Entering Wednesday's playoff, the Florida team earned the lowest seed. But it got hot at the right time, surging through the day and night while upsetting the No. 1-seeded Chicago White Sox RBI, 1-0, and following with a 10-1 nightcap win against Jackson RBI, earning a bid to Thursday's championship game against Harrisburg.
"It's a little bit of getting hot, a little bit of getting luck," Tampa head coach Fabian Selochan said. "Our team stepped up to the competition a little bit."
Tanner Koch pitched the full seven innings using just 70 pitches on the evening to hold Jackson to just one run. Koch's effort was backed by a solid, error-free defense.
"He did a great job," Selochan said. "I'm proud of him. He kept his composure. He's pitched like that all through Regionals and here. ... He gave us an opportunity to win the game."
Jackson was first to get on the board, as it led off the bottom of the first with three straight hits. But the 1-0 lead did not last long. Tampa tied it in the second and gave Koch extra cushion in the third, as Jackson pitcher DeMarcus Evans walked Luis Alcaraz with the bases loaded. Tampa added two more runs in the inning -- including a successful home plate steal -- before blowing the game open with a four-run fifth inning.
Selochan said he was just trying to get more runs on the board, and the play at home was just a matter of reading the pitcher and the catcher. Jose Cuellar, who executed the steal, was halfway home before Evans or catcher Sam Campbell knew what was happening.
The Mississippi club began to plague itself with costly errors -- making six on the night -- and could not come up with much of anything at the plate against Tampa's 10 runs.
"We tried to capitalize on their mistakes, and we just got lucky," Selochan said. "They're a good team, and we respect them. We played hard, and we tried to capitalize on every little count as we can. In baseball, the balls can bounce different ways, so I was trying to capitalize on anything that they were doing. I just wanted to give our team an upper hand to stay ahead."
Kelly Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.