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Saladino tournament set with new format

The annual baseball tournament runs all week beginning Monday.

This year's Tony Saladino baseball tournament shifts into high gear Monday featuring a new format and solid baseball. The tournament, now in its 21st year, had been a single-elimination event. This year, the 20-team field will be split into four five-team divisions competing in a round-robin format. Each team will play at least four games, with division winners advancing to the semifinals.

Sickles and Leto will be part of the North Division, Gaither and Chamberlain will compete in the South and Wharton will play in the West. The 19 Hillsborough County public school teams and Palm Beach Gardens will play at four sites (Jefferson, Blake, Durant and the University of Tampa) throughout the week with the championship game set for March 23.

Last year Gaither advanced to the final, where it lost 18-8 to Plant. Wharton was a consolation game winner against Armwood while Sickles advanced to the semifinals and Leto was eliminated in the second round. Chamberlain did not compete in last season's tournament, opting to play at the Steve Georgiadis Tournament in Pinellas County. The Chiefs will play in this year's Saladino tournament.

SOFTBALL: Last Tuesday's epic battle between Chamberlain and East Bay may have ended in a 1-1 tie after 13 innings, but there were plenty of impressive numbers behind the action. In a game that went four hours and 10 minutes, Chamberlain pitcher Niki Trowell and East pitcher Mandy Schuerman showed why they are among the area's best. Trowell, who has signed with the University of South Florida, threw 5 innings, giving up three hits and one run while striking out four. Schuerman went the distance, giving up six hits and one run while striking out 16, including six in the last three innings.

Chamberlain scored its lone run in the first inning, when an East Bay fielding error allowed Krista Holle to come home. East Bay scored its run in the fourth inning, when pinch runner Ashley Gargas scored on a wild pitch. The Chiefs, ranked seventh on the state's Class 5A Poll, and the Indians, ranked sixth in 4A, are both 11-1-1.

Trowell is 4-1 on the season and has a 0.95 ERA, ranked ninth among area hurlers. Teammate Amanda Cody is eighth with a 6-0 mark and a 0.74 ERA. Sickles' Julie Henneke is third with a 0.30 ERA and a 5-2 record while Gaither's Cathy Coe rounds out the top ten with a 1.56 ERA and 5-4 record.

BOYS BASKETBALL: The All-Western Conference teams were announced Monday with numerous North of Tampa-area players on the lists. Chamberlain's Manny Hernandez, Gaither's Marcus Russell and Kenny Huebner and Wharton's Jeff James were all named Federal Division First Team. In the National Division, Leto's Jon Abreu was named to the Second Team and teammates Reggie Williams and Rapheal McLean was named honorable mention.