The Jesuit Tigers have a long tradition of baseball excellence. They're back in the state's Final Four for a 16th time and fifth in a row. Getting there has become a routine, but they've been in a rut trying winning it -- twice runner-ups.
"A benchmark in a lot of programs is winning a district title, you know winning a regional title, just getting to a Final Four," said Tigers head coach Richie Warren. "Here it hasn't been good enough. I think this year we're actually having fun with it. There's no pressure. We're able to go down there [Ft. Myers] and hopefully just perform and play to the best of our ability. See if we've got 14 innings left in us."
The Tigers know what it takes at this time of the season. In the playoffs they've almost been un-hittable, pitching three straight postseason shutouts. This team is loaded with talent that includes some major league bloodlines.
"With Kasey Radke, you know his dad was one of the top Major League Baseball pitchers to come out of the Tampa Bay area," continued Warren. "Ryan McCullers, with his brother and his dad, both playing professionally, and a couple of other guys as well. The bloodlines is one thing, but they have to go out on the field and actually perform."
It may seem routine that the Tigers are back in the Final Four for fifth straight year. Their road there has been anything but the norm. They lost nine varsity players to suspension midway through the year, which could've been a crushing blow to any team, but the Tigers just kept winning.
"Right off the bat we kept winning," said senior pitcher Kasey Radke. "We kept playing strong and nothing really changed for us. Besides the guys we didn't have, but other than that expectations stayed the same. We're playing very well."
"It was not just a defining moment in the season, but it was a defining moment in this proud program," offered Warren. "How we reacted. How we practiced and played after that was going to say a lot to the community about not only Jesuit High School, but the baseball program."
The Tigers have gone 13 and 4 since that point and given what they've overcome, winning it all this season would be extra special.
They're now just two wins away from their first title since Warren himself played for them in 2000.
"We've had some great teams down there the last four years," Warren added. "We've come back empty-handed with a couple of silver medals, but what Jesuit High School and the baseball program prides itself on is state championships."
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