CLEARWATER — Countryside couldn’t handle Sarasota’s big bats and struggled hitting, falling 8-2 Friday night in the Class 6A, District 7 final.
Countryside started fast, scoring one run in the first inning off a fielder’s choice that brought Dominic Monda home from third base.
Starting pitcher Eric Russell struggled in the bottom half of the first, allowing four runs on three hits.
“I was leaving the ball up in the first inning and I started to put the ball down after that,” said Russell, who pitched 6 1/3 innings.
Russell was solid for the next four innings, not allowing a run and letting his defense make one phenomenal play after another. In the bottom of the third with one out and two on, Russell got out of a jam thanks to a routine 4-6-3 double play ending the inning.
“(Countryside’s) pitcher was being real aggressive,” said Sarasota coach Clyde Metcalf. “He started throwing his breaking pitches for strikes in the middle innings and he was dominant.”
With a runner on second, Sarasota’s Sean Hurley hit a sharp ball down the first-base line that was bobbled by a diving Chris Frey, who recouped and threw a laser home, tagging the runner out to end the fourth.
The Cougars scored one run after loading the bases with no outs in the top of the fifth inning. Countryside couldn’t move runners over and had two hits for the night.
Sarasota crossed home plate four times off back-to-back home runs, making the score 8-2 in the sixth.
“You’ve got to give credit to (Sarasota). We’re not good enough to make mistakes and win these games,” Countryside coach Kemo O’Sullivan said. “Russell absolutely battled and I couldn’t have asked for a better effort.”
This is the first time Countryside has advanced to the 6A regionals since 2001. The Cougars will travel to Plant on Tuesday night.