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"The best tournament in South Florida"

That's what Tom Fadul called the annual StrikeZone's Speedball softball tournament, which starts Thursday and runs through Saturday.

Sure, Fadul's team (Pembroke Pines Charter) is the tournament's host, so he isn't the most objective of commenters. But looking at the 16 teams in this year's field, it's hard to argue with the Jaguars' coach:

  • Two reigning state champions -- defending Speedball champion Everglades (6A) and Lake Wales (4A)
  • One team bounced in the regional finals last year -- Pines Charter (4A)
  • Five that made the regional semis -- Cooper City (6A), Archbishop McCarthy (4A), American Heritage and Florida Christian (3A) and Hollywood Christian (2A)
  • Three more that made it out of districts -- Monsignor Pace, Key West and Space Coast
  • And then there's Jensen Beach, McArthur, Cypress Bay, Coral Springs Charter and Flanagan -- which is 9-1 and also considered a contender at Speedball.

The tournament also has an interesting format -- instead of a typical 16-team bracket, each pool's teams are seeded 1 through 4. Then all the 1s play in a four-team bracket, as do the 2s, 3s and 4s. The winner of the "No. 1" bracket is declared champion.

Here's the schedule and pool division for the tournament, which kicks off at 4 p.m. Thursday at SilverLakes Park-South with is at 178th Ave. and Pines Blvd. in Pembroke Pines:

  • Pool A: Pembroke Pines Charter, Hollywood Christian, Jensen Beach, Monsignor Pace
  • Pool B: Lake Wales, McArthur, American Heritage, Archbishop McCarthy
  • Pool C: Everglades, Cypress Bay, Space Coast, Key West
  • Pool D: Cooper City, Flanagan, Coral Springs Charter, Florida Christian

Thursday's games: 4 p.m. -- American Heritage-McArthur (field SL-2), Coral Springs Charter-Flanagan (SL-3); 6 p.m. -- Pines Charter-Monsignor Pace (SL-1), Cooper City-Florida Christian (SL-2), Archbishop McCarthy-McArthur (SL-3).

Friday's games: 2 p.m. -- Florida Christian-Flanagan (SL-1), Hollywood Christian-Monsignor Pace (SL-3); 4 p.m. -- Pines Charter-Jensen Beach (SL-1), Lake Wales-American Heritage (SL-2), Key West-Cypress Bay (SL-3); 6 p.m. -- Cooper City-Coral Springs Charter (SL-2), Key West-Everglades (SL-3); 6:30 p.m. -- Space Coast-Cypress Bay (SL-1); 8 p.m. -- Hollywood Christian-Jensen Beach (SL-2), Lake Wales-Archbishop McCarthy (SL-3); 8:30 p.m. -- Space Coast-Everglades (SL-1).

Saturday: Bracket play begins at 8, with a new round set to start every two hours. The No. 1 bracket starts at 2 p.m., with the championship and consolation games beginning at 6.

--Patrick Dorsey