TAMPA — The greatness of Jesuit pitcher Lance McCullers is unquestioned, as he has been crowned the top senior in the country and will likely go high in the upcoming MLB draft.
But the Tigers have other dominant arms, too.
After McCullers pitched five no-hit innings with eight strikeouts, senior John Kilichowski preserved the no-hitter, striking out five of six as Jesuit (4-0) defeated Tampa Catholic 3-1 Saturday. In the past 19 innings, Tigers pitchers have surrendered one hit.
“That’s a pretty good hitting ball club there,” Jesuit coach Richie Warren said of the Crusaders. “We feel pretty confident with the arms we have, the defense is playing great, and it’s giving us a chance to win.”
Tampa Catholic (2-3), knowing hits likely would be scarce, took an aggressive approach on the base paths. After drawing a walk in the top of the first, junior Dre Leal took second and third on passed balls. And with one out and Billy Endris at the plate, Leal broke for home during McCullers’ windup and slid in safely to put the Crusaders up 1-0. McCullers, though, responded in the bottom half of the inning with a two-run homer over the rightfield fence, driving in Spencer Trayner to put the Tigers up 2-1.
“Billy has tough stuff, for lefties especially because he has a tough arm slot,” McCullers said of Endris, who pitched for the first time this year. “I was confident in the fact that he was going to throw me a fastball, and I took a swing at it, it got in the wind a little bit, and I hit a home run.”
Thanks in large part to the eight walks issued by Tampa Catholic pitchers, Jesuit had base runners every inning. It wasn’t until the fifth, though, that the Tigers added an insurance run, as leadoff hitter Vincent Miniet singled to left to drive in Ricky Escobar.
While the Crusaders did not register a hit, they did put a runner in scoring position in the third and fifth innings thanks to stolen bases.
“We have a great staff, and our guys are well aware that teams may pull out some gimmick baseball to try to get them going,” Warren said. “But after that, it was over. When McCullers can put you on the board 2-1 with that shot, it gives you a lot of confidence.”
K parade: Brooks-DeBartolo pitcher Shane Jeffcoat struck out 14 and allowed three hits over seven innings, but he had to settle for a no-decision as the Phoenix needed nine innings, and two shutout innings from Wyatt Metcalf, to beat Bishop McLaughlin 4-3.