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Baseball tourney hopeful to be played in early August

While spring sports were canceled across the state due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are plans for baseball action this summer for seniors who missed out on their final season of high school baseball.

Dan Villanti, an assistant director of alumni relations at DeSales University and the director of the Rising Stars travel baseball program, has organized the tournament with the help of Liberty head coach Andy Pitsilos and Notre Dame head coach Mike Bedics.

The tournament will feature 32-teams, largely from the East Penn Conference and Colonial League, and is scheduled to take place from August 3-9 at DeSales.

All the details of the tournament have not been ironed out yet, as updates will be given once Pennsylvania moves into the ‘green phase’ of the coronavirus lock down mandated by Gov. Tom Wolf, but once things become clearer with the state, Villanti and all that have helped put the event together look forward to seeing kids play on the diamond.

“In our travel baseball program, we have over 60 high school players and after doing a few Zoom calls with our teams, I could tell they really missed their season,” said Villanti. “I was sitting in my son’s room and we always pray before he goes to bed and that night, we prayed about a way to get the players in the Lehigh Valley back on the field. The idea was a 16-team event in hopes that we would be able to fill the field. I contacted Andy Pitsilos from Liberty and Mike Bedics from Notre Dame to reach out to their respective leagues to see who would be interested. It quickly grew to a 32-team field after a Zoom meeting with the head coach from each team.

With Lehigh and Northampton counties expected to be moving into the green stage shortly, the tournament shouldn’t have any other roadblocks when it kicks off in early August.”

The tournament would comprise of eight groups of four, with each team in the group playing each other once for three guaranteed games. The top-two teams from each group would then advance to a 16-team, single elimination bracket. The semifinals would take place on Aug. 7 and the final would be on Aug. 9 DeSales being the site for both of those dates. The group stage and early knockout round games would be at high school locations. Rosters are set for 20 players from each school.

The teams from the EPC and Colonial League expected to participate are Allen, Allentown Central Catholic, Bangor, Bethlehem Catholic, Catasauqua, East Stroudsburg North, East Stroudsburg South, Easton, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Moravian Academy, Nazareth, Northampton, Northwestern Lehigh, Notre Dame, Palisades, Palmerton, Parkland, Pen Argyl, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Salisbury, Saucon Valley, Southern Lehigh, Stroudsburg, Whitehall and Wilson.

Three other teams from out of the area are participating to get the tournament to 32-teams, as Upper Perkiomen, Pennridge and Quakertown are included.

This tournament will be a non-sanctioned PIAA event, but will follow all the necessary guidelines to keep athletes safe.

“We have worked with a representative from the PIAA to get the event started and will be running it just like a summer basketball tournament,” Villanti said. “Teams will be able to use their team name as we setup schedules and the playoff brackets, but all teams will have the same logo on the front of their shirts, which will be a specific logo to our event. We will have 32 different color shirts representing each team individually.”

The championship night will feature a Senior Night ceremony celebrating all seniors who have played in the event and would allow them to wear their high school jersey as well as an honoring of retired and longtime Bethlehem Catholic baseball coach, Mike Grasso.

“The ultimate goal is to provide high school teams a chance to compete together this season in a safe, healthy, and competitive atmosphere,” said Villanti. “I don’t think you can ever put a value on a memory. My hope is that this event provides memories for the players, parents and coaches, especially the senior class, that will last a lifetime.”