PORT ST. LUCIE — Everything had been going Jesuit's way since the Tigers arrived at the Florida High School Athletic Association's Class 4A state tournament — all the breaks and many of the bounces — down to a piece of clay along the first-base line that kept a bunt fair.
The Tigers came to Port St. Lucie with one goal in mind, to bring home their first state title in a decade. And in Saturday's title game against Southwest Ranches Archbishop McCarthy, Jesuit appeared ready to break a tied game open.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers had runners at the corners with no outs after leadoff hitter Alex Bacon's textbook bunt rolled along the first-base line for an infield single.
Then, everything went wrong.
And Jesuit, a team that won by 19 runs 24 hours earlier, couldn't buy a cleat over the plate. And in the next half inning, its usually stellar battery unraveled in uncharacteristic fashion.
The Tigers fell to the Mavericks 6-1, their championship hopes dashed by a four-run sixth inning. Of Archbishop McCarthy's last five runs, three scored on passed balls and another on a wild pitch. For a team with 14 seniors, its drive to a title fell just short.
"We just didn't execute in one inning in the whole playoffs," Jesuit coach Richie Warren said. "That's basically what it boiled down to, five games and not being able to execute in one inning. We'll take that. It just happened to be in the biggest inning of the season. The bottom line is we didn't get the job done. We came down to win a state championship, and it just didn't work out for us."
That inning came after Jesuit (29-4) wasted its best offensive opportunity of the day. Tied 1-1 with runners at first and third after Bacon's bunt — and later with the bases loaded and one out — the Tigers couldn't plate a run.
Mavericks reliever Jose Brizuela struck out the side, pitching through the heart of the Jesuit lineup.
Jesuit wasted senior left-hander Daniel Gibson's fifth straight postseason start. The Florida recruit struck out eight, twice striking out the side, but he came out in the sixth with runners on the corners and no outs.
Reliever Lance McCullers and catcher Bobby Eveld were never in synch. Even though the inning opened with three hits, the Mavericks (28-5) scored four runs without another hit. Instead, Eveld spent more time chasing pitches to the backstop.
After the game, both shared the blame.
"In that one inning, I was having a real rough time," Eveld said. "Lance wasn't doing a bad job at all. He missed a couple of pitches here and there, but no one's perfect. I'll take the blame for most of that."
McCullers said: "It's not Bobby's fault. He was set up inside, I threw the ball outside. The fact of the matter is I didn't get the job done when I went out there and had a chance to help my team."
For the Tigers seniors, many of whom played with each other in American Legion ball since the summer before their senior year, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
In his fourth season as Jesuit coach, this is the first class Warren has seen all the way through.
"I think that's what hurts the most in terms of how I'm feeling right now," Warren said. "For them to get in their senior year to the last possible game, it says a lot about their dedication, their hard work and commitment to Jesuit baseball, as well as their coaching staff."