Sickles repeats as tournament champion with another 10-0 victory, this time against Leto.
By SCOTT PURKS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 31, 2002
TAMPA -- Frankly, while it felt pretty darned good to win the Saladino Tournament, it also felt a little strange.
Strange because Sickles won its second consecutive title, something only one other team had ever pulled off in the tournament's 22-year history (Bloomingdale did it in 1994 and '95).
And strange because of the championship game score, 10-0 against Leto (in last year's final, Sickles defeated Armwood 10-0).
"Now that is a little strange, isn't it?" grinning Sickles coach Bob Pagano said.
"All I can say is that the whole package came together for us this week. Hitting, pitching, defense, it was all there.
"We just played great in this thing."
This year's victory wasn't as big of a surprise as last year when the Gryphons came into the tournament with a 1-9 record. But it was a surprise nonetheless.
Sickles was only 7-5 when the first pitch of this year's Saladino was thrown last Saturday.
"The problem has been our hitting, which hasn't always been there," Pagano said. "Our pitching has been on every time, but sometimes we just haven't put the bat on the ball.
"But boy, we sure did hit the ball hard tonight."
Did it ever. Sickles collected all nine of its hits in the first three innings when it scored all of its runs. Sprinkled among six singles, the Gryphons also rapped two doubles and a triple.
The trouble for Leto was that its starter, outfielder Brian Jordan, hadn't thrown much this year.
"Tonight we had to ask Brian to do the impossible," Leto coach Scott Hoffman said. "But at this point we didn't have anybody else. We were just out of pitchers.
"And that's it in a nutshell."
Sickles, meantime, has three of the county's top starters, all of whom performed great this week: Brian Scoville (threw a one-hitter Thursday against Jefferson), Chris Delaney (earned the 2-1 victory against Gaither in the semifinals), and Adam Drury (won the championship game, allowing just one hit against a team that had 17 the night before).
And there's this: In its six games this week, Sickles starters finished every game.
So with that in mind, Sickles really wasn't the surprise of the tournament after all.
The Falcons came in 5-6, but left Saturday with a 9-8 mark and a load of respect and confidence.
"When we were taking batting practice at the school before (the final), I gathered the kids around and told them that nobody expected us to be here," Hoffman said. "I told them I wanted to win, but that no matter what happened I was proud of them.
"All in all, I'm ecstatic with the way we played this week. I'm really proud."