If the Jesuit High School baseball team was going to win a State Championship on Saturday (June 3), it was going to have to topple the Archbishop McCarthy juggernaut to do it.
Archbishop McCarthy, out of Southwest Ranches near Fort Lauderdale, was ranked No. 2 nationally by Baseball America and by MaxPreps. The Mavericks had won State 6 of the past 7 years, with Jesuit’s 2014 State Championship the only interruption in that streak.
On Saturday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, led by a sterling effort from pitcher Jeff Hakanson ’17 (pictured on the homepage), the Tigers very nearly pulled it off. But a late rally from Archbishop McCarthy handed Jesuit a bitter 5-1 defeat.
The Tigers had more hits during the game – 6 to 4 – and led 1-0 entering the 6th inning, but couldn’t hang on. Thomas Bencivenga ’17 was 3-for-3 and scored the lone run for Jesuit. In the 4th inning, with Hakanson keeping Archbishop McCarthy off the scoreboard, consecutive hits by Bencivenga, Alex Mocny ’17, and Mitchell Thrower ’17 put Jesuit (25-7) ahead 1-0.
However, Archbishop McCarthy (29-2) then thwarted a squeeze bunt attempt, which helped limit the Tigers to just the one run. Jesuit threatened again in the 6th, but pinch-runner Malik Young ’20, running for Bencivenga, was stranded at third base.
The runner-up finish culminated a sensational season for Jesuit under 3rd-year head coach Miguel Menendez. The Tigers captured the prestigious Saladino Tournament title, earned their 6th consecutive District crown, advanced to the Region Tournament for the 25th time in the past 26 seasons, and won the Region title for the 6th time in the past 8 seasons.
In the District and Region playoffs combined, Jesuit shut out 5 of its 7 opponents, and the Tigers did not allow a run in 43 of the 46 innings played. On Saturday, Hakanson limited powerful Archbishop McCarthy to 1 run on 4 hits in 6 innings, striking out 7.
View a photo slideshow below from Saturday's championship game. Below that is a slideshow from Thursday's 7-0 win over Dunedin in the State Semifinal, and click here for a story about the semifinal win over Dunedin.