TAMPA – The No. 14 West Florida baseball team finished one win short of an NCAA regional championship on Sunday at the University of Tampa.
The Argonauts defeated No. 2 ranked Tampa in the first game 7-2 but fell 20-7 in the final game of the double elimination tournament.
The Spartans advanced to the NCAA Division II Championships with the win and improved to 43-11, while UWF had its season come to an end with a record of 39-14.
The Argos’ 7-2 win in the first game was thanks to an incredible performance by starting pitcher Jake Stephens (Marietta, Ga./Northwest Florida State). The right-hander threw a complete game on just two days of rest, giving him wins in two of the team’s four victories at the tournament. In the second game the Tampa lineup broke through with three runs in the first, four in the third, two in the fifth and seven in the sixth to put the game out of reach for UWF.
“Jake Stephens threw an outstanding game to give us an opportunity to play for the regional title,” said UWF head coach Mike Jeffcoat. “I think we just ran out of gas in the second game. We couldn’t muster up anything out of the bullpen. I’m proud of this team’s fight. We’ve got a lot of guys coming back with this great experience, and hopefully they can use this as fuel to get better next year and get back in this situation to overcome it.”
Stephens was named to the NCAA South Regional All-Tournament Team, and he was joined on the team by pitcher Dayan Rodriguez(Sarasota, Fla./State College of Florida), first baseman Cliff Covington (McIntosh, Ala./Alabama Southern CC), second baseman Kaleb Barlow (Florence, Miss./Chipola), shortstop Josh Allen (Fort Meade, Fla./State College of Florida) and outfielder Drew Prichard(Mobile, Ala./Troy).
Game 1: West Florida 7, Tampa 2
In Stephens’ gem in the first game, he needed only 75 pitches to get through his first eight innings. The Spartans threatened in the ninth inning, putting two runners on with one out, but Stephens got the next two batters to fly out to end the inning and clinch the win. The complete game was Stephens’ third of the year, and he improved his record to 8-1 with the win.
The Argos scored seven runs on 13 hits, and multiple players contributed. Barlow hit a three-run homer in the first, and he drove in another run with a double in the fourth inning. Prichard hit 4-for-5 with two runs, and first Covington and Allen also had multi-hit games.
Tampa’s losing pitcher in the first game was starter Eric Luksis (5-3), as the left-hander allowed six runs in four innings pitched.
Game 2: Tampa 20, West Florida 7
The final game of the tournament resembled UWF’s meeting with Tampa in the winner’s bracket final on Saturday, when Tampa won 15-11 to advance to the championship round. Senior pitcher Drew Bryson (Cullman, Ala./Wallace State CC-Hanceville) got the start on just one day rest after pitching a complete game against Delta State on Friday night. Bryson gave up six runs, five earned in 2.2 innings pitched on Sunday and dropped to 6-2 with the loss.
With many of the West Florida pitchers going on little or no rest, Tampa was able to rally for five multi-run innings. The Argos lineup was productive in the loss, scoring five runs in the fourth to knock UT starter Preston Packrall out of the game.
Prichard, left fielder Max St. Hilaire (Largo, Fla./St. John's River State) and designated hitter Austin Southall (Baton Rouge, La./Chipola) all had three-hit games for the Argos, while Barlow and third baseman Michael Tomlinson (Orlando, Fla./Winter Park HS) each had two hits. Another offensive highlight for UWF was center fielder Dustin Saulmon (Panama City, Fla./Alabama Southern CC) who stole second in the fourth inning to break the West Florida single season record for stolen bases with 37.
Sunday’s games were the last for nine Argonaut seniors: Bryson, Prichard, Saulmon, St. Hilaire, Stephens, Ben Bridges (Cartersville, Ga./Northwest Florida State), Scott Laughlin (Tallahassee, Fla./Tallahassee CC), Bobby Parker (Tallahassee, Fla./Alabama Southern CC) and Andrew Rodriguez (Key West, Fla./Miami Dade).
“I’m proud of our seniors,” said Jeffcoat. “All those guys worked hard and did everything they could for the program. Hopefully the juniors that will be seniors next year will take their lead.”
For information on all UWF athletics, visit www.GoArgos.com.
2013 NCAA South Regional All-Tournament Team
C – Adam Pendleton, Tampa
1B – Cliff Covington, West Florida
2B – Tyler Ding, Tampa
3B – Tyler Aldridge, Delta State
SS – Josh Allen, West Florida
OF – Jake Fields, Valdosta State
OF – Drew Prichard, West Florida
OF – Connor Obrochta, Tampa
DH – Kaleb Barlow, West Florida
P – Dayan Rodriguez, West Florida
P – Jake Stephens, West Florida
Most Valuable Player: Adam Pendleton, Tampa