Sean Hermann (left) was named to the 2021 Saladino All-Tournament Team. (Photo courtesy of the Durant baseball program.)

The Durant Cougars baseball team reached the Tony & Bertha Saladino Tournament final for the second time in the last two tries. The 40th iteration of the tournament made a successful return after it was canceled last season due to COVID-19.

The Cougars are a team you can count on making a deep tournament run every spring break. There were many heroes that helped make this run possible, such as senior utility man Austin Sewell, who had a walk-off base hit against Strawberry Crest to send his team to the tournament final.

Senior pitcher Sean Hermann was named to the Saladino All-Tournament Team for his outstanding performance against Steinbrenner, striking out 15 while only giving up one unearned run on four hits and a walk in the complete game win.

“It’s definitely a big deal to me knowing how big the tournament is and all the good players that have played in it,” said Hermann. “It is an awesome thing to be considered one of the top players in the tournament.”

Head Coach Butch Valdes is more than happy to have Hermann on his team as one of his top pitchers.

“Sean has meant a great deal to this program,” said Valdes. “His leadership, his talent and his love for the game have been a blessing. He plays with what I call ‘old school grit,’ something you don’t see much anymore.”

This tournament holds special meaning for Valdes. He played in it for Jefferson High School and was an assistant coach at Bloomingdale when they won it back-to-back years in 1994 and 1995. His brother, Mike Valdes, pitched in the championship game both years and is also the 1995 Tony Saladino Award winner.

“It’s been an honor to be a head coach in the tournament and help host it,” said Valdes. “It’s the true meaning of tradition. I love the Saladino family as if they are my own.”

The Cougars came up a little bit short in the 2021 final against an elite Jesuit team, but will take a lot of positives away from the experience for the rest of the season. They are expected to make a run in the state playoffs with their pitching depth and team chemistry.

“I believe the team realized they can win with other guys on the mound,” said Valdes. “The team has truly come together.”

Hermann will always remember the 2021 run, especially considering the tournament was canceled the year before.

“I’m very thankful to have been able to play in this tournament with my team,” he said. “I try to have fun and battle to win every game with these guys.”

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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.