TAMPA — When Jesuit coach Miguel Menendez motioned for reliever Jeff Hakanson to enter in the seventh inning of Thursday's Class 6A, District 8 final, he did so with full confidence the junior would work out of a seemingly impossible situation.
Though the Tigers were ahead on the scoreboard by two runs, Robinson had quickly loaded the bases on an error and two singles with no outs, chasing reliable starter Jack Anderson from the game.
"I joked with (Hankanson) before he went in that every time we bring him in, I feel like it's bases loaded and nobody out," Menendez said. "But he always seems to come through."
With that faith from his second-year coach, Hankanson came through again. The right-hander induced a pair of groundouts and polished it off with a strikeout to lift Jesuit to a 3-2 victory and a fifth straight district title.
"It's obviously a little nerve-racking with a little bit of adrenaline, too," said Hankanson, smiling. "It's just feeding off of that and trying to make the best out of a bad situation and do the best you can."
On a night when little went right for the Tigers (22-5) offensively, Hankanson's effort was just what they needed to dispatch the defending region finalists.
Jesuit left six runners on base in the first three innings before Thomas Bencivenga scored from third on a wild pitch by Matthew Steckel in the fourth.
The Tigers got another run in the fifth on a fielder's choice and pushed across some needed insurance one inning later courtesy of Nick Ortega's two-out, RBI single.
Anderson yielded one earned run to the Knights (15-9) in the sixth when Mathew Chowning reached on a hit-by-pitch before reaching third on an error and stealing home on a pick-off attempt. The righty also struck out four and worked out of several testy situations, setting up Hankanson's dazzling finish.
"This was kind of like the second step, the way we looked at it," Menendez said. "The first step was to be the No. 1 seed in the district and the second step was winning the district championship. And it's huge because now we get the chance to go back home and play.
"That's a big advantage for us."