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Alonso senior Jose Fernandez went into this year's Saladino Tournament home run derby having learned from years past.
Monday's Saladino derby at Brandon was Fernandez's third, and he knew the hard way not to peak too quickly.
A year after placing second in the derby, the strong-swinging Fernandez finally won the event this year, edging Brandon junior Lenin Sanchez, 4-3, in the final round, distancing himself from representatives from 25 other Hillsborough County schools.
Last year, Fernandez wowed the Don Powell Field crows with seven homers in the opening round, but lost to Armwood's Zack Powers in the finals, 3-1. This year, 6-foot-3, 220-pound Fernandez realized saving his best for the finals would be a better approach.
"This time I was trying to go easy in the first round, to hit like two or three in the first round, and I hit two," Fernandez said. "So then I went into the second round and hit four."
Even though Fernandez -- who has hit three homers so far this season, including a fourth in a preseason Saladino pool-play game -- draws most attention for his pitching -- he has been ranked the sixth best high school pitching prospect in this year's draft class by Baseball America -- said he was excited to show hit power at the plate.
"I'm a pitcher but I love to hit in the field, and I've got a little power so I try to hit it far," Fernandez said. "It's big time fun for me."
Plant City's Travis Cannoles (2 homers in final round), Hillsborough's Roche Woodard (1), Middleton's Demetre Taylor (1), Freedom's Dave Seward and Chamberlain's Blake Bell also advanced to the home-run derby finals.
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)