TAMPA — There were plenty of outstanding individual performances from North of Tampa-area baseball players at the 33rd Tony Saladino Tournament.
But area high school teams came up a little short of the title at the competition, a spring break institution in Hillsborough County. Steinbrenner and Wharton came the closest to breaking through among area squads, both falling just shy of the semifinal round.
Steinbrenner's first loss of the season was a 4-1 setback to Strawberry Crest in pool play action, while Wharton's 12-8 loss to Jefferson cost the Wildcats a ticket to the semifinals.
Still, Steinbrenner, Wharton and other North of Tampa-area teams had plenty of outstanding moments during the event.
Wharton pitcher Mike Gonzalez threw six-plus innings on a sore hamstring and had three strikeouts to help Wharton top Gaither 4-1 during pool play. Ryan Lawson helped Gonzalez with a 2-for-4 effort at the plate with two RBI. The Wildcats also made a splash with an 18-5 win against Middleton in pool play, where they sent 15 batters to the plate in the first inning and scored nine runs.
Steinbrenner's Alex Hanson went 3-for-4 with three RBI and came up a triple shy of the cycle in a 12-2 Steinbrenner pool play victory against Robinson.
In other solid pool play outings:
• Leto's Jose Pupo, Elias Durant and Jossue Guzman each had two hits and a double in a 15-3 win against Blake. On the mound, Pupo allowed one hit during three relief innings and struck out six batters.
• Gaither's Elfey Espinal and Chris Minor each posted two hits in the Cowboys' 9-5 win against East Bay.
• And, in what may have been the pitching performance of the tournament, Alonso junior Alex Faedo had a tournament-record 17 strikeouts in a 7-1 win against Plant City. He allowed two hits in the game.
Faedo was named to the Saladino All-Tournament team. Steinbrenner catcher Jesse Haney also was named to the squad.
Bloomingdale topped Jefferson 3-2 in the championship game to win its first Saladino Tournament title since 1995.
Steinbrenner-USF track and field meet
Several area athletes performed well against stiff competition at last week's Steinbrenner-USF Invitational track meet.
In an event with teams from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties, as well as the Orlando and South Florida areas, Freedom placed fifth and Wharton sixth among the girls teams.
Chamberlain's Andrea Aaron won the shot put and the discus events and Freedom's Faith Woodard took first place in the high jump.
On the boys side, Alonso's William Taylor-Haynes won the 110 hurdles while Steinbrenner's 4x800 relay team of Tanner Biles, Matt Magee and Zach and Tyler Lima won their event.
Sickles duo leads way in All-Star basketball
Sickles duo Malcolm Johnson and Dan Harris helped the East team defeat the West 108-85 last week in the Tampa Bay Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game. Johnson and Harris combined for 34 points in the win. Wharton's Sir Patrick Reynolds and C.J. McGill each had eight points for the East team.
The combined teams will face Pinellas all-stars Saturday at Eckerd College.
Steinbrenner, Gaither soccer stars stand out
It was 11-on-11 last week at the Pinellas-Hillsborough All-Star Game at Countryside High, but it was three North of Tampa-area players who led the way.
Steinbrenner forwards Marley Opila and Alexis Bredeau, along with Gaither forward Jessica Lawless, handled the scoring in Hillsborough's 4-2 victory.
Just minutes into the match, Bredeau scored on a header off an Opila corner kick. The Steinbrenner teammates are both headed to North Florida on soccer scholarships.
In the second half, Lawless added a score on a rebound shot off the Pinellas goalkeeper. Bredeau and Opila each added a goal in the second half to complete the scoring.
Former Alonso standout ranked high
Alonso High graduate Jose Fernandez is now a highly prized minor league baseball player.
Baseball America magazine has the hard-throwing pitcher as the No. 7 prospect in minor league baseball. Drafted 14th overall in the first round of the 2011 draft by the Miami Marlins, Fernandez posted a 14-1 record in two Class A leagues.
He posted a 1.75 ERA and had 158 strikeouts in his first season of minor league ball. A right-hander who helped Alonso win state championships in 2009 and 2011, Fernandez also pitched in last year's Futures Game during All-Star weekend.
Fernandez was a nonroster invitee to Marlins spring training and pitched two scoreless innings against Washington. He will start the season at Double A Jacksonville.