Jesuit shuts out Eau Gallie, claims 6th state baseball title

FORT MYERS — Feeling confident and strong, young Jesuit southpaw Wes Mendes stepped into the spotlight Saturday afternoon in the Class 5A state title game and continued to make more history for the Tigers over the of a most historic year.

Mixing a 90+ mph fastball, bad breaking ball and icy change, Mendes was nothing short of devastating, allowing three hits and striking out 11 in 6.2 innings of a 6-0 win over Melbourne Eau Gallie .

Eau Gallie coach Bob Collins and Jesuit coach Miguel Menendez both said the Commodores “just ran into a jigsaw.”

“(Mendes) was on fire,” Jesuit catcher Josh Hines said. “The change was working very well. So we kept coming back to it and it kept locating it perfectly every time and they just couldn’t touch it. It was disgusting.”

Jesuit junior Wes Mendes allows three hits and strikes out 11 in 6.2 innings Saturday. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

Mendes likely would have won the full game if not for the mandatory 105 pitch limit. Junior right-hander Brooks Chamberlin stepped in for the last batter out of center fielder Carter French, who played a big part in the Tigers’ magical sports school year.

In the fall, French started as a catcher for the football team, which won the state title with a 15-0 record. Right after that championship win, French told Menendez, “Now we’re going to do it in baseball.”

Between the Tigers football and baseball state titles, the Jesuit also won a state wrestling title, giving him three team titles for the school year – a feat never before achieved by the Tigers and achieved by very few schools across the state. In five more school years, Jesuit won two state team titles in different sports.

Jesuits celebrate with the traditional bunch of dogs.  Saturday's title was the Tigers' sixth in baseball.
Jesuits celebrate with the traditional bunch of dogs. Saturday’s title was the Tigers’ sixth in baseball. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

This year, the baseball team again came with high expectations (ranked high in several national polls) only to stumble, losing three of its first seven games in a tough Georgia tournament.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs over the year, but I feel like we’ve kissed each other,” senior first baseman AJ Nessler said. “I can’t say enough about all these guys and how they reacted every day and came in and showed up and kept working. By the time we reached the end of April, we knew we would be in for a dogfight every game. But we were ready.

Were they ever.

Jesuit finished the year winning their last five games by a combined score of 51-5. The title is the sixth in the baseball program, all to come in the past 30 years (1994, 1997, 2000, 2014, 2019, 2022) and behind only Tampa Catholic (nine) most won by a Hillsborough County team .

Jesuit center fielder Carter French charges around second base Saturday.  The Frenchman also won a state title with the football team last fall.
Jesuit center fielder Carter French charges around second base Saturday. The Frenchman also won a state title with the football team last fall. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

On Saturday, the Jesuit (24-8) showed a mix of patience (making two runs in the first inning no hits), explosiveness (gathering all seven hits on his last three hits), d a solid defense (having only made one mistake), and, of course, an impressive pitch.

Mendes, Menendez said, “inspires confidence.”

“I’m probably going to offend my other guys here, but I tell them all the time that I feel like any pitch we walk on, we think (Mendes) is the best player on the pitch for the game. either team,” Menendez said. de Mendes, a Vanderbilt clerk who also plays center and hits cleanup. “That’s how we feel about (Mendes) and that’s the kind of guy he is.”

In the championship game, Mendes pitched on a tight run in the fourth inning, facing a score-laden no-out situation. He followed by hitting the side.

“I was never really nervous,” Mendes said. “I’m never really nervous. I’m comfortable there on the mound. I want to be out there in those situations in the big games.

Gold tastes good for Jesuit players after the school's third team title of the school year.  They have also won football and wrestling championships.
Gold tastes good for Jesuit players after the school’s third team title of the school year. They have also won football and wrestling championships. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

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