Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

JV replacements answer the call for Jesuit

Jesuit sophomore Steven Lugo has started every game at second base since being called up in late March.


Jesuit sophomore Steven Lugo has started every game at second base since being called up in late March.

TAMPA — After nine varsity baseball players were suspended for the season due to violating a team policy in March, Jesuit coach Richie Warren knew he had some big shoes to fill.

There was more than a month left in the regular season for a team that had started its 2014 campaign with 10 Division I commits. The Jesuit alumnus, though, knew he didn't have to search far and wide to find replacements.

"We have a lot of quality guys in our program and a lot of guys that are on JV to start the season would be No. 1 starters anywhere in the county, top of the lineup guys anywhere else in the county," Warren said.

On March 22, Warren went to Jesuit's JV practice with a depleted roster. After meeting with selected players individually, he left with one fresh with the names of six Tigers who were ready to answer his call.

"I think they were excited," Warren said, "but I also think they knew, 'Okay. It's time to work.' "

That following Monday, sophomores Steven Lugo, J.J. Niekro, Nick Perillo, Michael Sandborn, Hunter Tubbs and freshman Alex Mocny showed up for their first varsity practice. Three days later, the six made their debut in a district matchup against Robinson.

Thrust onto a new team with merely days notice, Sandborn said that first night was nerve-wracking. Lugo, who started at second base against the Knights and in every game since, simply wanted to start off on the right foot.

And in a 5-3 extra-innings win, that's exactly what he did.

In the top of the eighth, Jesuit (20-6) scored the winning run on an RBI single from Jacob Mocny, and Lugo followed moments later with a single to leftfield, knocking in one more run for good measure.

"I was just happy to get it out of the way," Lugo said of his hit. "If you start off and you're not really getting hits and stuff, you tend to force a lot of things, do too much."

Lugo, who started on the varsity team at Hillsborough last year as a freshman, continued to prove his worth. In his second game with Jesuit's varsity team, an 11-1 win against Middleton, he went 1-for-1 with three RBIs and two sac flies.

The 6-foot sophomore will go into Wednesday's region quarterfinal against Boca Ciega with a .357 batting average, third highest for a Jesuit starter. But Lugo's contributions on the field, Jesuit pitcher Kasey Radke said, have been just as strong.

"He's a good defender, and he's a good hitter, too," the senior left-hander said. "I'm never scared to have someone hit a ball to him. I know he'll always make the play for me."

Because the plays and signals are the same for both the JV and varsity squads, Warren said he had no doubt the six JV players would make a smooth transition into the big leagues of high school baseball.

That confidence was put to the test when Warren started Sandborn, a left-hander, in Friday's Class 5A, District 7 championship game against Robinson. Sandborn pitched six innings in the Tigers' 6-2 victory, giving up just four hits, striking out four and walking one to earn his second varsity win.

Even in the biggest game of the season to date, Warren's midseason call-ups have come through, helping save a season riddled with adversity. And with the biggest games still to come — ones that will determine whether the Tigers will earn their fifth straight state final four berth — his confidence in them to continue to do so remains steadfast.

Warren knew exactly what he was getting when he promoted six players just more than a month ago. But the process has been a continual learning experience for Sandborn.

And he's living the greatest lesson of all.

"Just expect to be ready whenever, because you never know what's going to happen," Sandborn said. "You should always be ready, always be serious, always be proud to have the name across your chest."

. up next

Region quarterfinals

7 p.m.


7A: Sickles at Durant

7A: Brandon at

Wiregrass Ranch

5A: Robinson at

Bradenton Bayshore

5A: Boca Ciega at Jesuit

3A: Tampa Prep at

Lakeland Christian


8A: St. Petersburg at Plant

8A: Bloomingdale at

Sarasota Riverview

6A: Osceola at Jefferson

6A: King at Mitchell

4A: Tampa Catholic at

Avon Park

4A: Lakeland McKeel at Berkeley Prep

2A: Cambridge Christian at Canterbury

2A: Lakeside Christian at Bayshore Christian

JV replacements answer the call for Jesuit 04/28/14 [Last modified: Monday, April 28, 2014 6:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays' Evan Longoria: "We have all the belief in the world in here"


    The weekend sweep by Texas and four-game overall losing streak has some Rays fans - based on their tweets and emails - questioning the team's ability to make the playoffs and suggesting they might as well trade away their key parts.

  2. What are the odds the Rays trade for Brad Hand or Pat Neshek?


    In each of the last three seasons, the Rays have been sellers at the trade deadline. They shipped away David Price in 2014, got rid of David DeJesus and Kevin Jepsen in 2015 and flipped Matt Moore, Steve Pearce and Brandon Guyer in 2016.

    Padres left-hander Brad Hand has excelled in his two years with the team.
  3. Gerald McCoy cares too much about what you think of him

    The Heater

    Gerald McCoy is right. We are going to miss him when he's gone.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of 16 players to record at least five sacks in each of the past five seasons. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Ronde Barber says comments about McCoy 'sensationalized'


    If anyone thinks Ronde Barber was throwing shade at Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, think again.

    "That anyone would assume I would say the best player on the defense isn’t a bad dude is irresponsible and sensationalizing a quote to serve their own means,'' Ronde Barber said.
  5. USA Today sees Bucs as 10-6 wild card team in 2017


    Another day, another national outlet making NFL predictions, and this one is promising for Tampa Bay fans, as USA Today's Nate Davis has the Bucs going 10-6 and making the …

    Bucs DT Gerald McCoy tries to bring down Giants QB Eli Manning in a 2015 game. Tampa Bay and New York are both picked to finish 10-6 in USA Today's preseason predictions, both making the playoffs as wild cards.