4. TAMPA STARTANS (38-10)
Final 2012 Ranking: 5
The Spartans were the top ranked team for almost the entire season last year. Aside from the preseason rankings, Tampa was the top ranked team for all but one week at the regular season’s end. However those rankings didn’t mean a thing in the end when UT’s postseason came to a quick end after going 0-2 in their hosted South Regional. Nonetheless, the Spartans did win the program’s 14th SSC championship and will be looking to make it 15 along with a sixth National Championship in 2013.
A number of standout players graduated and moved on after the season, but Coach Joe Urso once again has a plethora of talented performers ready to develop and take their place. Back from last year will be leading batsman Zach Gawyrch who topped the Spartans with a .365 batting average. During the summer the Tampa native stole home while playing in the Coastal Plains League which won a fan a car. Connor Obrochta, who finished the year hitting .348 and spent much of the year leading off the lineup is also back on campus. Jack Schrader, who was second on the team in home runs with eight and third in slugging percentage at .543 impressed his first season since transferring from St. John’s River CC and is projected to amp his game up more for his senior season. There are great expectations for another pair of new incoming transfers as well. Michael Danner is arriving from Polk State College where he batted .325 and helped the Eagles win the state championship by hitting 10 homeruns and stealing 27 bases. Jacob Tillotson was originally a Florida Gator, but will now be suiting up for Tampa by way of Santa Fe College.
Despite the loss of All American Sean Bierman, the Tampa pitching staff is deep and could challenge last year’s staff ERA of 2.49 (third in the nation) if they remain healthy. Ben Brown is the most experienced arm coming back from last season. He complied a 7-2 record in 2012 with a 2.67 ERA. Former Manhattan Jasper Eric Luksis compiled a 3.55 ERA in 38 innings while posting a 2-0 record and was fourth on the team in starts. Preston Packrall was second team All-SSC and earned a team leading seven saves in 20 appearances out of the bullpen. Aaron Gerbasi excelled in a setup role last year, finishing with a tiny 0.76 ERA on the year with 21 strikeouts in 23.2 innings.