1. Jesuit (9-2) ☝️2

How could any other team be No. 1 this week? Jesuit was at times dominant and resilient last week, claiming the Saladino Gold Division championship with a 12-3 victory over Jefferson on Thursday. The Tigers also rallied for a win against Strawberry Crest on Monday, battled one out with Leto, and took care of Lennard in the semifinal. Senior Noah Sheffield is hitting .520 on the season, with 14 RBI and 11 runs scored. The Tigers visit Mitchell on Tuesday, host Plant on Friday, and visit Lake Wales for a noon start on Saturday.

2. Carrollwood Day (11-0) ☝️4

The county’s last remaining undefeated last week, kept right on rolling through its Saladino Bronze division opponents last week – capping things off with a 5-1 championship win against East Bay, as Nick Riedel struck out 10 to earn the win on the mound. The Patriots, who outscored opponents 30-2 in Saladino play, are back in action Wednesday at Tampa Catholic, and Thursday at home against currently undefeated Palm Harbor.

3. Jefferson (9-2) 👇2

The Dragons dropped Monday’s pool play game against Bloomingdale, but held both Wharton and Tampa Catholic to one run apiece to reach the Saladino Gold Championship. Cameron Copple scored seven runs and drove in three last week for the Dragons, while Cameron Mallo (Win v Wharton; 7ip, 1 run, 8 K’s) and Mikey Marroquin (Win v TC; 7ip, 1 run, 7 K’s) each delivered complete-game victories on the mound. Jefferson hosts King (pregame recognizing 1970s Dragon alums) on Tuesday, Plant on Thursday and Middleton on Saturday.

4. Plant (7-3)

The Panthers went 3-0 last week defeating Wharton, Bloomingdale and Durant in Saladino play, the final of which saw freshman Rhett Dixon lead Plant with a complete-game effort against the Cougars, where he allowed two runs on just four hits and struck out three. The Panthers have a challenging, three-game week: hosting Strawberry Crest, Tuesday; visiting Jefferson on Thursday; and Jesuit on Friday.

5. Durant (7-2) 👇1

The Cougars scored seven runs in both its wins last week defeating Steinbrenner and Alonso, before dropping its Saladino Tournament consolation game against Plant. Nick April-Gath was 4-for-9 on the week leading the offense in the two wins with four total RBI, and Noah Morales hit two solo home runs in the loss to Plant. The Cougars have a game at Bloomingdale tonight (rainout makeup), visit Chamberlain on Tuesday and East Bay on Wednesday.

6. Sickles (7-3) 👇4

A lopsided win against Plant City was bookended by losses to Lennard and Alonso in a tough week for the Gryphons. Senior Thomas Bly went 4-for-9 last week, with three runs scored and an RBI. Sickles has three on the road this week, traveling to Plant City on Tuesday, Blake on Thursday, and Lennard on Saturday.

7. Newsome (7-3)

The Wolves rallied from a loss to Jesuit last Saturday, to finish the Saladino with three-straight victories last week, taking down Leto, Strawberry Crest, and Plant City. The wins were keyed by a collection of six different pitchers held its opponents to just three earned runs, highlighted by senior Wade Walton’s complete-game, 15-strikeout performance against PC. This week, Newsome hosts Alonso (Tuesday), Sumner (Thursday) and Leto (Saturday).

8. Tampa Catholic (6-4) 👇4

Alex Sotiropoulos struck out 10 in five innings as Tampa Catholic defeated Alonso on Monday, and the runs-allowed tie-breaker allowed the Crusaders to win its pool, despite a loss to Steinbrenner, where TC fell to Jefferson. The Crusaders will get a chance to avenge one of those losses when Steinbrenner returns for a visit on Tuesday, before a showdown with undefeated Carrollwood Day on Wednesday, and a 2 pm matinee at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney on Saturday.

9. Armwood (6-3)

The Hawks regrouped after a 5-2 loss on Monday to Sumner, picking up a hard-fought, 3-2 win over Seffner Christian and claimed the Saladin Silver Division title by defeating Robinson, also by a score of 3-2. Owen Leever, who lead the way in Armwood’s Saladino opening win two Saturday’s ago, returned to the mound for the Silver Championship, pitching 5 2/3 innings, and struck out five to earn the win. The Hawks host Hillsborough on Tuesday, and Wharton on Thursday.

10. East Bay (7-2)

East Bay rolled through its Saladino Bronze pool and put up a fight in the championship, dropping the game to Carrollwood Day. Way back in our season preview in February we said, “East Bay needs to take advantage of a favorable early season schedule, and pick up as many wins as they can before business picks up considerably.” The Indians have done EXACTLY that. But after Tuesday’s visit from Blake, the schedule takes a considerable uptick in difficulty as a the Indians welcome Durant on Thursday, kicking off a run of five-straight against teams with a .500 or better record.

⭐: New to rankings this week; ☝️: Moved up; 👇: Moved down; = : Same as last week

Dropping out this week: Strawberry Crest (6-4), Gaither (6-4), Bloomingdale (5-4), Seffner Christian (7-2)

8 Top Performers

1 Favorite Thing from last Week

Admittedly the Saladino Tournament dominates our focus in mid-March, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t shout out the Tampa Prep Terrapins, who returned to Sanford again this season and represented the 813 incredibly well with a runner-up finish in the Florida League Invitational – “The Classic” last week. The Terrapins bested Naples Barron Collier, Eustis, and Arden, NC’s Christ School by a combined 23-4, before falling in the bottom of the seventh to IMG Academy Gray, 6-5. Liam Akins had a strong showing in the tournament (see our 8 Top Performers list) and Lincoln Bailey made three appearances on the mound, tossing 7 2/3 innings and allowed just one earned run.

3 Games to Watch this week

Carrollwood Day (11-0) at Tampa Catholic (6-4), Wednesday: Two pitching staffs that are averaging around two runs allowed per game. This game should be a good one. The Patriots run has been incredible as CDS has turned away any and all comers this season, while the Crusaders dropped two games to close out the Saladino. Will the Patriots continue the incredible run? Will the Crusaders’ Tuesday game against Steinbrenner (one of two losses last week) be the emotional focus for TC? Or are the Crusaders looking to prove they are at the top of the county’s private school group? We can’t wait to find out.

Sumner (7-3) at Newsome (7-3), Thursday: The Wolves have been plagued with injuries on the mound to start the year, but got some solid work from its pitchers last week. In its three losses this season, it was the Newsome offense that struggled – unable to score against Gaither, Hillsborough and Jesuit. While Sumner picked up a win over eventual Saladino Silver champs Armwood, and easily dispatched Hillsborough to close out last week. This game is a battle of non-district 7A opponents that should be an excellent midseason test to see where both teams are.

Plant (7-3) at Jesuit (8-2), Friday: These are two entirely different teams than the ones who squared off at the end of March last year – a game the Panthers won 4-1 – but the anticipation for this game, in a marquee Friday night slot, should be very high. Both teams have tough early-week games), what will the strategy be for both teams prior to even squaring off this week? Jesuit is on a seven-game streak, while the Panthers have won three-straight and have Crest and Jefferson before even stepping on to Hyer Family Park on Friday. Two 2023 state runner-up teams, squaring off with just a handful of other games going on in the county – this is a can’t miss matchup.