TAMPA — Jesuit knew that River Ridge pitcher Andrew O'Brien threw a lot of curveballs. So in the days leading up to Tuesday night's Class 6A region quarterfinal, the Tigers hit more than their share of curveballs in batting practice.
Didn't seem to help too much.
O'Brien had the Tigers swinging and missing, and chipping and fouling balls all night.
"We were all in front of it and (O'Brien) was getting ahead of us and hitting his spots and just throwing really well," said Jesuit's Nico Baldor, who came into the game with a .354 batting average, but was hitless against O'Brien in his first four at bats with a strikeout. "I was sick and tired of seeing those curveballs."
Finally — in the bottom of the 10th inning, after O'Brien had thrown 133 pitches and held the Tigers scoreless —- Baldor squared up on one of O'Briens curveballs and hit a sizzling liner that bounced off the mitt of the Royal Knights' first baseman.
The shot was not only ruled a hit — only the fifth of the night for Jesuit — but it knocked in the winning run.
With a huge sigh of relief, Jesuit had sealed the victory 1-0.
For O'Brien, a senior, it was a bittersweet ending.
"Yes, I wish we could have won, but I feel good about the way I pitched," O'Brien said. "I held Jesuit (which came in 22-5 and highly ranked) scoreless for nine innings. I gave it everything I had. I don't think I could ask for much more."
Sore the next day?
"I'm sure I will be," O'Brien said. "My legs and back and arm were getting pretty tired at the end."
Behind O'Brien, the River Ridge defense was also solid, twice gunning down Tigers with pin-point throws to home plate.
Offensively, however, the Royal Knights (13-11) struggled a bit, collecting seven scattered hits against Jesuit starter Jack Anderson, who threw seven innings, and Jeff Hakanson, who threw the final three. Anderson and Hakanson combined to strike out 14 and walk only one Royal Knight.
"It was a little interesting," Jesuit coach Miguel Menendez said. "But we found a way. I had confidence that we would."