TAMPA — After Jesuit sent 10 batters to the plate in a five-run first inning that featured one hit, four walks and an error, Wesley Chapel still fought back in the second, loading the bases with no outs.
But the Tigers (23-5) stepped up to the playoff stage Wednesday and used a dramatic double play to keep the door shut in their 10-0, five-inning victory over the Wildcats (12-10) in the Class 6A region quarterfinals.
Jesuit’s bullpen depth was on display as four pitchers combined to record the Tigers’ ninth shutout of the season.
In the second inning, AJ Pabon squared to bunt with the bases loaded when Jimmy Clifford started a rundown play that nailed two Wesley Chapel baserunners.
“They had the bases loaded with no outs and it helped shut them down,” Clifford said. “Their dugout got pretty quiet after that.”
Clifford said the Tigers often practice rundown plays, and he threw it to third baseman Nick Rodriguez on Wednesday when he saw the runner slip to start a double play that also nailed the runner that tried to steal third.
Camden Minacci struck out the next batter and neutralized the Wildcats’ best chance to score. After striking out four in two innings, Minacci was followed by Justin Clark, Josh Mallitz and Ryan Skelly who each threw a scoreless inning in relief.
Jesuit will host Jefferson in Saturday’s semifinal, a rematch of last week’s district championship game that the Tigers won 3-2. Minacci said Clark is expected to start.
“We scored five in the first and two more in the second inning,” coach Miguel Menendez said. “That kept us fresh and everyone is ready to go Saturday. We couldn’t have drawn it up better than what we did.”