TAMPA, Fla. – Pitcher Dalton Ross is not one to keep his feelings hidden.
The 24-year-old closer for the University of Tampa Spartans uses his passion to compete at the highest level for his team.
“I’m a pitcher that pitches with a lot of emotion, and I’m going to show it,” he said. “I’m not gonna necessarily show up the other team on a big strikeout or something like that but I’ll let it be known that I strike you out.”
Ross is in the middle of his third season with the Spartans, 20-4 this season and looking for their first championship since 2019.
They have been synonymous with excellence since Joe Urso became head coach in 2001. Since then, the team has won five championships.
“It’s like when the Yankees were winning all the titles, it was title or bust and that’s what we feel like here,” Urso said, flaunting his 2019 championship ring. “Every year, the expectation is to get a ring and if we don’t, we’re not happy.”
“I think we all feel the pressure,” Ross said. “But it’s mostly internal. We have a high standard set here…(but) it’s a pretty laid-back atmosphere for the most part, and I think that’s another reason why we’re successful.”
After a construction accident resulted in the loss of his right index finger in 2016, the 24-year-old from Statesboro, Ga., had to make some significant alterations to his baseball career. He had to change his pitching style completely.
When asked how changing his delivery helped his game, Ross got blunt: “I got better. (Before), I was probably the most average pitcher.”
Ross mentions watching videos of former Major Leaguers like Darren O’Day and Steve Cishek as role models for him on his path to becoming a sidearm pitcher.
“I tried literally everything,” he said. “It was a long process that took me probably a year and a half, maybe two years, to really figure out how to be a sidearm pitcher, and I’m still trying to figure it out now.”
The change worked. Last season, he had 44 strikeouts in 33.2 innings with seven saves in a First-Team all-SSC season.
“It takes a special personality to go get those last three to six outs,” Urso said. “and he’s done a great job with it. He’s a high energy kid, one of the nicer kids you’ll ever be around.”