WHS excited to play in August tourney
It’s been a long time since Whitehall head baseball coach Shaun O’Boyle got to stand in the coach’s box along the third base line relaying signs to his batters, but if things work out, he’ll be in that familiar spot once again in the beginning of August.
Whitehall will be one of the teams participating in a baseball tournament organized by Dan Villanti, an assistant director of alumni relations at DeSales University. Villanti, who is also the director of Rising Stars Baseball program, reached out to area coaches Andy Pitsilos, who helms the Liberty baseball team, and Notre Dame head coach Mike Bedics to help him get the tourney off the ground.
As it stands right now, 32 teams from the Colonial League and Eastern Pennsylvania Conference have agreed to play in the tournament. The tournament will take place at DeSales University in Center Valley, beginning Aug. 3 and running through the Aug. 9.
O’Boyle said that his team will be comprised of players who would have been part of the varsity squad this spring. Each team will be allowed to carry 20 players, and their roster will include seniors Shane Fillman, Kevin Landis and Joe Lisicky.
O’Boyle is optimistic that he’ll be able to share the diamond with those players one more time.
“So far it’s all set to go,” said O’Boyle. “We’re looking forward to it.”
Villanti said that one of the motivations behind organizing the tournament would be to give the seniors across the two leagues a chance to suit up again and play for their respective schools. During a Zoom call with some of his teams in the travel program that includes over 60 high school players, it was clear that they were aching for the chance to play.
“[I] could tell they really missed their season,” said Villanti.
Villanti said that the 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.”
Other plans include holding a senior night ceremony celebrating all seniors who have played in the event, affording them the opportunity to wear their high school jerseys one last time. They’re also planning to honor longtime Bethlehem Catholic baseball coach, Mike Grasso who announced his retirement, effective this spring.
“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.”
The tournament will be divided into eight divisions, with each team playing the other three members once during the initial phase of the tourney. From that point, the top two teams in each division will move into a 16-team, single-elimination bracket, with the semifinals slated to begin Aug. 7. The winner is scheduled to be crowned on Aug. 9.
In addition to Whitehall, the tourney will include 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. Also joining the tourney will be Upper Perkiomen, Pennridge and Quakertown.