CARY, N.C. — A few nights before Tampa’s Tuesday matchup with St. Edwards, the Spartan coaching staff approached righthander Ben Brown at a team barbecue.
“They pretty much said, ‘you know you’re pitching, right?’” Brown said. “I’m like, ‘Yep.’ And (head coach Joe) Urso just said, “I want seven strong out of you.”
“I was pretty confident I could do that.”
After Tampa thumped Coker (S.C.) by scoring 12 runs two days ago, the Spartans brought their bats again Tuesday, smacking 11 hits and scoring 10 runs against St. Edward’s (Texas) in a Division II College World Series winner’s bracket matchup.
But despite all of the offense, the night undoubtedly belonged to the man on the mound.
Just as Urso prognosticated, Brown hurled seven strong innings, allowing just five hits and only two runs—both of which came around to score after he exited the game.
The result? A 10-3 Tampa win, the second for the Spartans in the tournament.
“(Brown) was pounding the ball away, had a good slider going and then he was freezing guys in late,” Urso said. “I think that’s the longest he’s gone all year . . . Just a really gutsy performance on his part against a good team.”
It was a fairly painless night for the righthander, who St. Edward’s coach Rob Pender said kept his team off balance all night.
Brown (6-0, 3.64) pitched a 1-2-3 first and didn’t allow more than one baserunner in any inning until the eighth. Coming in with just 14 strikeouts in 40 innings, he pitched to contact, locating his fastball and mixing in a slider and changeup.
Meanwhile, his offense supplied plenty of punch.
Out of the four home runs that have been in hit in the tournament so far, three have come from Tampa, and two have come from third baseman Jake Schrader, who knocked in the first runs of the game in the second inning on a two-run shot over the left-field wall.
By doing so, Schrader became the first player to hit multiple home runs in the tournament since it moved to Cary in 2009.
He wasn’t the only one hitting, though. After going scoreless in the third, the Spartans scored at least one run in each of the next six innings, chewing through five St. Edward’s pitchers. And by the end of the night, every starter came away with at least one hit for the second straight game.
“That’s something we do,” Schrader said. “We never settle. We always want more. Once we get on top of someone, it feeds us. It gives us more energy.”
It also allowed Brown to breathe a little easier on the mound, although he said he still tried to make each pitch as though he only had a 1-0 lead.
He left the game in the eighth with 99 pitches after allowing a single and hitting a batter. Those two runs came around to score when reliever Preston Packrall allowed a two-run single to left fielder Cutter Runte.
But to be fair, those runs came in the eighth, and Brown only promised seven.
“I got a little greedy,” Urso joked after the game. “I sent him back out for the eighth.”
Given the way Brown pitched the first seven innings, it’s hard to blame him.
Grand Canyon Knocks Off Coker
The Grand Canyon (Ariz.) Antelopes took the field Tuesday afternoon with the threat of elimination hanging over them.
It was nothing new.
The last three games Grand Canyon played in the West Regional were all elimination games. And on Tuesday, the Antelopes used that experience to aid them in a 10-2 win against the Coker (S.C.) Cobras.
Grand Canyon coach Andy Stankiewicz said his players aren’t fazed by the pressure. On the contrary, they welcome it.
“You don’t want to be here — you don’t want be in the loser’s bracket,” Stankiewicz said. “But in a way, it’s kind of refreshing. You know we’ve got nowhere else to go. You either show up and get after it, or we’re going home.
“I think the guys seemed to play well in that element.”
After getting blanked by St. Edwards in their opening game, the Antelopes peppered a cavernous Coleman Field outfield for seven doubles and two triples.
The appropriately named Steven Swingle ripped the first extra-base hit of the afternoon in the second, booming a deep ball over the head of center fielder Justin Blechle and losing his gear as he whipped around the bases. “Usually my leg guard doesn’t stay on too well,” Swingle said, laughing.
Swingle later came around to score on a passed ball, and in the fifth inning he supplied two of Grand Canyon’s three runs on a double, ultimately extending the Antelopes’ lead to 7-2.
And that scoring output was significant with Antelope starter Jorge Perez having given up two runs the inning before.
“It calms me down a little bit,” Perez said. “I can breathe a little bit, and (I have) a little room to just relax and go out there and pound the zone again inning after inning.”
Perez settled down and went the distance for Grand Canyon, allowing just the two runs on five hits with six strikeouts and stymieing any chance at a Coker comeback.
“We know that Coker is a team that plays with emotion,” Stankiewicz said. “Obviously, Jorge was able to keep the momentum on our side.”
The Antelopes will have a short turnaround—along with St. Edward’s—who will face off at 7 p.m. Wednesday. It’ll be another elimination game for Grand Canyon, but if Tuesday’s win is any indication, nerves won’t be an issue.
“It was a big game, but we weren’t really too worried about it,” Swingle said. “All year, that’s just kind of how we’ve been.
“Whenever we have our backs to the wall, that’s usually when we respond the best.”