Spring Break typically is a time for beach trips or relaxing, but not for everyone. Several high school baseball and softball players skipped working on their tan — at least for a few days — so they could compete in annual tournaments in March.
Here are the results of teams and individual performances of players in The Laker/Lutz News coverage area.
2023 Saladino Tournament
It was the 42nd edition of the prestigious tournament started by Tony Saladino and now run by his family and foundation. This year, the tournament expanded to have more divisions, from Gold, Silver and Bronze. Steinbrenner, Gaither and Wharton competed in the Gold Division, while Freedom played in the Silver. Each team was guaranteed four games.
- Freedom: The Patriots, coming off a historic season in 2022, are struggling this season, including going winless in Saladino’s Silver Division. Freedom dropped games to King, Hillsborough, Leto and East Bay, respectively, while only scoring runs in the 9-7 loss to Hillsborough. In that game, Joey Wey drove in three runs, Brayden Nanns two runs, and Tommy Bradley and Ryan Acord both had an RBI.
- Gaither: The Cowboys went 1-3 in Saladino play, with the only win being 10-3 over Wharton on March 11. Losses to Plant, Plant City and Jesuit (the eventual Saladino champion) were by a combined score of 16-6. In the win over Wharton, Jackson Mirza and Scout Simpson both drove in two RBI, while Josh Choe, David Pina, Nico Lopez and Jeffery Cavicchi all drove in a run apiece.
- Steinbrenner: The Warriors went 1-3 in their Saladino games, losing to Bloomingdale 7-2 on March 11, 14-4 to Strawberry Crest on March 14 and 5-0 to Jefferson on March 15. The team’s lone win came in a close 5-4 win over Newsome on March 13. Dominic Sardegna drove in three RBI over those four games, while Joshua Stephens went a combined 4-for-11 with a two-run homer vs. Strawberry Crest. Bryce Andrews picked up a save in the win over Newsome.
- Wharton: The Wildcats also went 1-3 in the tournament, losing to Gaither, Jesuit and Robinson, but then trounced Plant City 15-7 on March 14. Senior David Ascano went 7-for-11 with five RBI over the four games, while Caden Long drove in four in the blowout vs. Plant City. Justis Meadows and Jariel Garriga both drove in two RBI in that game, as well.
2023 Farm Bureau Classic
The annual baseball tournament featuring Pasco and Hernando county teams came down to a couple of Pasco County teams, with the Land O’ Lakes Gators walking away as runner-up and Mitchell, once again, taking the crown. The Mustangs won the championship game, with a score of 6-3 on March 17, which may very well foreshadow how the Class 6A-District 5 shakes out the rest of the season and into the postseason.
- Bishop McLaughlin: The Hurricanes, coming off a stunning upset of nationally ranked Clearwater Calvary Christian on March 9, went 1-2 in the Classic, topping Fivay on March 14, but dropping matches to Hernando and Nature Coast on March 13 and March 15, respectively. In the 11-1 win over Fivay, Logan McGann went 3-for-5 with three RBI, while Tyler Pizzo, Keither Jacobs and Christopher Rodriguez all drove in two RBI apiece. Freshman Zorre Wright notched the walk-off hit vs. Springstead, while vs. River Ridge, senior Jake Carrillo drove in two RBI.
- Cypress Creek: The Coyotes went 1-2 in the tournament, and while they grabbed a big 13-1 win over South Sumter, they dropped back-to-back games to Land O’ Lakes and Hernando by a combined score of 22-0. In the Coyotes win, sophomore Evertt Burgess went 3-for-3 with three RBI and a triple, while Ryan Maggy, Max Menendez and Braden Alexander all drove in two RBI each.
- Land O’ Lakes: The Gators, the aforementioned runners-up, dominated in their wins on the way to the final vs. Mitchell, outsourcing Weeki Wachee, Cypress Creek and Wesley Chapel, respectively, a combined 25-8. In those wins, William Colon drove in five in two of the games, Gavin Jusino drove in two vs. Cypress Creek, and Brad Bloxsom and Dylan Makowski both drove in two RBI vs. Wesley Chapel. Anderson Gutierrez struck out 11 in the Cypress Creek game.
- In the championship game vs. Mitchell, the Gators grabbed a quick 2-0 lead, but saw it slip away throughout the game despite six hits, an RBI by C.J. Chalk and pitcher Sutton Christie striking out seven over four innings.
- Wesley Chapel: The Wildcats were able to go 2-1, including facing Land O’ Lakes in the semifinals, though dropped that game 10-5. In their back-to-back wins, the Wildcats eked out a couple of one-run wins: first 7-6 over Springstead in nine innings and then 8-7 over River Ridge.
2023 Bay Made Fastpitch Elite Invitational
In just its second year, the popularity and competitiveness of this tournament has already grown. Organizer Will Turner hosted three days of games at Greco Softball Complex in Temple Terrace, but also returned all but one of the competitive teams from last year’s inaugural tournament, while expanding the field to 16 teams.
- Gaither: The Cowboys, at 9-2 this season, picked up the team’s first loss in the tournament, coming at the hands of Bloomingdale 7-2, as well as a second loss: 12-2 to Parrish Community. On March 17, Gaither had back-to-back wins over Lakeland George Jenkins and Palmetto, respectively. The Cowboys are led by seniors Mimi Gooden and Alexsandra Wilkes, who have a combined 20 RBI through nine games.
- Land O’ Lakes: The Gators went winless in their four games at the Invitational, losing to Hernando, Sickles, Palmetto and George Jenkins. The Gators managed 15 runs in two of the losses, but were shut out 22-0 in losses to Hernando and Palmetto. Against Sickles, sophomore Jaila Mitchell went 3-for-3 with two RBI, while vs. George Jenkins, junior Kiersten Stevens went 4-for-4 with seven RBI and two runs scored.
- Steinbrenner: The Warriors made it to the semifinals, one of the four teams left in the Gold Bracket, with wins over George Jenkins 8-3 and River Ridge 3-2. The Warriors lost the semifinal match vs. eventual champ Clearwater Calvary Christian 9-2, and the Gold Bracket Consolation game vs. Hernando 8-3. In the Warriors’ two wins, Lily Holtje drove in four RBI, while in the team’s two losses, Saige Simpson drove in two runs. Emma Kindle also had a two-RBI game in the win over George Jenkins and Jaily Bellamy had an RBI on a 2-for-3 game vs. River Ridge.
Published March 29, 2023