SEMINOLE — Nolan Schultz was thinking about his buddy, Kris Johnson, when he came to bat in the sixth inning.
The Jesuit catcher was remembering the blast that Johnson hit last year off Osceola’s Taylor Layner, a Herculean shot in the seventh inning that won the game. Tuesday night, with runners on first and second, Schultz was willing to settle for a mere single of Layner.
But the pitch, too perfect.
The swing, too perfect.
The moment, too perfect.
“Just like last year,” said Schultz, whose three-run home run to left-center gave the Tigers a 3-0 victory in the Class 4A region quarterfinal at Osceola. “Unbelievable.”
District runnerup for the second straight year, the Tigers also found out — just like last year — they don’t have to play the team that beat them in the district final, as Lakewood Ranch upset Jefferson.
“And we wore the exact same uniforms we wore here last year, too,” said Jesuit coach Richie Warren.
Behind the battery of pitcher Lance McCullers and Schultz, the Tigers (24-6) won a hard-fought contest.
Schultz hit his homer on Layner’s first pitch after the FSU-bound ace had walked McCullers and Pete Alonso and appeared frustrated by the home plate umpire’s calls.
“He didn’t throw me offspeed all game,” said Schultz, who hit a fastball middle in. “It felt good when I hit it, I thought it might get off the wall, but it went over it.”
It was only the second hit allowed by Layner, who struck out 10 and walked four.
McCullers, meanwhile, was throwing in the mid 90s and effective with his curveball and slider. The Warriors (22-5) had four singles, but did not get a runner to third until the last inning.
With runners on second and third and Layner, Osceola’s most dangerous hitter, on deck, McCullers got the last batter (Mike Boriboun) he was going to be allowed to face to ground out to second to complete his shutout.