TAMPA — Everybody knows the Saladino Baseball Tournament is an arms race.
Who has the most arms? Strongest arms? Who will to stretch their bullpens to win the hallowed title?
Some folks say it’s too much because the tournament winner and runnerup have to play six games in seven days — a strain for any high school pitching staff.
This year is no exception as 28 teams begin the Saladino with pool play on Saturday. By next week’s end, 49 games will be played at four sites: Brandon, Jefferson, the University of Tampa and Lennard.
In years past, many teams have used eight or nine pitchers through the week, sometimes using a second baseman or a third baseman, who have barely, or never, pitched before in a game.
That said, after looking at the Hillsborough County lineups, it appears Sickles (5-1) must be considered one of the pre-tournament favorites.
Not only do they have senior Dylan Eskew, who this season in 18 innings has given up three hits and no runs, but they have seven more legitimate guys who have already pitched.
“This team is built for the Saladino,” Sickles coach Eric Luksis said. “We have a lot of guys who can throw and we have a team that is looking forward to playing in the tournament.”
Eskew, for instance, said a lot of his friends outside the baseball team are going to beach for the break, but there is no other place he’d rather be than playing in the Saladino Tournament, hopefully for the entire week.
“The weather is great, we’re playing baseball in this tournament, how could it get any better than that?” Eskew said. “All of us look forward to this every year.”
Luksis said he tells his team, “If you want to know what it’s like to be a professional baseball player then the Saladino Tournament will give you a taste, playing every day, getting an idea of the endurance that it takes. Playing in the Saladino is a great opportunity for a lot of reasons.”
Several Gryphons, including Eskew, who you could see on the mound at the Saladino Tournament, include: Chase Centala, Trey Bacon, Jacob Gluck, Holden Wade, Tyler Green, Alex Trepper and Carlos Rodriguez — all of whom have combined for a team 1.84 team ERA.
Saladino Baseball Tournament
Pool play, Saturday, Monday-Tuesday at four sites. Wednesday-Friday at Brandon.
Pool play at Jefferson: Saturday — East Bay vs. Robinson, 10; Leto vs. Steinbrenner, 1; Durant vs. Sickls, 4; Armwood vs. Jefferson, 7; Monday — East Bay vs. Leto, 10; Robinson vs. Steinbrenner, 1; Armwood vs. Durant, 4; Jefferson vs. Sickles, 7; Tuesday — Robinson vs. Leto, 10; Steinbrenner vs. East Bay, 1; Sickles vs. Armwood, 4; Jefferson vs. Durant, 7
Pool play at University of Tampa: Saturday — Tampa Bay Tech vs. Freedom, 10; Gaither vs. Riverview, 1; Blake vs. Brooks DeBartolo, 4; Plant City vs. Plant, 7; Monday — TBT vs. Gaither, 10; Freedom vs. Riverview, 1; Blake vs. Plant City, 4; Brooks DeBartolo vs. Plant, 7; Tuesday — Freedom vs. Gaither, 10; Riverview vs. TBT, 1; Brooks DeBartolo vs. Plant City, 4; Plant vs. Blake, 7
Pool play at Brandon: Saturday — Middleton vs. Wharton, 10; Hillsborough vs. Alonso, 1; Chamberlain vs. Strawberry Crest, 4; Brandon vs. Bloomingdale, 7; Monday — Middleton vs. Hillsborough, 10; Wharton vs. Alonso, 1; Strawberry Crest vs. Bloomingdale, 4; Chamberlain vs. Brandon, 7; Tuesday — Wharton vs. Hillsborough, 10; Alonso vs. Middleton, 1; Bloomingdale vs. Chamberlain, 4; Strawberry Crest vs. Brandon, 7
Pool play at Lennard: Saturday — Carrollwood Day vs. Newsome, 1; Lennard vs. King, 4; Monday — Newsome vs. King, 1; Carrollwood Day vs. Lennard, 4; Tuesday — King vs. Carrollwood Day, 1; Newsome vs. Lennard, 4
Wednesday at Brandon: Quarterfinals, 10, 1, 4 and 7
Thursday at Brandon: Semifinals, 4 and 7
Friday at Brandon: Final, 7