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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
TAMPA - As his team's district semifinal game headed into the seventh inning and rain began to fall, Robinson coach Sal Urso walked to the dugout and said all he cared about was getting three outs and finishing off Cardinal Mooney.
In the previous game, Urso watched as Tampa Catholic put a scare into Jesuit with a four-run seventh, and he wasn't looking for similar excitement.
But the biggest reason Urso wanted those final three outs was because the Knights haven't won a state title since 1971. The first step in ending that streak was to win Tuesday night.
Fortunately, the Knights had junior Steven Evarts on the mound. Four batters later Robinson was celebrating a 7-1 victory and Urso was running out of gameballs to give to his top players.
Robinson faces Jesuit, which defeated Tampa Catholic 6-4, in Thursday night's championship. The Knights and Tigers split their two games this season.
"This is exactly what we were looking for," Urso said of the chance to win the district title. "(Robinson) hasn't won a district in I don't know how long but it's been a long time and now we get Jesuit. We want to take the district title."
Both teams advanced thanks in part to stellar pitching.
Jesuit's Sam Dyson struck out nine and helped his cause with a home run.
Evarts struck out 10, allowed three hits and, after giving up a double to open the game, retired 20 of the next 21 batters he faced.
Tampa Catholic made it a little harder on Jesuit than the Tigers would have liked. Trailing 6-0 with two outs in the seventh, Matt Quevedo hit his third grand slam of the season.
But Dyson buckled down to get the final out.
Ryan Lockwood finished the game 3-for-3 with three runs scored and had a solo home run.
"I think they realized it is important to get that fifth run or have a five-run lead when you play big games in small parks," Jesuit coach John Crumbley said.
"We just built enough of a lead that one swing of the bat couldn't destroy our season."