Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Saladino Baseball Tournament preview

VALRICO — Logan Crouse took a few practice swings in the on-deck circle before his father, Terry, called him over to the fence.

A few feet away, the elder Crouse, dressed in Bloomingdale black and red from cap to sneakers, had been sitting in his folding chair taking in the game. He got up, leaned against the chain-link fence that separated the stands from the diamond and gave his son a few pointers.

What might be considered meddling to some the junior insists is nothing but a gift.

"I love it to death. Every game, I ask him for advice," Crouse said. "He's been watching me forever, so he knows — if anybody knows — what I'm doing wrong."

As unattainable as it might be for the 6-foot-6 Florida State commit, Crouse admits he's in pursuit of perfection. With the 33rd annual Saladino Tournament starting Saturday, Crouse doesn't just have a Bloomingdale streak to continue.

He has a family tradition to uphold.

• • •

Sure, there was a dugout full of Bulls last season when they won their first Saladino Tournament since 1995. But coach Kris Wilken knows exactly which two made it possible.

"Logan and Cody won us that championship," he said, "hands down."

With Durant's tying run at first and Bloomingdale two outs from securing its second straight Saladino title game berth, Logan Crouse struck out two straight batters for a 3-1 victory.

That set up a rematch with Jefferson and gave his older brother, Cody, a second chance to bring a tournament title to Bloomingdale.

Now a spot starter for Florida International, Cody Crouse was the pitcher of record in Bloomingdale's 2012 loss to the Dragons in the Saladino championship. But last season — just two games after he, Logan and youngest brother Carson pitched in a win against Leto — Cody threw a complete game to lift the Bulls to a 3-2 win and their third tournament title.

He and his brothers are competitive, said Logan Crouse, who also plays football and basketball at Bloomingdale. In fact, the middle Crouse can recall a time when his mother banned one-on-one basketball between he and Cody because the backyard games often led to fistfights.

Still, he says he's proud of Cody for playing at the next level, somewhere he will be before long. First, though, he has a job to finish at Bloomingdale; taking over a role that, with his older brother graduated, he no longer has to share.

"Now, there's no question. If we've got to win, I'm giving the ball to Logan," Wilken said. "If he's not the best athlete to ever come to this school, I don't know who is."

• • •

Wednesday — a day after Bloomingdale (4-4) lost a district matchup with Alonso 3-1 — Crouse realized he and Wilken had the same lunch period during the school day. So at Crouse's request, Wilken took the right-hander, who has a 1.94 ERA and .250 batting average, out to the field for extra batting practice.

Wilken said he uses Crouse's work ethic as an example to the rest of his team. The self-proclaimed perfectionist has high standards for himself and, just like he did as a 10-year-old learning to throw a slurve (a combination of a slider and curveball), Crouse is willing to put in the work to achieve them.

"He worked and he worked and he worked on that pitch," Terry Crouse said. "There were nights he'd be three hours throwing the baseball against the garage door by himself."

Crouse is scheduled to start Monday against Gaither, but Wilken admits he's not sure he'll start him in the championship should the Bulls make it back. After pitching Logan and Cody in the semifinal and final last season, Wilken made them rest the following week, during which the Bulls lost a pair of district games. This go around, Wilken's not sure he's ready to go all in to bring home another tournament title.

But don't tell Crouse that.

He says he's prepared to talk Wilken into giving him his spot on the mound should they still be alive March 14. Crouse has never been in the business of sitting back and watching it all unfold. With the chance to follow in his brother's footsteps, he's not about to start now.

"Without a doubt (I want to start the final)," he said. "That would be awesome to keep the (Crouse) legacy going."

Kelly Parsons can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_kellyparsons.

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