TAMPA — If there was one lesson Jesuit learned from its two early-season district losses, it was that playing in Class 4A-9 the Tigers couldn’t waste opportunities to close out their opponent.
In both of those defeats the Tigers saw their late-inning leads crumble, including a nightmare seven-run inning in a loss to Strawberry Crest.
But in Friday’s rematch with the Chargers, the Tigers showed they could pounce — and bounce back.
Jesuit broke open a one-run game with a seven-run fifth inning, sending 10 batters to the plate on its way to a decisive 10-2 win over Strawberry Crest.
The Tigers (13-3, 9-2) winners of 11 of their past 12, received a boost from the bottom half of their lineup, including No. 8 hitter Joey Altieri, who tripled and hit a booming two-run home run to right to cap Jesuit’s fifth-inning rally.
“We did not want them coming back, so we had to stomp them out early,” Altieri said. “We were focused on really trying to bust it open.”
Cleanup hitter Pete Alonso drove in four runs for the Tigers, including a two-run, bases-loaded single that put Jesuit up 6-2 in the fifth.
“We’re a different club than the team that dropped two games in February,” Jesuit coach Richie Warren said. “Our approach is different. We understand the game a little bit better. We’re playing harder. You can tell it’s starting to mean something to them. Being so young, something just clicked.”
Meanwhile, Tigers starter Spencer Trayner held the Chargers to two hits over six innings. He didn’t allow a hit after the second and retired the final 10 batters he faced. Closer Lance McCullers struck out the side in the seventh to seal the win.
The Chargers (8-8, 7-5) lost their fourth game in their past five — three of those defeats being district losses.
“They put some good swings on balls and they found some holes in our infield,” Strawberry Crest coach Eric Beattie said. “Some of their balls got through when last game they hit them at us.”