started the frame with a single to right-center and moved to second on Tyler Ding’s sacrifice bunt. The Mavericks tried to turn an inning-ending double play on a grounder off the bat of Danner, but the throw from the shortstop to first was wide of the bag, allowing Dezzi to score and increase the Tampa lead to 3-0.

After escaping the third inning unscathed, Sparkman retired 10 straight Mesa batters in the middle innings and did not allow another runner to reach scoring position during his time on the mound.

Sparkman left the game in the ninth after giving up the one-out single to Kaiser, who stole second after McNorton entered the contest. McNorton, making his fourth appearance of the finals, surrendered the single to Woodward that scored Kaiser and brought the game-tying run to the plate. But he induced a pop-up to end the game and keep the Spartans alive.

Kaiser had two of Mesa’s seven hits in the contest, while Dezzi, Danner and Gawrych accounted for six of Tampa’s seven hits.

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