TAMPA — Judging by the first inning of Jefferson’s rubber match against Robinson on Tuesday, it appeared as if the win-or-go-home Class 6A-8 district semifinal could be a battle to the bitter end.
The Dragons wasted no time pushing two runs across in the top of the frame, but Robinson’s Ben Kim got one back on the second pitch he saw, sending it over the rightfield wall for a solo shot.
“He usually gets stronger as the game goes,” Jefferson coach Daniel Gonzalez said. “One of my coaches said, ‘What was that?’ I said, ‘Well, hopefully a wakeup call.’ And it was.”
Jefferson starter Michael Dominguez shook it off, he said, then found his control. And the rest of the way, the senior right-hander could hardly be touched.
Dominguez only gave up only one more hit, a bloop single, in a complete-game effort against the Knights, and that momentum spread to the offensive side in Jefferson’s 13-1, five-inning rout of Robinson. The Dragons will host top-seeded Jesuit on Thursday for the district championship.
Jefferson’s bats were busy from the beginning. The Dragons (13-11) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning after an RBI single from Jaiden Duarte and a bases-loaded balk. It was three up, three down for Jefferson in the next two frames, but the Dragons more than made up for that in the fourth, when they scored seven runs on five hits and an error.
Freshman pinch hitter Alejandro Montada got the hitting going with a three-run double.
“I just had a little bit of a hunch,” Gonzalez said about putting Montada in. “He’s our bullpen catcher. He hits flyballs, and that’s what we needed. We were looking for one run. He just happened to hit one in the gap.”
Even after Robinson’s second hit of the game came in the fourth inning, the Knights (13-1) couldn’t seem to get anything going, as Dominguez sat the next three batters down in order. Jefferson added four runs on four hits in the fifth inning to end the night early.
In the first semifinal of the afternoon, Jesuit beat Middleton with similar ease.
Seven Tigers had at least one hit for Jesuit, which beat Middleton 15-0 in four innings. It was perhaps an expected outcome for Jesuit, which outscored Middleton 19-2 in its two regular-season meetings.
Still, the Tigers didn’t risk taking anything for granted, sophomore Cole Russo said.
“We take every game like it’s our last. In the playoffs it’s all or nothing,” said Russo, who had a team-leading four RBIs against Middleton. “(Whether) it’s American Heritage or Middleton, we gotta take it with the same amount of intensity.”
And at the plate, Jesuit’s intensity has taken it far this season.
The Tigers (21-5) are averaging more than 7.5 runs per game this season and have outscored their opponents 197-84. The Dragons know taking home the district crown will be a tall task with Jesuit standing in the way.
But if they can get more performances like the kind they saw Tuesday, Gonzalez said, he thinks his team will be just fine.
“We’ve lost to Jesuit twice. One was on an error and one was by one run, and we just got beat. The biggest thing is convincing our guys that we belong. We hang right there with them.”