TAMPA — Jesuit came into the season with the usual ambitions of a deep ride into the postseason and the lofty expectations that accompany it, but added was a reminder that no trip is guaranteed.
Last year, the Tigers' season ended in the district semifinals with a one-run loss to Chamberlain. Jesuit fell behind early and before the Tigers knew it, the outs ran out.
"That loss stung a lot," Jesuit coach Richie Warren said. "I think it's in the back of their head. I think it was a lesson that on any given day another team can be better than you."
In the early going this season, the senior-laden Tigers (six of Jesuit's 10 seniors have started since they were sophomores; some have played together since fourth grade) have shown they're not going to get caught. Jesuit heads into its toughest test thus far, tonight's game against district rival Plant, with an 8-0 record and a No. 4 national ranking in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper/Easton Sports Poll.
In four of Jesuit's eight wins — including its past three games — the Tigers have gone into the fourth inning trailing.
"Our confidence is high right now," senior catcher Joe Hudson said. "And confidence is one of the biggest parts of having a winning team. We all trust in each other."
Part of that is the ability to keep opponents from scoring late while they play catch-up. Take away a five-run sixth inning in the season opener against Tampa Catholic and Jesuit has allowed just one total run in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings this season — a span of 21 innings.
Take into account five Tigers are hitting .400 or better — Hudson (.478), second baseman Alex Bacon (.476), shortstop Nick Lockwood (.458), outfielder Austin Harztler (.435) and rightfielder Jimmy Falla (.400) — and it's apparent Jesuit has the offense to rally.
"Our guys aren't fazed by playing from behind," Warren said.