By STEVE JACKSON
The 42nd edition of the Saladino Baseball Tournament is set for spring break among high schools in Hillsborough County. The famous tourney will be broken down into three separate divisions – a 16-team Gold Division, an eight-team Silver Division and a six-team Bronze Division. Starting this Saturday, March 11, all five South Shore teams start a multi-game competition in the diamond tourney.
Undefeated 4-0 Lennard opens with 2-2 Plant High at Lennard at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 11. Grappling in the Silver Division from the South Shore are 3-1 Sumner, 1-3 Riverview and 0-3 East Bay. Spoto High, 2-2 so far this season, plays its first Saladino game versus Tampa Bay Tech at 10 a.m. in the Bronze Division.
Each team in the Gold and the Silver Divisions is guaranteed a minimum of four games, and the two finalists playing a fifth game for the Gold Division tournament title on Thursday, March 16.
With four pools of Gold Division teams hosted at Jefferson, Jesuit, Lennard and Strawberry Crest, each team will play its first three games at the same site, rather than the previous two years, when teams had to change sites each day.
“We are making these minor changes with the hopes of making our tournament better than ever,” Tournament Director Tony Saladino III said.
The 30 total teams were selected based upon a number of factors, including last season’s win total, last season’s tournament finish, as well as the final FHSAA/MaxPreps rankings.
After the pool play rounds, the winners of each group will enter the tournament semifinals, while tie-breaker rules will establish the rest of the pool’s final rankings, and each team will get a fourth game against a correspondingly seeded team from a different pool on Wednesday, March 15.
The Gold Division Thursday final returns downtown to the University of Tampa. The Silver Division consists of two four-team pools, and the tournament committee did use some scheduling discretion here, while maintaining a competitive balance. However, planning did try to keep teams closer to the Silver two host schools – Leto and Sumner.
Similar to the Gold Division’s setup, the Silver Division will also feature the two pools ranked after the first three games, with each corresponding team facing its counterpart in the other pool, and the No. ones squaring off for the Silver Division title on Wednesday, March 15.
The Bronze Division completes tourney play Wednesday, March 15.