20 Things I Saw At The Saladino Tournament

Another great year for the Bertha and Tony Saladino Baseball Tournament here in Hillsborough County. 

Here are 20 things that caught my eye during this fantastic week of baseball! 

- Seeing how many scouts were at CJ Van Eyk's start on a cold night against Jefferson was definitely one of the more memorable experiences the entire week. After the Dragons jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, the Steinbrenner senior righthander settled in and proceeded to strike out 13 in the Warriors 4-2 comeback victory. 

- What an eventful 12 months for Jesuit catcher/DH Garrett Sheppard. The Coastal Carolina commit has dealt with a shoulder injury that has prevented him from seeing much time behind the plate, but that hasn't kept his spirits low. Sheppard is batting .394 on the season and hit the go-ahead home run in the 7th inning to help give Jesuit the title. 

- Tampa Prep sophomore JD Urso got a hit in every game for the Terrapins and had two each in the final two games. This kid is a gamer and is only going to get better. 

- Alonso's Jordan Butler is a sight to see. He's a dynamo on the mound, his high leg kick when he's hitting makes every pitch hold your breath, and his overall confidence just takes the Ravens to another level. 

- It was really nice to see Chamberlain pick up their first win of the season at Saladino. Coach Jason Smith has a very young team and is really trying to fortify a culture in that program that will last for years to come. Don't look at the overall record, look at the improved play and respectful attitude of the players and you'll see a team headed in the right direction. 

- Jefferson's Robby Martin can hit the ball a loooong way. I asked him if he was waiting for Saladino to hit his first home run and that's exactly what he did when he went deep against Chamberlain on Saturday night. His battles with Van Eyk on Tuesday were definitely must-see action. 

- One of the players that really struck a chord with me was Alonso's Jared DeSantolo. I've known Jared since he was a member of the 8U Tampa Boltz team alongside fellow Saladino participants; Steinbrenner's Patrick Morris and Wesley Chapel's duo of Jovani Diaz and Hunter Moye. In his final game at Saladino, Jared hit a triple to give the Ravens an early lead and when Alonso needed a pitcher at the end, DeSantolo stepped in and made only his second appearance on the mound all season. The senior infielder is no stranger to adversity. He lost his mother, Pam, a little under three years ago to cancer and has never given the slightest inclination that he will ever stop working his tail off to be the best ballplayer he can be. Trust me Jared, your mom would definitely be proud with the player you've become on the field, and the young man off of it.  

- Sickles has a pair of underclassmen that showed this week that the Gryphons will be a team to be reckoned with in the near future. Freshman shortstop Trey Bacon got a hit in all three games of the tournament, is the team's closer and made some unbelievable plays in the field. Sophomore catcher Danny Bernstein had two hits against both Gaither and Lennard and hit a long home run in each game as well. 

- I guess it wasn't a bold statement now that they helped win the title, but my proclamation that Jesuit had the best middle infield around was dead-on. After the Sheppard home run to take the lead, McGuire Weaver and Alex Mocny both had RBI hits for key insurance runs. Earlier in the game, Butler hit an absolute screamer that Weaver dove for and flipped to Mocny to start the 6-4-3 double play. These guys affect the game in so many ways. They are just downright relentless. 

- One of the most competitive pools in the tournament was Pool 6, which had Strawberry Crest, Leto and Bloomingdale all tied at 2-1. The Falcons ended up moving on by winning the tiebreaker but all three teams showed very well over the last week. 

- The teams in the heart of Tampa Bay get a lot of talk throughout the year, but people should really be paying more attention to teams like Riverview. Coach Leiby has some absolute studs over there including Garrett Thompson, Josh Rulli, Tyler Salomon and Freddy Tarnok. 

- Wharton's Drew Ehrhard must have been really mad that Wesley Chapel ended his six-game hitting streak to start the season. He hit a home run in his next game against Riverview and followed that up with a three-hit performance against King. 

- Plant and Hillsborough played an instant classic on Monday morning when two of the top players in the county faced off in the Panthers Connor Scott and the Terriers Jarrod Cande. The beginning of the game was controlled by Hillsborough as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead and Cande was dominant on the mound. But Scott and the rest of the Plant offense came to life when Cande was pulled and the Panthers lefty shut things down on the mound to help his team to a 4-3 victory in nine innings. 

- Carrollwood Day School..... remember the name. NO team made a bigger impression on me than Nick Rodriguez and the Patriots. Rodrigo Montenegro and Frank Furey made the all-tournament team and showed everyone at Saladino that regardless of school size, the Patriots are a team to be reckoned with for years to come. 

- Just two days after Gaither reliever Tyler Switzer gave up a walk-off home run to Lennard slugger Keith Harden, these two hooked up for another memorable moment. As Harden was at the plate with the Longhorns trailing 8-2, Switzer and the rest of the Cowboys strolled into the stands to wait for their matchup with Jesuit later in the night. As soon as Switzer sees who was at the plate for Lennard, Switzer yells out "Walk this guy!" with the Longhorns trailing by six and nobody on. Harden stood in the batter's box, looked up at Switzer and couldn't help but to crack a huge smile. Everyone in the stands laughed and it was truly one of those moments that only happens in a baseball game. 

- Newsome is another team that doesn't get enough attention. Coach Rohrberg's squad won Pool 7 and a big reason why is that vaunted Wolves pitching staff. The men on the mound have a minuscule 1.52 ERA on the season, and as a whole, the team has given up only 24 runs over their first 11 games this season. 

- Speaking of giving up runs, Jesuit has given up just 12 runs in their first 12 games this season. 10 of their 11 pitchers who have pitched this year have an ERA under 1.00. What?!?!?!? 

- Strawberry Crest came into Saladino as the only undefeated in the tournament, and even though Bloomingdale broke that streak with an 8-2 win, Coach Beattie's team is one of the most solid in the County. Damien Torres is now 4-0 after his 7-0 shutout win over Tampa Bay Tech and has an ERA under one. 

- Great to see legendary retired coaches Pop Cuesta and Frank Permuy still around and helping out after their stories careers at Jefferson and Gaither, respectively. This tournament really gives all of us as a community an opportunity to come together, maybe see some old friends, and enjoy the great game of baseball. 

- Even though there were some cold nights and some inclement weather, there was still a great turnout at each park and the baseball did not disappoint. Thanks to all that make the Saladino Tournament great and I speak for everyone around in saying that I can't wait 'til next year! 

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