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Jesuit baseball motivated for another shot at state title

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Jesuit baseball has a tradition filled with championships teams and legendary players few other programs in the country can match.

"The expectations are always up there every year," said Tigers outfielder Leland Saile.

Coming into this year's 5-A state playoffs, which begin this week, the pressure on Jesuit may be higher than most years. The Tigers lost in the state championship game in both 2010 and 2011 and fell in the state semifinals last year.

"We've had state championship caliber team the last three years and just happened to get beat on one pitch," said Coach Richie Warren, who added he thinks this team is also capable of winning it all.

"We want it more than anything," said shortstop Spencer Trayner who has played all four years for the Jesuit varsity.  "I've had the feeling three years in a row of losing in states."

"Always falling short," said Saile, "it's getting a little bit irritating."

And the fact the Jesuit basketball team won its first title since 1984 this year?

"That just made us even more hungry to get our own ring," Saile said.

The Tigers started out this season looking like a motivated team. They were rolling through their schedule decisively, and at one point, earned the number one ranking in the country on MaxPreps.com.

Then in mid-April, they showed they weren't invincible. Jesuit lost consecutive games to Seminole and Venice. They are the Tigers' only two losses this season.

"It definitely brought us down a level," said Saile. "At the time, we were undefeated and thought we couldn't be beaten."

"But I think what it did is exposed maybe a little of what we needed to work on," said Warren.

Warren knows what it takes. As a senior he played on Jesuit's last baseball state title team in 2000. "The toughest part about coaching is, I always get a chance next year to win one," he said. "For these seniors, this is their last chance."

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