Jesuit falls short in extra frame at state semifinals
FORT MYERS -
Jesuit’s seniors’ hopes of finally bringing a state title to the trophy room behind the third-base dugout of Hyer Family Park again fell short. For the fourth straight season, the second in a row in the Class 5A state semifinal, the Tigers came away without a title, falling to Ponte Vedra 2-1 in eight innings.
“This may be the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” starting pitcher Daniel Portales said. “It’s baseball, but I really thought we’d come away with a different result.”
With the game knotted at 1, Ponte Vedra (21-11) singled to start the eighth inning off reliever Ronnie Ramirez, prompting a switch to the planned finals starter Spencer Trayner. Trayner was called for a balk, moving pinch runner Chase Hahnemann to second before a pitch in the dirt advanced him to third. Chris Levitt followed with a single to bring in the run and send the Tigers to a disappointing loss.
“A guy got a base hit, and a runner on first with no outs is a lot different than a runner on second with no outs,” Trayner said. “I don’t think that I balked, but I’ll have to go look at the tape.”
Frustration showed itself in different ways, but for Trayner, Wednesday’s result was bittersweet — he is proud of what his team accomplished, but frustrated to be a part of four disappointing endings.
“This is a great group of kids, and we know baseball falls this way sometimes,” Trayner said. “I don’t know what we have to do to win one of these, and four years in a row it just hasn’t fallen our way.”
The result left Jesuit coach Richie Warren with a numb feeling.
“I have no emotions,” Warren said. “I honestly don’t know what can be done, four years in a row. Hats off to our guys who continue to play hard every single pitch, and that’s all I could ask.”
The Sharks got on the board in the fourth as Ben Ohno hit a ground ball to third for a force out, but the Tigers couldn’t get the double-play out at first to end the inning.
Jesuit (27-3) answered in the bottom half as Portales singled in Leland Saile to even the game.
“We thought it was our inning every inning,” Trayner said. “Once Leland scored that run, we thought we had this game won.”
Jesuit’s struggles at the plate included having its leadoff man reach in five innings, but failing to scratch out a run.
Warren said although the send-off for the team’s 13 seniors wasn’t what they had hoped for, the season’s successes were something to be recognized.
“You can’t judge your season on wins and losses, and obviously a state championship would be nice,” Warren said. “But if a season is only judged on state championships why would you practice every day? Why would you grow as a family?
“Only one team gets that satisfaction of being state champion, so there has to be other reasons why you play baseball.”