Giardina visits the mound to talk to his pitcher, Bobby Wellen.

The Seffner Christian baseball team is looking to have a bounce-back season after going 10-12 last year. The Crusaders are off to a great start, defeating Brandon 8-1 and losing 4-2 to a tough Plant City squad in the preseason. They beat Bell Creek Academy 6-3 in their season opener and lost to IMG Academy Silver 2-0 to start the season with a record of 1-1.

Over the summer and fall seasons, third-year Head Coach Sal Giardina Sr. and the team have gone back to the basics, working on fundamentals and defense. “We’ve made huge improvements from last year,” Giardina said.

The Crusaders have a young team this season, with only five seniors on the roster. Senior left-handed pitcher Bobby Wellen (4.20 ERA) is the ace of the staff, senior infielder Jackson Shelton (.338 average, 24 hits and 9 RBIs), senior left fielder/pitcher Bryce Mitchell (.296 average), junior catcher Daniel Tomasello (.333 average,12 hits and 8 RBIs) and junior left-handed pitcher/first baseman Tommy Turkett (2.55 ERA) will all play crucial roles on this year’s team.

“This year, our team goals consist of making it to the district championship and playing every game like it’s our last,” said Tomasello. “I’m looking forward to seeing how far my team can go and see how much we have improved from previous years.”

In the offseason, the team stayed busy doing charity work as well. As a baseball program, they adopted 25 less fortunate families and gave them all dinner for Thanksgiving. This is a tradition that Giardina started when he was with the Bullets AAU organization. He wants to continue to grow the number of families over time. The players also meet up at Hardee’s before school for Bible study.

Giardina is looking forward to district play this season. Some of the key opponents include Bishop McLaughlin, Lakeland Christian, Cambridge Christian and Carrollwood Day.

“Our goals are to continue to grow throughout the season and, hopefully, start to peak right around districts and give it a good run,” Giardina said. “We want to grow baseball players and good Christian men.”

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.