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Jesuit pulls a shocker, wins state title

JESUIT 4, BISHOP KENNY 1: Pitching sparks implausible win against the No. 2 team in the nation.

The team of superstars was no match for the team of destiny.

Yes, folks, Jesuit, with its four seniors, .261 batting average and 13 losses, is your Class 4A state champ. Jacksonville Bishop Kenny, with its 12 seniors, .400 batting average, 1.81 ERA, one loss and No. 2 national ranking, is not.

The Tigers stunned Bishop Kenny 4-1 at Legends Field to earn the program's third title.

"We really thought we could do this," Jesuit coach John Crumbley said. "We took a little different path than we normally do, but we never stopped talking about it, and we never stopped having it as a goal."

For perspective, consider:

A little more than one month ago, Jesuit (21-13) was 10-12.

A little less than 24 hours before beating Bishop Kenny (34-2), it was one strike away from elimination before stringing together four consecutive hits to beat Royal Palm Beach 2-1.

Jesuit's 13 losses are the most in the Crumbley era, which dates to 1985.

"It was just a matter of everything coming together," Jesuit pitcher Josh Weis said.

Everything did.

Despite having less experience and seemingly less talent across the board, Jesuit played as if it were the team with the national ranking and big-name recruits.

The Tigers had more hits (7-4), played better defense and for the most part were more fundamentally sound than their heralded counterparts, Baseball America's No. 2-ranked team. The real difference, however, came on the mound, where Weis (7-3) and starter David Bartelt slowed a team that entered the finals averaging 11 runs a game, and in the field, where Jesuit was flawless.

All four Bishop Kenny hits were singles, and the duo ran three-ball counts to just two hitters. Bishop Kenny, which scored 20 or more runs four times during the regular season, put runners in scoring position only three times.

Bartelt allowed three hits and one earned run in three innings despite throwing with two blisters on his pitching hand. Weis, nicknamed "sewer rat" because of his lack of fear, entered with two runners on and nobody out in the fourth, but calmly induced the first three players he faced into outs. One run crossed the plate, but Jesuit held a 2-1 lead.

"Other than a couple of games, our pitching was good all season," Crumbley said. "Defensively, that might have been two of the most perfectly played games I've ever coached."

In Jesuit's four-game run to the championship, Bartelt, Weis and Wednesday night's winner Richie Warren, under the direction of pitching coach Bob Weiner, combined to allow three earned runs in 28 innings.

"(They) had great stuff," Bishop Kenny coach Bob West said. "They moved the ball in and out."

At the plate, Jesuit had its best game in weeks.

Against a team that had held opponents to a .184 batting average and 3.7 hits a game, Jesuit more than held its own.

The Tigers went to work early against starter Matt Marti (9-1) with three hits in the first two innings. With one out in the second, Carl Smith singled to center to score courtesy runner David Ochotorena for a 1-0 lead. Jesuit scored another run in the fourth thanks to a Bishop Kenny fielding error and a run-scoring triple from Danny Plasencia.

Leading 2-1 in the seventh, Jesuit loaded the bases with no outs against reliever Pat Rumble after a single to right by Matt Lukevics, a bunt single from Shane Robinson and a fielding error, Bishop Kenny's third. Plasencia drew a walk to make it 3-1, and Robinson later scored on a wild pitch.

"This (title) is the most gratifying right now" Crumbley said. "The players and coaches worked their tails off and believed in one another. This team is one of the closest we've had."