Prep baseball | Tampa Jesuit's pro prospect shuts down Bayshore in region final

jdill@bradenton.comMay 3, 2012 

TAMPA -- Pick any analogy to describe the long odds Bayshore's baseball program faced Wednesday night at Tampa Jesuit against the Tigers' ace pitcher, Lance McCullers Jr., and it probably fit.

The Bruins weren't given much of a chance because the Jesuit Tigers (26-1) are ranked No. 1 in the country, and McCullers is projected as a top draft pick in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft this summer.

And even though they didn't pull off the monumental upset, losing 5-0 to the Tigers in a Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal, the Bruins were cheerful following the defeat.

In particular, senior Leon Cavazos was happy rather than somber as his prep career ended at the mini-minor league park that Jesuit calls home.

He collected two hits off McCullers, the most any one player had done all season.

"I just came out and played like any other game," Cavazos said. "I didn't think about the pitcher or nothing. ... I've played some tough teams before, so I know to just not to think about it."

In fact, McCullers, a University of Florida-bound right-handed pitcher who has a baseball pedigree -- his father pitched in the pros for seven years -- had allowed just one run all season.

And that run was unearned.

The Bruins, though, threatened with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, but McCullers bore down and induced a groundout to end the game and close out Bayshore's season with a 14-14 record.

To prepare for the hard-throwing McCullers, Cavazos said Bayshore turned the pitching machine up to the highest setting it could, about 90 miles per hour, in practice.

Cavazos laced a single down the third base line in the fifth inning, and smacked a base hit up the middle in the seventh to complete a three plate appearance day where he reached safely each time. He also walked his first appearance against McCullers.

"I just tried to get my foot down, and swing as hard as I could," said Cavazos, who completed his third year on varsity and added he'll look to play locally at State College of Florida or walk-on elsewhere. "And as fast as I could. Just my foot and then my hips, rotate."

McCullers worked an effective breaking ball to complement his high-velocity fastball that baffled Bayshore hitters to the tune of 13 strikeouts in seven innings. One of the strikeouts, though, reached base as it came on a wild pitch that loaded the bases in the seventh inning.

And the Bruins' two hits in that frame generated four for the game off McCullers, the most he's allowed this season. It's all positives for a young team that returns several core players for head coach Ron Hirst.

"To play the No. 1 team in the nation from Baseball America and Perfect Game, they didn't show fear," Hirst said. "They went out there and played their tail off, and that's all you can ask for."

Bayshore committed two errors in the second inning, and they led to two Jesuit runs. The Tigers then plated three runs off four hits in the third inning to cap the scoring off Bayshore starter Tyler Schoppelrey, who ended his season with a 6-4 record.

"They're going to be a good team. They had a good approach today," McCullers said. "They laid off the curveballs they needed to lay off of. They didn't swing at the fastballs that a lot of other teams usually swing at. They were close to the plate and had a good idea of what to do tonight."

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