TAMPA — Tyler Jones had already worn the Superman cape — a cotton blanket often given to Jefferson’s player of the game — this season. But last time, disappointment soon followed.
The sophomore was the winning pitcher in a comeback win against Strawberry Crest that catapulted Jefferson to its fourth straight Saladino Tournament final. A shutout loss to Plant soon followed, though. And as the Dragons’ record worsened, so did their spirits.
“It changed a little bit after Saladino. They were kind of down,” Jefferson coach Pop Cuesta said. “But then they started playing a little bit better baseball. They found ways to come back. And you could see momentum building a little bit.”
That was no clearer than Thursday’s Class 6A, District 7 final. Jefferson took an early lead against King and kept pounding for an 11-1 six-inning win.
“Coming into districts, we talked about how we needed energy because we gave up on ourselves a lot this season,” said Daniel Almonte, who went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. “We showed it (Thursday).”
The Dragons (19-8) totaled 23 hits between its quarterfinal and semifinal wins and added 14 against King. The Lions, though, didn’t help their case.
After Trey Robinson doubled in the first, he advanced to third on a balk and scored on an error. King walked two and committed three errors in the third. It committed two more errors in the fourth.
The Lions also couldn’t get it together on offense.
King (20-5), which beat Jefferson in both regular-season matchups, came in hitting .305. Against Jones, who pitched a complete game, it mustered only three hits. Third baseman Bubby Terp singled in its only run in the third.
After the game, the Dragons celebrated on King’s homefield, chanting Jones’ name as they draped the Superman cape around his shoulders. Jones is no stranger to the garment. But Thursday, he said, it felt a little better to wear.
“Yeah,” he said through a wide grin, “because it’s a district championship.”
And this time, the Dragons assured, that energy isn’t going anywhere.
8A-7: Plant routs Bloomingdale
TAMPA — Stephen Chamblee gave his hitting a better grade than his pitching after Plant defeated Bloomingdale 10-2 for the Class 8A, District 7 championship.
Chamblee, a Florida Atlantic commit, went 3-for-3 with a walk, had two RBIs during an eight-run third and tossed a complete game as Plant (22-5) beat Bloomingdale (17-9) for the third time this season.
The Panthers, who lost to Durant in last year’s district semifinals, had 13 hits and put the game away early. Eight batters had at least one hit and seven had an RBI by the third inning as the Panthers took a 9-0 lead.
“It was a good feeling knowing to go on the mound with that big of a lead,” said Chamblee, a senior right-hander. “There is no pressure, and you can be relaxed.”
Chamblee allowed seven hits, struck out three and walked one. Seventy-four of his 104 pitches were strikes, and he retired nine straight Bulls during one stretch. Both runs he allowed in the sixth were unearned, though they snapped a 191/3-inning scoreless streak Plant had against Bloomingdale.
“(Bloomingdale) faced (Jake) Woodford twice, and now they got Stephen,” Plant coach Dennis Braun said. “These guys dominate in the zone. They’ve got three pitches, and we play good defense. That’s a combination of shutting guys down.”
Thirteen Panthers batted in the third with eight getting hits. Ryan Ellis’ RBI single ignited the rally, and Jake Bak followed with a two-run double. Woodford, Carter Leslie and Cooper Dickens added RBI singles before Chamblee drove in the final two with a single.
“I haven’t won district since my freshman year,” Chamblee said. “(On Thursday), my hitting was an 8 (on a scale of 10), and my pitching was a 7. I could have kept the ball down a little bit more.”
Bak, Dickens and Ellis had two hits apiece against three Bloomingdale pitchers. Danny Lorenzo and Conrado Skepple had two singles for the Bulls.
5A-9: Jesuit wins another
TAMPA — For a third straight season, Jesuit and Robinson squared off in a district final. The host Tigers made it three in a row Thursday with a 6-2 win.
“They play us tough,” Jesuit coach Richie Warren said of the Knights, who lost twice to the Tigers by a combined three runs in the regular season. “But we’ve just been lucky enough to capitalize on mistakes and score some runs.”
Ryan McCullers led Jesuit (20-6) at the plate and in the field. The senior catcher hit two RBI singles and picked off two runners at first, one in the seventh.
“Ryan’s our leader, and he’s been that way for four years now,” Warren said.
Sophomore left-hander Michael Sandborn, a midseason callup from the junior varsity after nine players were suspended for violating school policy, earned the win. He allowed four hits, struck out four, walked one and hit a batter.
“He threw the ball well,” Warren said.
“As a sophomore, that’s a big spot to pitch in a district (title) game.”
McCullers drove in Steven Lugo with a single in the first. But Robinson (9-15) got that run back in a hurry. Nathan Doherty hit a leadoff single and scored on a 4-6-3 double play.
The Tigers went ahead with five in the third. Robinson made two errors, and pitcher Tommy Craparo balked, leading to three unearned runs. McCullers and Danny Lastra singled in runs.
Robinson added a run in the fourth on Shawn Herron’s infield single that plated Omar Maldonado, who also reached on an infield single.
3A-7: Closer's complete game propels Bishop
Will Potosky had pitched just 15 full innings all season for Bishop McLaughlin before its district final against Tampa Prep. But coach Jeff Swymer still decided to start his usual closer in the biggest game of the season to date.
It paid off for the Hurricanes, who beat Tampa Prep 2-0 for the school’s fourth district championship.
Bishop McLaughlin (17-7) scored a run in the first inning on an error by the shortstop, and Zack Kampsen drove in another for good measure in the second inning.
With Potosky, who gave up six hits in his complete-game shutout, on the mound, two runs would be enough to beat the Terrapins (17-10).
“We just had a hunch he would be effective against them,” Swymer said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I expect him to throw a complete game.”
4A-10: Bucs still perfect vs. TC
Twice during the regular season, Berkeley Prep beat district rival Tampa Catholic. In the fourth inning of Thursday’s district final, Bobby Albers came up with a winning hit to make sure the Bucs would go 3-for-3.
With runners on second and third, Albers singled, driving in a pair of runs and giving Berkeley Prep (15-12) a 3-2 lead. Spencer Meyers followed later in the inning, executing a squeeze play to drive in the fourth and final run of the night.
Senior Dante Bosnic, who came in with a 1.20 ERA in 46 innings pitched, earned the win on the mound.
Berkeley Prep coach Justin Houston doesn’t know exactly why his Bucs have been so consistently successful against the Crusaders (16-9). But with the playoffs just around the corner, he doesn’t think they’ve seen the last of their district foe.
“I think that a couple breaks went our way instead of their way and that was the difference in the game,” he said. “They’re a good ball club and we’re a good ball club, and I’m sure we’ll see them soon.”
2A-7: Cambridge Christian trailed Bayshore Christian by four runs heading into the seventh inning of Thursday afternoon’s district championship game. And though the Lancers had a big final frame — plating three runs at the last minute — it wasn’t enough to take the title, and they fell 8-7. Cambridge Christian (13-7) and Bayshore Christian (9-4) combined for seven runs in the first inning, and the Lancers took a 4-3 lead into the second.
Times correspondents Steve Lee and Don Jensen contributed to this report.