TAMPA — For the fifth consecutive season, Jesuit High's baseball team secured a spot in the state final four.
On Tuesday night, the Tigers defeated Cape Coral, 1-0, in the Class 5A-Region 3 championship and will face Sunlake in the state semifinals May 21 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
Sophomore Michael Sandborn tossed a complete-game two-hitter with six strikeouts, working his way out of a few tight situations to preserve the shutout.
Perhaps more impressive than Sandborn's arm was his composure. Six weeks ago, he was pitching on the school's junior varsity team, but was moved up when nine varsity players were suspended for violating school policy.
“Little bit nervous but relaxed at the same time,” Sandborn said. “I was executing my pitches tonight and it felt good as I continued on.”
In the top of the seventh, Sandborn struck out the first batter he faced, and catcher Ryan McCullers caught a runner stealing second for the second out. Sandborn then got a fly ball to the outfield to end the game.
“Michael is not a typical J.V. arm,” Jesuit coach Richie Warren said. “Any program in the area would love to have him as their No. 1. Obviously he's playing that role right now for us and he's doing a great job.”
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Jacob Mocny hit a RBI single to score Braxton Rupp from third, giving Jesuit a 1-0 lead.
Cape Coral had runners on first and third in the top of the fifth and tried a squeeze play, but Sandborn prevented the run from scoring to protect the 1-0 lead.
“With the ball going back to Michael, and that's something we practice if the ball is bunted back to you in that situation, you need to look back the runner and he did and he got the out at first,” Warren said. “That was a pretty calm and cool collective play for a 15-year-old in this type of game.”
Cape Coral had a runner on third with two outs in the fifth but recorded one of his six strikeouts to keep the game scoreless.
“We were talking to people on campus all week that you better bring your sleeping bags because this might be an all-nighter,” Warren said. “It was going that way but we were able to put enough pressure and we had a ton of opportunities, but we just didn't execute like we should have.
“In order to win a title, we're going to have to execute in all phases.”
5A-2: Sunlake ends long drought in Pasco County
CITRA — Twelve years late, Pasco County once again is represented.
For the first time since 2002, a Pasco County baseball team is headed to the state tournament after Sunlake, continuing its Cinderella season, beat Citra North Marion 6-3 in nine innings.
“It's great for the school, the county, the kids and we're glad to be going,” Seahawks coach Dick Rohrberg said. “They deserve it because they've worked hard. It's awesome for them.”
Sunlake (20-9) has had impressive postseason wins against Brooksville Hernando and Pasco and outscored region tourney opponents 11-3.
Senior southpaw David Castillo (8-3) has been the catalyst. He went eight innings Tuesday, throwing 115 pitches and allowing five hits, two walks, four hit batters, three runs and struck out nine.
Castillo has started all three postseason games, pitching 26 innings along the way.
“He's wildly effective,” Rohrberg said. “Sometimes his curve is on, other times his change-up, he gets guys on the black, out of the strike zone. He just makes people miss.”
The Seahawks jumped to a 2-0 lead behind an RBI walk by Jesse Williams and an RBI single by Zach Howard that scored Castillo.
However, the Colts (15-14) scored three in the bottom of the fifth.
Sunlake rallied in the top of the seventh behind Castillo, who singled, then stole third and scored on an errant throw. The Colts had two outs and a 0-2 count on Zach Scranton when Sunlake tied it.
“I've been doing this a long time,” Rohrberg said. “Some things go wrong, but everything is joining right for us.”
Sunlake faced a lefty in sophomore Dante Torino, who also went eight innings, threw 118 pitches, allowed five hits and an earned run. He walked five, hit a batter and had eight strikeouts.
Once Torino was pulled in the ninth, the Seahawks' offense came to life and scored three runs thanks to sacrifice flies by Scranton and Howard and an RBI single by Kyle Schultz in just his third at-bat this season.
Ryan Talburt picked up the save.
“They made more mistakes than us,” Castillo said. “The team has got my back and they score runs. You've got to respect that and I've got to do what I do in games like this.”