TAMPA, Fla. – Laz Rivera found his new home with the University of Tampa baseball team and feels they have what it takes to win back-to-back Division II national championships.
The Spartans (20-1) have played well together and steamrolled through the first half of the season but have their eyes set on winning their third National Championship in the last four years.
Rivera is one of several newcomers on the roster looking to win his first national title.
“I’m not going to say I feel the pressure to win it again but we take it day-by-day,” he said.” We go into every game winning regardless who we’re playing.”
The second baseman played in Chipola College last year, hitting .385 and drove in four runs. This year with the Spartans Rivera is batting .431 while driving in 19 runs.
Joe Urso, manager of the University of Tampa Spartans says Rivera has been a great piece to the roster.
“He fit in right away,” Urso said. “He has a great personality, all the guys love him and he’s a great player.
“He takes a lot of pressure out of us having to get on guys when they’re not doing the right things. They want to follow what a great player like Laz and what he’s all about.”
The Miami native emerged as one of the teams leader and credits chemistry as a large part to their success.
“Chemistry on the team is good,” Rivera said. “We help each other out and if one teammate sees something the other guys is doing wrong we try to help him.”
The Spartans sit on top the Sunshine State Conference and rank second (.365) in batting average, third (182) in runs scored and second (.326) in earned runs allowed in the Sunshine State Conference.
Last year UT put up big offensive numbers driving in 474 runs and hitting 66 home runs. Rivera says although the previous team was more of a power hitting team, coach Urso and the coaching staff was able to adapt.
“We got a good coaching staff here, they teach us what we need to know,” he said. “We are a smaller team than last year so we try to stay within ourselves and try not to move up from that.”