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Wharton bats come alive in Saladino Tournament opener

The Wildcats get back into the swing of things in the annual spring break tournament.
Moments after hitting a two-run homer, Wharton senior outfielder Dylan McDonald tips his hat while rounding the bases during a 6-0 victory over Leto on Saturday in first-round action of the 40th annual Saladino Baseball Tournament.
Moments after hitting a two-run homer, Wharton senior outfielder Dylan McDonald tips his hat while rounding the bases during a 6-0 victory over Leto on Saturday in first-round action of the 40th annual Saladino Baseball Tournament. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Mar. 13
Updated Mar. 13

DOVER — Wharton first baseman Billy Eich was at the plate with a runner on third in the first inning of the Wildcats’ Saladino Tournament matchup with Leto when the umpire signaled batter’s interference for the third out, and the Falcon players trotted off the field.

The game stalled for several minutes as coaches and umpires discussed the call, which was eventually reversed and Eich was given another shot.

It was all the junior needed to get the Wildcats going.

After the call reversal, Eich had an RBI single to leftfield, kicking off a good afternoon for Wharton hitters. The Wildcats had eight hits, four of which came from outfielder senior Dylan McDonald, as Wharton beat Leto 6-0.

“We want big hits. We expect our seniors to come up big for us, and he did,” Wharton coach Scott Hoffman said about McDonald’s day. “We haven’t scored a lot of runs lately, so we were basically trying to get our swings back, trying to get everyone on the same page. ... And we did that today.”

Wharton (8-2) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and the Wildcats extended it in the fourth when they loaded the bases and junior outfielder Elijah Dukes had a sacrifice fly to drive home another run. Eich followed with another RBI single, his second of the day, and a third run scored on an error.

Wharton’s final runs came in the fifth when McDonald delivered a two-run homer to left.

“I had a feeling (it was out), then I saw the outfielder kind of turn and look up, so I thought it might be off the fence,” McDonald said. “But I thought it had a good chance of getting out.

Leto (6-4), meanwhile, had its fair share of base runners, but the Falcons were never able to bring them home. Infielder Brayan Cruz had a pair of doubles, both to leftfield, and the Falcons had at least one base runner in each of the first five innings. Three times, Leto stranded baserunners on third. In total, the Falcons left nine on base.

Each and every time the Wharton defense was tested, the Wilcdats got out of the jam.

And as far as McDonald is concerned, that much was expected.

“Our defense, I’ve said if before, I think we’re the best in the county,” McDonald said. “We always make a way up for it. We always have a guy who’s going to pick someone up, and that’s what happened today.”

Saturday’s scores

Gold Division

Wharton 6, Leto 0

Sickles 6, Riverview 4

Plant City 4, Gaither 0

Durant 2, Steinbrenner 1

Jesuit 7, Jefferson 2

Alonso 9, Bloomingdale 7

Lennard 2, Plant 1

Strawberry Crest 6, Newsome 2

Silver Division

Freedom 3, Carrollwood Day 2

Hillsborough 10, Robinson 4

King 18, Armwood 3

East Bay 12, Brandon 6