TAMPA — The first time Tampa Catholic and Jesuit met on the baseball diamond this season, the Crusaders won in dramatic fashion on Paulie Russo’s walk-off double in the bottom of seventh inning.
In Friday’s rematch, Tampa Catholic didn’t need that much time to assert its power over its neighboring rival. With the help of a seven-run fourth inning, the Crusaders topped Jesuit for the second time in five weeks, 9-1.
The game was the first Jesuit (15-3) had played against a team with a winning record since nine Tigers were suspended for the season after breaking a team policy. And from the start, Jesuit was overpowered by its first true challenge since the change.
Still, the Crusaders — who had 14 hits to Jesuit’s five — didn’t come in expecting the Tigers to just roll over.
“Jesuit is Jesuit. They always have good players and they always are going to have good players,” Russo said. “We didn’t think we were going to take them lightly. … They get it done when they need to.”
But Friday, the Crusaders (10-6) were just too much for the home team to handle.
Tampa Catholic’s bats were busy from the start, but three Crusaders were stranded in the first inning and one was caught stealing home in the second.
Jordan Santos scored the first run for the Crusaders after reaching on an error in the third inning.
The mistakes, though, didn’t stop there, as Tampa Catholic scored two of its seven fourth-inning runs on errors and one on a bases-loaded walk. Kyle Barber assisted the effort with a three-RBI double, and Russo, who ended the night 3-for-4, had a RBI single.
The star of the night for Tampa Catholic, though, was on defense.
A.J. Chacon Jr., who also started the first game against Jesuit, gave up just two hits and one earned run in six innings pitched Friday. He struck out two batters, including one for a third out with a runner in scoring position.
“(We saw) the same things we saw the first game,” Tampa Catholic coach Ty Griffin said. “He really attacked the zone and he real located his pitches well.”
Tampa Catholic added a run in the sixth inning before left-hander Jordan Butler came in for an inning of relief in the next frame. Jesuit pushed one across in the seventh, but Butler ended the inning, and the game, on two strikeouts.
The outcome — and the Crusaders’ celebration afterward — was the same after each rivalry game. But this time, the last-second dramatics weren’t needed.
“The walk-off was of course the best just because all of the excitement and the tension throughout the game,” Russo conceded with a smile. “But it’s nice to get a win like this, too.”