TAMPA, Fla. – The University of Tampa Spartans’ Division II varsity baseball team has had an unprecedented run of success over the past 20 years, unlike almost any other team in the NCAA.
The run includes last year’s title win over Mercyhurst College.
Tampa has won eight championships over those two decades under head coach Joe Urso, good for the second-most titles in Division II, behind only Florida Southern College’s nine.
Urso is a former Spartans All-American. He and the team are almost synonymous.
According to backup catcher and junior, Eric Zimmerman, Urso is influential on and off the field. “Yeah, he is iconic. He’s been absolutely amazing. … He loves to win. … I’m super happy to be part of this program and I can’t wait to see it succeed.”
It is not just Urso that has contributed to the team’s success. The team has many leaders, including Zimmerman and starting catcher and sophomore Luke McDonald.
McDonald, a sophomore from Staten Island, N.Y., who batted .333 as a rookie last year, has struggled to maintain those numbers this season. He’s batting .274 this season. Urso said his star catcher can do better. “His hitting is not quite where it needs to be.”
Zimmerman didn’t attract interest from anything higher than Division III, so he joined the Spartans’ junior varsity team as a walk on in 2017. Two years later, he is a backup catcher for one of the most successful NCAA baseball teams.
“He has a lot of energy,” Urso said. “He’s a leader in our dugout, and even though he hasn’t played a lot on the field, (just two games all season) the guys respect him a lot. He works his tail off, he is number one in his ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps), and just first class, and is exactly what you want your team to be about.”