When it was over, the Tigers unleashed a torrent of joy, relief, elation, and hugging on the Hammond Stadium infield.
It was a celebration worthy of the accomplishment, as Jesuit baseball earned a historic State Championship victory in Fort Myers on Saturday (May 21) with a 6-0 win over Melbourne Eau Gallie.
It is the baseball program's 6th State Championship, following 1994, '97, '00, '14, and '19, and it also is the 28th State title in Jesuit sports annals and moves baseball within one of soccer for the most in Jesuit history. The Tigers, under 8th year head coach Miguel Menendez, did it in dominating fashion: since the start of the District Tournament, Jesuit outscored its seven opponents 65-6.
It also was a record 3rd State title this school year at Jesuit, with baseball following football and wrestling. In five previous school years, Jesuit had earned two State titles - 1996-97, 1998-99, 2000-01, 2018-19, and 2019-20 - but never three. Of special note is the 2019-20 school year, during which Jesuit won two State titles, in soccer, and wrestling, but the spring sports teams, including a powerhouse tennis team and the No. 1 nationally ranked baseball team, had their seasons cut short by COVID-19.
There were stars throughout the baseball playoffs for Jesuit (24-8). On Saturday, Wes Mendes '23 pitched 6 2/3rds scoreless innings vs. Eau Gallie, getting in trouble only once, in the top of the 5th, when he worked out of the bases-loaded jam with a phenomenal three straight strikeouts, and he would finish with 11 Ks. Jamie Arnold '22, who pitched five scoreless innings in the State Semifinal on Thursday, threw an incredible 11 straight hitless innings in the playoffs over the course of three games, vs. Hillsborough, Hollins, and Naples, before allowing a single in the 4th inning of the Semifinal vs. Naples.
Jesuit jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the Final on Saturday without getting a hit in the 1st inning. The Tigers loaded the bases on two walks and a hit by pitch, and then plated runs on a sacrifice fly by Mendes and sacrifice bunt by Carter French '22.
Jesuit busted it open with timely hitting in the 4th, with French, Grant Jordan '23, Josh Hines '23, and A.J. Nessler '22 all getting key hits to boost the lead to 6-0. With one out to go in the game, Mendes surpassed the maximum allowable 105 pitches, so Brooks Chamberlin '23 came on for the final out
Two Tigers earned unprecedented double championships: Nessler, became the first to win two State titles with Jesuit baseball, as he was a freshman on the 2019 team, and French was starter on the football team this fall as well as on the baseball team. French had the distinction of catching a fly ball in centerfield Saturday for the final out - and launching the epic celebration.
Go to the Facebook page Jesuit High School Baseball - Tampa to view more than 80 photos from the championship victory.
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