TAMPA — Daniel Gibson couldn't help but notice the pro scouts behind the backstop Wednesday night, there to see his counterpart.
They came with radar guns in hand to watch Plant senior pitcher Mychal Givens, but Gibson, the Jesuit sophomore southpaw pitcher, managed to steal the moment.
Backed by six strong innings from Gibson, the Tigers edged the Panthers 3-1 in a game between district rivals, both of whom have received national recognition (Jesuit is ranked fourth in the nation in one poll; Plant is 13th in another).
"That's a big win for the program, not just for the team, but for the program as a whole," Jesuit coach Richie Warren said. "We all knew what kind of arm we were facing."
The Tigers (9-0) scored a run in each of the first three innings off Givens, highlighted by catcher Joe Hudson's homer to leftfield in the third.
"We just wanted to make sure we put the ball in play and let the game evolve," said Hudson, who was 3-for-3.
Gibson, who entered the game with 26 strikeouts in 17 innings, admittedly didn't have his best stuff early, but he relied on his two-seam fastball to draw contact and let his defense do the work.
"I knew they were going to be swinging early and that if we could get those groundball outs early, we could take control of the game," he said.
The pivotal moment came in the sixth, when the Panthers (5-2) brought the go-ahead run to the plate with runners at first and second with no outs. But Gibson recovered to strike out the side facing the heart of the Plant batting order, its third, fourth and fifth hitters.
"That extinguished any thought they had of coming back," Hudson said.
From there, freshman Lance McCullers closed out the game with a scoreless seventh. Gibson allowed just four hits — two of them infield singles — in six innings. Givens struck out seven in four innings. And at the end of the night, the Tigers departed into their clubhouse to a techno music celebration.
"Tonight it's great to be a Jesuit Tiger," Hudson said.