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Jesuit cruises to third Saladino Tournament title

Dominic Castellano is in control on the mound as the Tigers top Durant 10-2.
Jesuit senior Dominic Castellano allowed one run and one hit in four innings during a 10-2 victory over Durant in the Saladino Tournament final Wednesday night.
Jesuit senior Dominic Castellano allowed one run and one hit in four innings during a 10-2 victory over Durant in the Saladino Tournament final Wednesday night. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Mar. 18
Updated Mar. 18

TAMPA — It was clear how well Jesuit’s night was going to go when left-hander Dominic Castellano took the mound in Wednesday’s Saladino Tournament championship game and threw nine pitches, all for strikes, to end the inning in a flash.

The senior UCF commit had a no-hitter in his last outing against Sarasota High nearly a week ago, and he only extended that streak against Durant, tossing 3 ⅔ hitless frames. That defensive momentum continued when the Tigers were at the plate, and Jesuit scored six runs in the first inning on the way to a 10-2 victory.

In four complete innings against the Cougars, Castellano gave up just one hit and struck out eight. It was the Tigers’ third Saladino Tournament championship and second under coach Miguel Menendez.

“He throws four pitches for strikes, and he can throw pretty much any pitch on any count. He’s been really outstanding,” Menendez said about Castellano. “He may not have the best stuff on the team, but he’s the best competitor we have, and you can see that when he goes out on the mound.”

Castellano sat the Cougars (9-3) down in order in the first three innings, and of the seven strikeouts he tallied in those frames, six came on just three pitches.

And as Durant hitters were flustered by the senior southpaw, the Cougar defense got off to a similar start.

Jesuit junior AJ Nessler celebrates after rapping an RBI double in the first inning.
Jesuit junior AJ Nessler celebrates after rapping an RBI double in the first inning. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

Durant had three errors in the first inning, and Jesuit (11-1) added three hits, including an RBI double from infielder AJ Nessler, to take a 6-0 lead. The Tigers made it 8-0 in the second with ab RBI from infielder Nick Rodriguez and another from Nessler. Rodriguez notched his second RBI in the third, making it 10-0 in favor of the Tigers after they began the inning with back-to-back singles.

Things slowed down for Jesuit offensively after that. Castellano came out of the game after four complete frames, hitting a batter, then giving up an RBI single to senior infielder Javy Quintana.

“It honestly made my life a little easier when he gave up the hit and the run, then I could take him out and get other guys in the game,” Menendez said. “As long as he was throwing a no-hitter, he wasn’t coming out of the game.”

Jesuit relievers picked up where Castellano left off. In the final three frames, Durant only had one more hit, and the Cougars scored their second run on a Tiger error.

In the late innings, Menendez got nearly all his bench players in the game. No matter who was in, the Tigers were tough to stop.

That’s the part that gives Castellano hope for what’s to come.

“We did a really good job of hitting tonight. One through nine, we hit well. We’re not even at the peak yet of what we can do,” Castellano said. “If everyone starts hitting, if everyone starts doing well, I don’t think there’s anyone that can beat us.”

Wednesday’s scores

Gold Division

Newsome 15, Leto 1

Sickles 21, Lennard 11

Gaither 10, Riverview 0

Plant 13, Jefferson 3

Plant City 4, Alonso 2

Wharton 14, Strawberry Crest 3

Steinbrenner 11, Bloomingdale 7

Jesuit 10, Durant 2

Silver Division

Robinson 16, Armwood 3

East Bay 7, King 2

Brandon 11, Carrollwood Day 1

Hillsborough 8, Freedom 1