West Florida wins big in first game at NCAA South Regional Argos advance to face GSC rival Delta State on Friday night 5/16/2013
TAMPA -- The No. 14 ranked West Florida baseball team got on the scoreboard early on Thursday night in their first game at the NCAA Division II South Regional hosted by Tampa, as the Argonauts scored four runs in the first and ran away with a 9-3 win over No. 29 Florida Tech. With the win in the double elimination tournament, the Argos will now look forward to a matchup at 6 p.m. tonight against No. 4 Delta State, who defeated No. 20 Valdosta State earlier on Thursday.
After scoring four runs in the first, the Argonauts (36-12) added three in the fifth and two in the ninth. All nine runs came were scored with two outs.
"To score that many two-out runs, to have that happen in the tournament is huge," said UWF head coach Mike Jeffcoat. We had guys up and down the lineup driving in runs. I think that builds momentum for tomorrow."
Starting pitcher Jake Stephens (Marietta, Ga./Northwest Florida State) had another impressive start and held Florida Tech (32-18) to three runs in seven innings. The right-hander allowed a first inning run, but after that he retired the next 18 batters, a streak that lasted until the seventh inning. Stephens picked up the win to improve to 7-1 and struck out six batters and walked only one.
"Getting on the board and putting a four-spot up there in the first inning was great," said Jeffcoat. "When you do that for a pitcher like Jake Stephens it takes some pressure off him. He had a great night in seven innings. He only made one mistake there in the seventh and gave up a home run, but it was a great all-around effort."
Six different Argonauts had multi-hit games, including second baseman Kaleb Barlow (Florence, Miss./Chipola) and designated hitter Max St. Hilaire (Largo, Fla./St. John's River State) who had three hits each. First baseman Cliff Covington (McIntosh, Ala./Alabama Southern CC) led the team with three RBIs, and he brought in the first run on a single in the first inning.
"I wanted to come out and be aggressive in the first inning, and I knew a fastball was coming early," said Covington. "I've been struggling lately in trying to get ahead in the count. Right there I was able to put a good swing on a pitch."
After Covington's RBI single, two more runs came in on a triple by shortstop Josh Allen (Fort Meade, Fla./State College of Florida). Allen finished the game 2-for-5 at the plate. The Argos' fifth inning rally included a two-out single by Barlow, and St. Hilaire followed that up with his fifth home run of the year.
"This is a big momentum swing," said Covington. "We're trying to get something going here in the regional where we need it the most."
After Stephens left the game, UWF relievers Justin Chambers (Chipley, Fla./Enterprise State CC) and Matt Vollenweider (Canton, Ga./Chattahoochee Valley CC) finished the game and combined to strike out five batters in the eighth and ninth innings. Florida Tech starting pitcher Scotty Ward (6-3) was credited with the loss.
The Argos will face Delta State in the second round of the double elimination tournament on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. DSU picked up a 4-2 win over Valdosta State on Thursday afternoon. Fan can follow all the action live at www.GoArgos.com.