TAMPA, Fla. – Jacinto Arredondo walked onto the mound last June with a 3-1 lead and the NCAA Division II Baseball title on the line.
The University of Tampa Spartans were facing Colorado Mesa needing one more win to walk away with their eighth title. Arredondo, a junior, recorded the final six outs to earn the save.
Joe Urso, the Spartans’ head coach for the past 17 seasons, recalled his thoughts as Arredondo, a native of Center Hills, Fla., came into that eighth inning.
“I knew it was over,” Urso said, before a game at Tampa on Tuesday night. “Some people just have the guts to be in the game when the game is on the line and, in those moments, you want Arredondo with that ball in his hands.
“He’s our team captain, our team leader, on and off the court, the guys really look up to him.”
Arredondo was named the Most Outstanding Player of the championship series and believes his transition into the Spartans’ bullpen came naturally to him.
After playing as a catcher and a starting pitcher in high school and in Wallace Dothan Community College, he recognizes what his role is in order to lead his team to wins.
“I was just like, ‘I’m ready; I’m prepared to go in,’ and I knew I was going to go in and I knew what I had to do to get the job done,” he said, of the National Championship game. “It was just like a moment that I would never forget. I would say that. That’s up there with the top three moments of my career so far.”
But Arredondo, now a senior, might have an even bigger role in 2020. In his first nine outings, he already has four saves, one more than had in 21 games last year, and has a 1.23 earned-run average, something he credits to working on his slider.
The Spartans are 21-14 and have been dealing with offensive issues. Urso believes they can win by relying on pitching and defence, but still have work to do in order to tie Florida State’s record of nine NCAA Division II titles.
Of their quest for back-to-back championships, Arredondo said, “We talked about it quite a few times, it’s a big chip on our shoulders because everybody wants to beat us, but I have a feeling we’re going to go back there again.
“It’s a long season still, so once you get it going we’re going to be kind of a scary team to watch.”