None of Manatee County’s baseball teams were able to bring back gold from the Sarasota Baseball Classic.
None were in the hunt after Tuesday.
It wasn’t the sort of result Braden River, Lakewood Ranch, Manatee or Palmetto were shooting for when they signed up for the 32-team tournament that was so big it had to be sliced into two brackets.
They all wanted to win. And rightfully so. That’s why they fire up the scoreboard, right?
But regardless of how it ended, competing in something such as this will better prepare teams for bigger tournaments than this, beginning with the district tournaments, which get under way April 26.
That’s what the regular season is about anyway — when teams aren’t playing for seeding against their district foes, they’re using non-district games to get better, to strengthen themselves for the road ahead.
That’s the best part of Sarasota Baseball Classic.
It’s set up like the playoffs — games on consecutive days played against good teams. Obviously a mid-season tournament doesn’t carry the emotional weight of the postseason, when one bad day can quell your season.
But as a primer, it’s hard to do much better than this.
“Every team that comes out here is a very high-quality team that we’re playing,” said Palmetto coach Joe Collis.
Collis’ Tigers learned the importance of giving a good team a sliver of a chance Tuesday when they lost 14-11 to Centreville, Va. Palmetto was up 11-7 with two outs in the seventh before the win slipped away.
“It’ll help us in districts,” Collis said after the loss. “It’s a tough one to swallow right here, but you’ve got to look at the good things we’re doing.”
The Sarasota Baseball Classic isn’t the only tournament to serve such a purpose.
Southeast girls basketball coach John Harder considers the Willie Clemons Holiday Classic a postseason dry run, a barometer of how well his team is playing heading into the stretch run.
The same can be said for the Smoothie King Classic, the boys and girls basketball tournament at Bradenton Christian.
Or next Friday’s county track meet at Manatee.
For a short time, the results are sometimes secondary to the preparation of getting better for when it counts, for players and coaches readying themselves for the whirlwind that is the high school playoffs.
The Sarasota Baseball Classic didn’t go the way the locals wanted it to.
But don’t be surprised to see the benefits crop up later this spring.