For the 5th time in the Jesuit baseball program's storied history, the Tigers are State Champions.
On a brutally hot weekend in Fort Myers, Jesuit (27-5) knocked off Top 10 nationally ranked Miami Springs 7-3 in a Friday (May 31) semifinal, and then the Tigers came from behind on Saturday (June 1) to conquer Dunedin 4-3 and set off a wild celebration at Hammond Stadium. (Homepage photo by Scott Purks of the Tampa Bay Times.)
Jesuit baseball previously won titles in 1994, '97, '00, '14, and this is the first State Championship for the Tigers' 5th-year head coach Miguel Menendez. It is the 22nd State crown in Jesuit sports annals and moves baseball into sole possession of second place on the Jesuit sports championships ladder, one behind behind soccer's six State titles and one ahead of cross country's four.
In Friday's semifinal, starting pitcher Camden Minacci '20 and relievers Josh Mallitz '20 and Turner Thompson '20 kept Miami Springs from mounting a comeback after the Tigers had erupted for five runs in the 4th inning and another two in the 5th on a 2-run triple by Henry Politz '20 to stake a 7-0 lead. Nick Rodriguez '21, B.J. Graham '21, and Cole Russo '21 had two hits apiece Friday along with Politz, and Ethan Valdez '19 and Bradke Lohry '21 both scored a run and drove one in.
Saturday in the championship game, the Tigers fell behind 1-0 in the 1st inning. Stellar pitching from starter Justin Clark '20 (4 IP, 6K, 1 H, 0 ER) kept Jesuit close until the Tigers finally broke through for three runs in the 5th, and a 3-1 lead, on consecutive RBI hits by Graham, Russo, and Politz.
Dunedin scratched one across in the 6th to cut it to 3-2, and the Falcons threatened to score more with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out. But reliever Mallitz induced a foul pop out to catcher Jimmy Clifford '19, and then got the final out on a strikeout in what was perhaps the game's most critical moment.
In the bottom of the 6th, Rodriguez drove in Jonathan Shoop '20 with a needed insurance run to make it 4-2. In the 7th, Thompson relieved Mallitz, just as he had the day before. After an inherited baserunner scored to make it 4-3, Thompson finished it off in style with a strikeout, inciting an onslaught of teammates charging the mound in exuberant celebration.
The Tigers received their gold medals on the field from school president Fr. Richard C. Hermes, S.J., and then were presented with the Class 6A State Championship trophy.
For more about Jesuit's championship victory, check out superb stories by 813Preps and the Tampa Bay Times. Jesuit's primary Facebook (Jesuit High School of Tampa) and Twitter (@JesuitTampaFL) pages have more information, photos, and videos of the semifinal and final. Also, statistical information, results, and more about Jesuit baseball is available on MaxPreps.
Below are two fabulous photo slideshows, the first is of the post-game celebration after defeating Dunedin for the title, and the second is game photos from the Dunedin win.