It's not about how you start, it's about how you finish.
The Jesuit Tigers proved that statement true as they picked up three runs in the 7th inning to defeat the Alonso Ravens 5-2 on Friday night in the Saladino Tournament Final at Brandon High School.
The Ravens jumped out to an early 2-0 lead that sent the Alonso faithful into a frenzy.
After Jordan Butler walked with two outs in the bottom of the 1st, Jared DeSantolo stroked a triple into right field to plate Butler and then DeSantolo came in to score when the relay throw got away and doubled the lead.
That was the last time the Ravens would get past second base the entire evening.
Tigers sophomore Cristian Troncoso, who was making his Varsity debut, settled in and pitched a scoreless 2nd inning before giving way to senior Jeff Hakanson who took it the rest of the way.
Hakanson gave up only two hits and struck out nine over those final five innings en route to being named the Tournament MVP.
"It's an absolute blessing," Hakanson said. "I couldn't have done it without my defense behind me."
Jesuit cut the lead in half on a McGuire Weaver sacrifice fly in the 3rd. Then in the 5th, Mitchell Thrower tied the game with a beautiful squeeze bunt down the first base line.
Both teams went scoreless in the 6th, but the very first pitch in the 7th changed everything.
Ravens reliever Jorge Oleaga left a ball up and Tigers DH Garrett Sheppard blasted one over the fence in left field to give Jesuit the lead.
"I was just sitting fastball (and) got one belt high. In my head I wasn't really thinking home run but I was just trying to put a good swing on it and it just went," Sheppard said. "I honestly didn't know it was gone until I got to second base."
Weaver and his double play partner, Alex Mocny, each drove in insurance runs following Sheppard's homer and Hakanson shut things down in the bottom half of the 7th to give the Tigers the victory.
This is Jesuit's 2nd Saladino victory. The first came back in 1986 when the team was led by current Steinbrenner coach John Crumbley.
It was an historic week for the Tigers, but now the goal is to do what Steinbrenner did last year; parlay a win in the Saladino Tournament into a long playoff run culminating in a state championship.
"We talked about when we came in that there not very many opportunities to replicate what happens in playoff baseball," Jesuit Head Coach Miguel Menendez said. "It's do-or-die, winner-go-home and that mentality is going to pay off for us down the road."
SALADINO ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Catcher : Rodrigo Montenegro (Carrollwood Day)
First Base : Frank Furey (Carrollwood Day)
Infielders : Tyler Salomon (Riverview)
Jared DeSantolo (Alonso)
Jake Jones (Jesuit)
Outfielders : Ryan Drumheller (Alonso)
Jose Martinez (Leto)
Duncan Hunter (Jesuit)
Pitchers : Price Sartor (Jesuit)
Jordan Butler (Alonso)
Designated Hitter : Noah Luke (Steinbrenner)
MVP : Jeff Hakanson (Jesuit)
Pop Cuesta Best Defensive Player Award : Josh Rulli (Riverview)
Home Run Derby Winner : Dalton Wingo (Plant City)
Frank Permuy Best Hitter Award : Garrett Thompson (Riverview)
Echevaria Team Sportsmanship Award : Carrollwood Day School
Dustin Burruezo Team Spirit Award : Tampa Prep
Artie Vazquez Memorial Coaches Award : Bill Leiby (Riverview)
Jose Fernandez Passion For Baseball Award : Teddy Flynn (Brandon)