TAMPA — After picking up the save last week against Boca Ciega in Jesuit’s opening-round playoff game, Michael Sandborn said if given the option, he’d prefer to start. Tuesday, Sandborn demonstrated why.
Sandborn pitched six strong innings, and Joe Epstein escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh as Jesuit beat Robinson for the fourth time this season, defeating the visiting Knights 4-0 in a Class 5A region semifinal.
“At first I was a little nervous and wild but slowly as the innings went on, I started to lock in a little more,” said Sandborn, who struck out four and gave up three singles.
Sandborn was on cruise control most of the night and only threatened in the third. Robinson’s (10-16) Shawn McGory and Darius Autry singled to open up the inning. They advanced on a groundout, but Sandborn got a strikeout and grounder to wiggle out of the jam.
The senior lefty went out for the seventh but walked the first batter he faced. Epstein came on then walked a pair but got Tommy Craparo to groundout, ending the game.
“I wasn’t nervous at first but after the second walk I was,” Epstein said. “I just wanted to just focus on throwing strikes.”
Ryan McCullers’ RBI single scored Nick Ortega in the first and Braxton Rupp hit a sacrifice fly to score Nick Perillo in the fourth, who narrowly avoided the tag at home to make it 2-0.
Jesuit used some small ball — and heads-up base running — to pad their lead in the sixth. With runners on second and third, Ronnie Ramirez laid down a well-placed suicide squeeze. Perillo scored from third and on the throw to get Ramirez at first, Danny Lastra alertly hustled around from second to make it 4-0.
“(Lastra’s) been around the game a long time,” Warren said. “That proved to be the difference. Robinson plays that seventh inning differently if they were only down by two.”