Tigers tame nation's No. 1 team

Published April 1, 2005

Jesuit defeated the No. 1-ranked team in the nation - Monsignor Pace of Opa Locka - 4-3 on Wednesday on Ryan Lockwood's walk-off, ninth-inning home run.

Baseball America and the National High School Baseball Coaches Association tabbed Monsignor Pace the country's top team.

On Wednesday, Lockwood hit his second home run of the Bishop Moore Catholic School Challenge, a 380-foot shot to right-center, with one out in the ninth to give the win to Kyle Wiser, who came on in relief of starter Sam Dyson. Dyson pitched eight innings, striking out 13.

"Last year, (Monsignor Pace) stopped us in the semifinal here 4-1," Tigers coach John Crumbley said. "So this win had added significance for us. Beating the top team in the country, well, that was really something special."

On Thursday, Jesuit continued its success, advancing to the tournament final by beating Belin Jesuit of Miami 9-3. The Tigers face the Bishop Moore-St. Thomas Aquinas winner tonight at 7.

Sophomore Kevin Quackenbush got his first win in relief of starter Wiser. Dyson and Robby Kuzdale each homered for the Tigers while Daniel Martinez was 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

BEST-EVER COWBOYS SQUAD?: Gaither (11-1), which won this year's Saladino Tournament, heads into the tough part of its district schedule with back-to-back games vs. Alonso next week. But the Cowboys boast a talented squad, that includes Braulio Pardo, arguably the best defensive catcher in the county, Gus Fernandez at shortstop, Evan Ashley at second and Mario Duarte in centerfield. Add to that an outstanding pitching staff led by Caleb Graham, Chris Jones and Ryan Plate and one can ask if Frank Permuy has the best team he's ever coached.

"It's far too early to say that," Permuy said. "We have a lot of baseball ahead of us yet. But I will say this much - this group is the most cohesive group I've ever had. They really coach each other in that they are so much on the same page all the time.

Permuy, whose 1982 state champion Tampa Catholic team had future major-leaguers Tino Martinez, Rich Monteleone and Lance McCullers on the roster, thinks this year's club will have to come down off the high of winning the Saladino and focus on district play to rank up there with his talented teams of the past.

"We had a meeting and I told them they are now going to see the best pitchers around here down the stretch, and there are plenty of them, and we are starting a whole new season now," he said.

Speaking of pitching, the Cowboys fare pretty well. Graham (six) and Plate (four) have combined for 10 Saladino victories in their careers.

NEWFOUND CONFIDENCE: Robinson coach Sal Urso likes what he sees from his Knights these days. With junior Steven Evarts throwing a two-hit shutout at Clearwater Central Catholic on Tuesday, Robinson improved to 7-4, 4-2 in district play.

"Steven pitched a brilliant game for us," Urso said. "He struck out 15 and I don't think he threw three curveballs all night."

With Tampa Catholic losing to Cardinal Mooney 5-4 the same night, the District 9 race got tighter with Jesuit, Tampa Catholic and Robinson vying for supremacy.

"We learned an awful lot about ourselves during the Saladino," Urso said. "We had only played five games before the tournament and getting all the way to the semifinal really improved our confidence in ourselves as a team."

HOT BAT: Stephan Davis, Hillsborough's first baseman, is hitting a county-best .576 with 24 RBIs and five home runs. The 6-foot, 215-pound senior has led the Terriers to a 10-3 record. In Mark McClure's no-hitter over East Bay on Wednesday, Davis hammered out two doubles.