TAMPA — Jesuit could not have written a better script for the opening of its new $2 million baseball stadium.
Paul Straub Field at Hyer Family Park lived up to the hype and then some Saturday as a sold-out crowd watched the Tigers rally twice for a 4-3 eight-inning win over rival Tampa Catholic.
"You certainly don't want to lose your home opener, you don't want to lose your home opener in a new ballpark and you don't want to lose to your rival," Jesuit coach Richie Warren said, describing the game "as close to a must-win as it gets."
Fans arrived early and stayed late with many of the 600 in attendance witnessing the ceremonial first pitch by former Minnesota Twins pitcher Brad Radke (Jesuit, Class of 1991) and visiting the Capitano Family Trophy Hall highlighting the program's nine major leaguers afterward.
"It's everything we dreamed of," said Father Richard Hermes, the school's president. "This is something that will last and be here for generations."
Added Mike Leding, the voice of Tiger baseball since 1992, "This is heaven."
Jesuit (2-1) battled back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits, and fans erupted with joy in the bottom of the eighth when Peter Alonso singled to rightfield on a hit-and-run play to score Adrian Chacon with the winning run.
"I'm glad that it turned out the way it did, but I was just trying to get (Chacon, who had singled) over to third base," Alonso said.
Another big blow for the Tigers came off the bat of Max Beerman, whose two-run opposite-field blast over the fence in left marked the first hit of the game. It also erased a two-run deficit.
"To hit the first one out, it's amazing," Beerman said.
Tampa Catholic (1-4) capitalized on starter Lance McCullers' wildness for a 2-0 lead in the first. McCullers walked four and hit a batter, with Billy Endris and Nick Perez scoring.
The Crusaders went ahead 3-2 when Perez scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, but the Tigers tied it in the sixth when McCullers led off with a double and scored on a Nolan Schultz single.
Jesuit might have had another run in that inning but Nick Sucarichi struck out Bryce Walker and catcher Jorge Romero tagged out pinch-runner Austin Jurado on an attempted steal of home.