Resilient Hawks rally to knock off No. 3 Spartans, win season-opening series in Florida


Quincy University catcher Luke Napleton hit a go-ahead solo home run in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, leading the No. 20 Hawks to an 11-10 victory over No. 3 Tampa to win the three-game series in Tampa, Fla. | Matt Schuckman file photo

TAMPA, Fla. — Never give up, never give in.

Quincy University baseball coach Matt Schissel knows he has a team willing to live by that mantra. The Hawks can compete with anyone in the country, too.

Both of those aspects were revealed during the season-opening three-game series against the third-ranked University of Tampa as the Hawks, No. 20 in the NCBWA NCAA Division II poll, took two of three games. It culminated with Sunday’s 11-10 victory in which the Spartans rallied from a 10-6 deficit only to see the Hawks’ Luke Napleton crack a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth.

“The guys played for each other,” Schissel said. “We had some really good at-bats. The first weekend out, you don’t really know what to expect when you’ve been hitting in a cage and hitting off each other. I thought overall we played for each other.

“They picked each other up, and that’s what good teams do. I can’t speak highly enough about it. These were team wins. They really were.”

The contributions came from every angle.

Aaron Lewis’ two-run single in the third gave Quincy a 5-2 lead, only to have the Spartans answer with two runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Undaunted, the Hawks put together a response in the top of the seventh.

With one out, Gino D’Alessio and Lance Logsdon each singled and Napleton was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Designated hitter Austin Simpson followed with a no-doubt grand slam to right-center field. Nolan Wosman followed with a home run to center field for a 10-6 edge.

Tampa tied the game with a four-run frame in the bottom of the inning.

“You see why they’re so good,” Schissel said of the Spartans, who have won eight NCAA Division II national titles. “They punish mistakes. They move the ball around. They hit the ball hard. Defensively, some of those guys are pretty dang good.”

QU reliever Nolan Roseman, who stranded a runner at second in the seventh, worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning to keep the game tied.

In the top of the ninth, Napleton turned Roseman into the winning pitcher when he jacked a home run to left field with one out. It was his second homer of the series and third RBI of the game.

“You want to have the right guys up at the right time, and we did,” Schissel said. “You can say that for anybody in the top six in our lineup. If they’re up, we have a chance.”

Brett Panick made the lead last. The left-handed reliever walked the first batter he faced, then retired three in a row to strand the tying run at third and earn his first career save.

‘He’s a guy we have a lot of trust in,” Schissel said. “And he showed it today.”

All of the Hawks did under the microscope of a tough season-opening assignment.

“I told the guys before the game this is a super regional atmosphere, this is playoff baseball in February,” Schissel said. “And I think they showed that. We competed with them. There were good at-bats up and down the lineup.”

The Hawks play four more games on the Florida road trip, including facing St. Leo at 5 p.m. Tuesday. A three-game series against No. 10 Rollins begins Thursday in Winter Park, Fla.

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