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."
Gaither's finale grand for retiring Permuy
TAMPA — In 30 years as Gaither's baseball coach, Frank Permuy had never experienced the thrill of winning a game with a walk-off grand slam.
In Permuy's final year at the helm, it's only fitting that Cowboys slugger Randy Oliva changed that on Friday night against Class 7A, District 8 rival Wiregrass Ranch.
With his team down two and two outs in the seventh inning, the senior delivered the winning slam off reliever James Coviello to give Gaither a 9-7 win over the Bulls and force a four-way tie atop the district standings.
"I've been saying the whole year that we haven't quit," said Permuy, who announced last April he would retire at the end of this season.
"That was something special. That was definitely special."
Wiregrass (14-5, 5-3) led 7-4 in the seventh after Austin Drury scored on a wild pitch and Alex Fernandez's RBI double to leftfield.
But the Cowboys (13-5, 5-3) didn't back down. With one out, Ronal Perdomo singled home Daniel Martin to pull within two. Then, after Tyler Tyson walked and Jose Cadenas struck out, Oliva knew it was up to him to complete the comeback.
"We just kept on fighting and we never gave up," said Oliva, 3-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs.
The Bulls led 3-0 in the third thanks to Michael Campoamor's three-run homer. But the Cowboys (13-5, 5-3) answered in the bottom of the frame against ace Zach Drury with a two-run shot to left by Oliva.
After the Bulls added two runs in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk to Ryan Girard and a solo homer by Logan Place, Gaither's Chris Minor hit a two-RBI single in the sixth to cut the deficit to one.
"I won't forget this one," Permuy said. "There have been memorable games here, but that one is going to break it right there. I can't think of anything better than that."
Jeff Odom, Times correspondent