Column: Jesuit doesn't skimp on the drama

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Sat. May 11, 2013 | John C. Cotey | Email

Column: Jesuit doesn't skimp on the drama

TAMPA
Mason Warren looked up at Daddy on Friday night, a deep look of consternation on his face.

He had just watched Leland Saile, one of the Jesuit High baseball players, dump a big old thing of Gatorade — a special mixture by trainer Chris Smith of lemon-lime and grape — over his Daddy’s head, and he didn’t understand.

Richie Warren, Jesuit’s coach, stopped talking to reporters and looked down at Mason.

“Because he’s happy,” Warren, beaming, told his son. “He’s happy we won.”

Mason tried to understand. But Daddy was smiling, so the kid unfurled his brow and went back to watching the Tigers hug each other all over the baseball field at Hyer Family Park.

•••

After Jesuit’s dramatic, two-out, two-strike, two-run rally that was, well, too much, Warren wasn’t the only guy who got a Gatorade bath after the 5-4 victory that sent Jesuit to the state semifinals for the fourth straight year.

But clearly, there wasn’t enough of the special mix to go around.

Spencer Trayner drew a one-out walk to start the rally, after being two strikes in the hole.

After the second out, Saile drew a walk, then Ryan McCullers did the same.

That loaded the bases for first baseman Daniel Portales, who in the sixth inning had missed a throw — “he never misses a throw,” Warren said — that let Auburndale score two runs and take the lead.

Portales was already looking at being the goat. Making the last out, with the bases loaded, in a playoff game, would be a cruel ending.

“It popped into my head, 'Man, you can’t be the last out. You’re a senior. You can’t let your team down,’ ” he said.

He wanted a hit, because that’s how you dream of it the night before every big game.

But Portales did something even more difficult, when you think about it, because it demanded he be patient and smart and disciplined in front of a packed house of Tiger fans who would be pretty darned disappointed if he wasn’t.

He drew a walk.

He laid off one pitch that was pretty good, another that wasn’t, and his reward was a fourth ball that sailed over his head.

“Best walk ever,” he said, and it kept the game going.

It was reminiscent of 2011, on this same field, when another first baseman, Max Beerman, made an error in the field that allowed Lakewood Ranch to take the lead.

He too got a chance at redemption in the bottom of the seventh inning, and like Portales, fell behind two strikes but worked it back to a full count.

Beerman, rather famously and majestically, hit a grand slam to win the game, though Portales was just as happy with his trot to first base.

Ricky Caldevilla came up next and lined a single to right to win the game.

No wonder then that Portales found Caldevilla behind second base, wrapped his arms around him and buried his face in his shoulders.

Thank you. No, thank you.

Warren, who was starting the inning with the top of his lineup, figured if he could get to his Nos. 6 and 7 hitters, a pair of .400 hitters who also happened to enter Friday’s game tied for the team lead in RBIs, the Tigers might actually pull off a miracle.

“I told Daniel and Ricky, 'If it gets to you, we’re going to win the game,’ ” Warren said. “It’s the same thing I told Beerman.”

•••

Mason Warren was there the night Beerman hit his grand slam, he was just 1, and doesn’t remember what happy looked like that night. He’ll never forget what it looked like Friday night.

It looked like teenage boys and coaches and fans and heck, even a few priests, hugging and smiling and laughing, still not even really sure what just happened.

It looked like people rustling your hair — “Can you believe it, Mason?!” — as you searched for your dad on a baseball field.

It’s finding him beneath a shower of a sweet, sticky violet-colored sports drink, smiling the biggest smile he has ever seen.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

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