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Jesuit Beats Alonso 5-2 For Saladino Championship

The 2017 Saladino Tournament champion Jesuit Tigers.

The 37th Annual Saladino Memorial Tournament came to a close Friday night at Brandon High School. The championship featured the Jesuit Tigers, winners of eight in-a-row, going up against the Alonso Ravens, winners of their last nine games.

By winning their semifinal games earlier in the day, the Tigers and Ravens squared-off to determine a champion for the week-long tournament. After falling behind early, the Tigers crawled back into the game and, behind nine strikeouts in the final five innings from Jeffrey Hankanson, held on to beat the Ravens 5-2 and clinch their first Saladino Tournament Championship since 1986.

Garrett Sheppard broke the tie for the Tigers in grand fashion during the top of the seventh inning. Sheppard led the inning off by blasting the first pitch he saw deep over the left field wall for his first home run of the season, giving the Tigers a 3-2 lead. Back-to-back RBI singles from McGuire Weaver and Alex Mocny added some insurance for the Tigers later in the inning.

“It feels great,” said Jesuit manager Miguel Menendez. “Our guys played really well all week. We had to win six games in seven days, including five games over the last four days. That’s a testament to our depth. This team just grinds everyday and wants to get better. They earned this title.”

The Tigers (11-1) found themselves in an early 2-0 hole after surrendering two runs in the bottom of the first inning. A RBI sac-fly from McGuire Weaver in the third and sacrifice hit from Mitchell Thrower in the fifth tied the game at two. It remain knotted at two until the final inning.

Coming into the tournament having won four championships since 2007, the Ravens (9-3) were no stranger to the big stage. Riding a nine-game winning streak into the championship game, they looked poised to add another trophy early on. Marc DeGusipe gave a strong performance on the mound, going 4.1 innings, allowing two runs on three hits. Jared DeSantolo supplied the offense for the Ravens, going 2-for-3 with a run score and two RBIs. Jordan Butler scored the other run for the Ravens, who found it difficult to solve Jeffrey Hankanson on the mound.

Hankanson didn’t start the game but came in to start the third inning and completely shut down the offense of the Ravens. Hankanson threw 75 pitches over five innings, allowing two hits and walking two. He struck out nine batters and was awarded the win.

A three-run lead was more than enough for Hankanson who came in for the final inning and struck out two of the final four batters he faced to clinch the Saladino Championship, the first for the team in 30 years and the first under Manager Miguel Menendez.

Hankanson finished the tournament second in strikeouts with 15, trailing only Jordan Butler of the Ravens, who finished the tournament with 21 strikeouts. Jake Jones led the Tigers on offense, batting .400 and driving in four runs in the tournament.

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