Top-Ranked Tampa On Verge Of Repeating

Columbus State (Ga.) and Tampa have advanced to the 40th Division II national championship game in Montgomery, Ala.

Defending Champion Tampa, which is striving to become the first school since 1992-93 to win back-to-back Division II titles, advanced to the finals by defeating Southern Indiana, Cal State LA and Nebraska-Omaha.

The top-ranked Spartans have outscored its opponents 30-8 in their three games of the Division II World Series. In the semifinals against Southern Indiana, Tampa righthander Scott Chapman (8-0) threw a five-hitter over seven innings and Ryan Kennedy went 4-for-5 with two RBIs to advance the Spartans into the championship for the second consecutive season. Tampa (52-10) will be looking to win their fifth national championship in school history at Riverwalk Stadium Friday. Tampa’™s win over Southern Indiana gave it a Division II high 52 wins.

Earlier this week, the Spartans had three players named to the Rawlings/ABCA all-America teams. The three included were senior outfielder Craig Corrado, junior lefthander Kevin Ferguson and junior closer Jonathan Holt.

Columbus State (Ga.) clinched a spot in the championship by knocking off Cal State LA, Angelo State (Texas) and Southern Indiana. In its three games at the World Series, the Cougars have outscored their opponents 25-10.

In the semifinal, the Cougars jumped out to an early 4-0 lead but the tables turned in the fifth inning as Cal State LA rallied for four runs to tie the game at four a piece. The Cougars (51-18) took back the momentum as they answered with five runs in the last three innings, giving them a 9-4 victory over Cal State LA (45-17-1). Senior catcher Trent Bianco led the Cougar 18-hit attack as he pounded out four of his own while Billy Howard and Rodney Rutherford collected three a piece. Columbus State (Ga.) returns to the championship game for the first time since winning the 2002 title and is making its third appearance in the Division II final overall.

Earlier this week Columbus State sophomore righthander Jarrett Coker was named to the Rawlings/ABCA all-America team. Coker was tabbed to the third team while shortstop Kurt McKee and second baseman David Brown were Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners for their outstanding defensive middle infield play.