The 38th annual Saladino Tournament final featured two of the dominant programs in Hillsborough County, the Alonso Ravens (8-4) and the King Lions (9-1). The Lions were victorious, winning 6-5 and claiming their third Saladino Tournament title. They won six games over the week-long spring break tournament. “This means a great deal to the players, the coaches and the parents,” said Head Coach Jim Macaluso. “It’s a big deal.”
The Ravens, led by head coach Landy Faedo have appeared in four straight tournament finals, but lost the last two, to Steinbrenner in 2016 and to Jesuit last year. The Ravens have won the tournament four times overall (2007, 2009, 2010, 2015). The Lions, led by legendary head coach Jim Macaluso, in his 43rd season, have won the tournament two times (1983 and 1992), but its been 26 years since their last title.
The Lions got on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead in the first on a throwing error by Alonso catcher Gabe Montagna trying to pick off the runner at second. Alonso answered in the bottom of the inning, scoring three runs of their own. Ryan Drumheller led the inning off with a single, and ended up scoring on a double-play, tying the score at 1. Robert Curry and Ihostean Montes later scored on the same wild pitch, giving the Ravens a 3-1 lead.
King fought back in the top of the third, scoring on a double by Justice Thompson and a single by Jamarcus Lyons, tying the score at 3. Alonso then took back the lead 4-3 in the bottom of the inning on an error by the King third baseman Zarrian Brinson.
King, who showed resilience all night long, fought back once again in the 6th inning, tying the score and then taking the lead and not looking back. Hishaam Shafiq singled in the tying run and would later score the go-ahead run on a single by Brinson. They would later add an insurance run in the top of the 7th with Addison Barger scoring on a wild pitch to make it 6-4.
Alonso would try to mount a comeback in the bottom of the 7th down by two, but would come up a little bit short. They made it 6-5 on a single by Jaiden Underwood with a runner on third. King shortstop and Saladino Tournament MVP Barger came into pitch for the first time in two years and struck out Nick Gonzalez looking with the bases loaded to earn the save. “I wanted the opportunity,” said Barger. “I knew I was going to get it done. It was a lot of pressure, but that’s what I want. That’s what I live for right there, that moment.”
The Lions were coached by Jim Macaluso’s son, Anthony Macaluso, because the older Macaluso was ejected in the first game of the day in the semifinal win against Sickles when he argued a close call at third base.
Being the captain of the ship made the victory that much sweeter for the younger Macaluso.
“He is our head coach, he’s also my dad, he shouldn’t have been thrown out in the first place, so to go and win it for him made it even more sweet,” said Anthony Macaluso.