Jesuit staves off Calvary comeback, wins 15-9

Jesuit’s Vincent DeCarlo (27) pounces on home plate after his first home run of the night, a two-run, first-inning blast (Photos by C. Frye). 

By Chuck Frye, Staff Writer

TAMPA — In an uncharacteristic spate of wildness Friday night, starting pitcher Wes Mendes opened the door for Calvary Christian to rebound from an early, and shocking, nine-run deficit.

But later, when given a shot for redemption at the plate, the senior seized it and convincingly slammed that door shut, helping Jesuit rebound for a 15-9 victory in a marquee matchup of two of the top ten teams in the state. Jesuit has now prevailed in the last three meetings head-to-head.

For a few more photos from this game, click here.

The 15 runs allowed were the most yielded by the visiting Warriors (18-4) since giving up 10 runs each to the Tigers and Naples Barron Collier over a week in April of 2021.

Jesuit head coach Miguel Menendez expressed the prevailing opinion going into play: “I’d be lying to you if I said I expected 15-9. I’d say probably a 3-2, 2-1 kind of game. Considering the caliber of pitching both sides threw out there, it took some really good hitting (to be successful).”

Jesuit leadoff man D.J. Pirela beats Calvary Christian first baseman Cameron Uzzillia’s tag on a first-inning pickoff attempt.

And right out of the gate, Jesuit (now 20-3) crushed it at the plate, surging to a 6-0, first-inning advantage behind a two-run, opposite-field home run from sophomore Vincent DeCarlo along with RBI doubles from Noah Sheffield and Clay Thompson and a run-scoring single from Jake Kulikowski.

“That’s always been one of my goals,” DeCarlo said. “I’ve actually never hit a homer opposite-field and that was one of the biggest things on my bucket list.”

Jesuit’s Noah Sheffield winds up to stomp the ground after his two-run double in the second inning, his second two-bagger of the game.

The lead extended to 8-0 in the second on Sheffield’s second two-bagger of the night, plating Mendes and Kulikowski, who walked.

“Wherever the ball was pitched, I was going to drive it wherever it was,” Sheffield said. “I’ve been working on trying to hit the ball, throw my hands to the ball and drive it.”

A Jacob Lozano triple and a wild pitch followed for a 9-0 lead through three.

Jesuit starting pitcher Wes Mendes battled through uncharacteristic wildness, battling through four innings on the mound.

Then the wheels came off for Mendes.

In a nightmare fourth inning, the lefty issued four walks (more than doubling his total for the year) and a single before turning the ball over to freshman relief pitcher Wilson Andersen, who allowed two free passes of his own in what turned out to be a four-run frame for the Warriors.

“I was doing pretty good up to that point (two hits and two strikeouts over three innings) and then, I don’t know, I just lost it,” Mendes said. “I just lost control.”

Calvary Christian’s Hunter Dietz worked 3 2/3 innings of relief, striking out six.

The errant mound work breathed new life into Calvary, which saw its bats come to life in the fifth when both Blake Opie and pinch hitter J.T. Long delivered two-run homers to close the gap to a lone run.

Calvary Christian’s Blake Opie pounds on the plate after his fifth-inning, two-run homer started the Warriors’ comeback.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Warriors head coach Greg Olsen said. “To come all the way back to cut it to 9-8 – basically starting the game over fresh – shows their character, shows their heart.”

Calvary Christian’s Justin Mayes (left) and Cameron Uzzillia (hidden) greet senior J.T. Long at the plate after the pinch hitter’s two-run homer completed a Warrior comeback from a 9-0 deficit to 9-8 in the fifth inning

But Jesuit – and Mendes – weren’t done.

With the bases juiced due to wayward Calvary pitching and two outs, Mendes worked the count in his favor and went hunting.

“I was looking fastball, for sure. (New reliever Liam Peterson’s) curveball was a little spotty in warmups,” the senior observed. “He got down 3-and-0, threw a fastball down the middle, so I was just expecting another fastball. I saw it and I hit it.”

Sending the ball up the right-centerfield gap, pinch-runner Jackson Thomas, Jacob Lozano and D.J. Pirela dashed home to put some distance between the two clubs.

“Nothing fazes him, (Wes) knows he still has a chance to impact the game from the offensive side,” Menendez said. “Obviously, there was no bigger hit for us and we were able to finish.”

Grant Jordan’s two-run single in the fifth helped extend the advantage, and DeCarlo’s second bomb of the game, a solo shot that hit the back of the football press box beyond the leftfield fence, established the final margin of victory.

“I hit off (sophomore reliever Grayson Gibson) a couple of times in JV last year so I knew he was going to challenge me,” DeCarlo said of the bomb that tied him with Mendes and Jordan for the team lead with three. “I wasn’t nervous at all, because if that home run didn’t happen, our whole team swung (finishing with 14 hits).”

Jesuit reliever Derek Westfall works a pickoff move to second base in the sixth inning.

“Last year (during a state championship campaign), we had a game against (Calvary) that was similar,” Menendez concluded. “We were up at their place and (the Warriors) scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh, they tied it, and we ended up winning in extra innings. We had a lot of guys back from that team and I told them to remember last year. We’ve been there before, don’t panic.”

And entering the last week of the regular season, Olsen said: “We’ve got three games to get ready for the postseason. It’s not about playing our best baseball in March or this week. We want to learn, get better and head into the first week of May truly playing our best.”

Both squads return to action on Tuesday as Jesuit looks to avenge a setback two weeks ago against undefeated IMG Academy, while Calvary Christian hosts Pinellas Park.


#2 Jesuit 15, Calvary Christian 9

C 000|441|0 – |9|8|0
J  621|051|x – |15|14|1
W – Mendes (2-0); L – Maroudis (6-1); S – Westfall (6)
2B – Opie (C); Sheffield 2, Thompson, Jordan (J); 3B – Mendes, Lozano (J); HR – Opie, Long (C); DeCarlo 2 (J). Records – C (18-4); J (20-3).