The past two seasons, Jesuit has fallen in the Florida state title game to Archbishop McCarthy (Southwest Ranches, Fla.), which finished the 2011 season No. 5 in the final MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings.
Archbishop McCarthy again figures to be one of the top rated teams nationally in 2012.
The good news for Jesuit? Archbishop McCarthy is no longer in the same classification, thus eliminating a major road block to Jesuit's Florida state title hopes.
Although with the players returning this season, it's a good possibility Jesuit could eliminate the Mavericks on the diamond without any help from offseason reclassification. As a result, Jesuit starts the season ranked No. 2 in the Xcellent 25 Preseason Rankings.
Jesuit, which finished 27-7 and placed second in Florida's Class 4A in 2011, returns virtually every starter from its state runner-up lineup, save for RBI leader Peter Alonso, who transferred to local Tampa rival Plant. Powering the way is an elite pitching staff featuring 11 players that have started on the mound for the Tigers. Righthander Lance McCullers, a University of Florida signee who has a fastball that's been clocked at 100 mph, could be the nation's top high school player. Junior righthander and North Carolina commit Spencer Trayner struck out 54 batters in 56.1 innings pitched and recorded a 1.74 ERA last season. RHP Conor O'Brien, who inked with North Carolina State in November, was 5-0 and the winning pitcher in Jesuit's state semifinal victory over Hernando (Brooksville, Fla.). Class of 2013 prospect John Kilichowski, a 6-foot-4 southpaw used effectively as a reliever in 2011, recently committed to Vanderbilt.
The batting order reads almost identical as well. Nolan Schultz returns at catcher after batting .431 with nine doubles, three triples and six home runs in 2011. So too does power hitter Max Beermann, who led the Tigers with eight home runs and has signed with Villanova. Add those bats to the hitting prowess of McCullers (.422, 7 home runs), Trayner (.342) and O'Brien (7 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs) and opponents will find few holes in the Jesuit lineup.Local look:
"I think they had at last count seven or eight Division I signees already, and they've already had some juniors commit to some nice schools. They're coached by Richie Warren, who played for me and coached with me. They've got a world of talent. They remind me of some teams that I fielded back in the day where we had guys at a backup position that could start for most of the teams in our area. They've got it going. Everyone's talking about the new stadium, the new talent they have. They'll have to be able to handle all of those expectations."
- Steinbrenner (Lutz, Fla.) head coach John Crumbley, who coached at Jesuit for 22 seasons and led the Tigers to three state titles (1994, 1997, 2000) before stepping down in 2006.